South Dakota in Turmoil over a Bill to Call Killing Abortion Doctors “Justifiable Homicide”

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Phil Jensen
Conservative lawmakers in the South Dakota legislature want to expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings that seek to protect the life of a fetus. Abortion rights advocates claim the legislation has been crafted to make it legal to kill doctors who perform the controversial procedures.
“The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers,” Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, told Mother Jones.
House Bill 1171’s author, Republican Representative Phil Jensen, who opposes abortion, says his legislation has nothing to do with abortion, and that he merely is trying to “bring consistency to South Dakota statute as it relates to justifiable homicide.” However, the bill’s wording says that, “homicide is justifiable if committed by any person in the lawful defense of such person, or of his or her husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant, or the unborn child of any such enumerated person.”
The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill 9-3 on a party-line vote and sent it to the full GOP-dominated House. However, on Wednesday, the House speaker, Val Rausch, announced that the controversial bill was being shelved.
Abortion opponents in South Dakota have tried twice in recent years to outlaw the procedure, but voters rejected the ban by 12-point margins in both 2006 and 2010.
Nationwide, eight doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists since 1993. Some of those responsible for the deaths later tried to use justifiable homicide as a defense at their trials.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
South Dakota Shelves Bill Aimed at Defending Unborn (by A. G. Sulzberger, New York Times)
HB 1171 (South Dakota Legislature)


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