South Dakota considers bill that critics say legalizes murder of abortion doctors

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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The South Dakota legislature is considering a bill that critics claim would legalize the killing of abortion doctors. The legislation stands a good chance of passage following approval by a state House committee Tuesday.

The bill states, “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.”

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post writes that the bill’s sponsor, state Republican Rep. Phil Jensen, denies that killing abortion doctors would be legalized.

Sargent writes that Jensen offered the hypothetical situation of an ex-boyfriend beating a woman’s stomach because he “doesn’t want to pay child support for the next 18 years.” Jensen said that in such a situation, “If she did kill him, it would be justified. She is resisting an effort to murder her unborn child.”

Jensen called critics of his proposal wrong. “If some loony did what you’re suggesting, then this law wouldn’t apply to them. It wouldn’t be justifiable homicide,” said Jensen.

Vicki Saporta of the industry group National Abortion Federation said, “The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers.”

Since 2004, unborn babies are recognized as the victims of murder with the passage of the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Presumably, the defense against an attack on an unborn baby would presently be justified.

South Dakota Democratic state Rep. Peggy Gibson told the Associated Press that the bill would allow any family member to kill a doctor willing to provide a female relative with an abortion.

She also said that she fears it would cause an escalation in the severity of domestic violence. “It’s an open invitation to allow every domestic dispute involving a pregnant woman to escalate into justifiable homicide,” Gibson stated.

Slate magazine notes that there are no abortion providers in the state of South Dakota, and that the only doctor-provided abortions come once a week when Planned Parenthood flies a doctor to Sioux Falls.

The sponsor says that despite pro-choice fears, “This code only deals with illegal acts. Abortion is legal in this country. This has nothing to do with abortion.”