Moral Low Ground

US Government

South Dakota Moves to Legalize Killing Abortion Providers

A group of Republican state legislators in South Dakota, backed by various right-wing groups, want to legalize the killing of abortion doctors. The lawmakers want to expand the legal definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings “committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child.” The proposed legislation, House Bill 1171, has already cleared committee and will soon proceed to a full vote by the state legislature.

According to Mother Jones, the bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Phil Jensen, has the written support of 22 other state representatives and four state senators. The magazine reports that the radical redefinition of justifiable homicide wasn’t part of Jensen’s original text of the bill. Extensive amendments were made (called “hoghousing” in South Dakota politics) and the bill may no longer reflect the representative’s original intent. Still, Mother Jones says “a parade of reactionary right-wing groups—the Family Heritage Alliance, Concerned Women for America, the South Dakota branch of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, and a political action committee called Family Matters in South Dakota—all testified in favor of the amended version of the law.”

…unless it's the life of an abortion doctor. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo, US News & World Report)

Such a shocking proposal must be taken in the context of  recent violence against abortion providers, including the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller, who performed late-term abortions, in Kansas. Dr. Tiller was assassinated as he prayed in church following hounding by pro-life groups and individuals, including Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who called him “Tiller the baby killer.”

There is only one abortion clinic in all of South Dakota, which is perhaps the most restrictive state in the union regarding abortions. A 2006 law, which defined life as beginning at conception, banned most abortions in the state and there is a very active pro-life movement there as well.

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