South Dakota bill could justify killing abortion doctors

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 By

Close-up view of South Dakota on a map of the U.S.

South Dakota has some of the toughest abortion laws in the U.S. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/U.S. Air Force)

UPDATE (2/17): The South Dakota legislature has postponed House Bill 1171 indefinitely.

South Dakota is one of the toughest states in the U.S. when it comes to abortion law. No dedicated clinics have operated there since 1994, and Planned Parenthood is only allowed to fly in a single representative when absolutely necessary. Now the South Dakota legislature is considering the even tougher Republican-backed House Bill 1171. If voted into law, the legislation would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include the killing of those who intend to harm a fetus, such as abortion doctors.

Justifiable death to South Dakota abortion doctors

House Bill 1171, which made it out of committee by a 9 to 3 party-line vote, is sponsored by South Dakota state Rep. Phil Jensen, a long-time opponent of abortion rights. His stated intention with the bill is to bring “consistency” to South Dakota’s criminal code, which allows prosecutors to charge people with manslaughter or murder in crimes that cause the death of unborn fetuses.

However, such crimes involve the murder of pregnant women, too, which is rather different than what House Bill 1171 proposes. By changing the definition of justifiable homicide, making it acceptable to kill so long as the act of killing is performed in order to protect a fetus, Jensen is suggesting that even if the woman wanted an abortion, any person who aided her in obtaining abortion services could end up in the cross hairs.

‘This is not an abstract bill’

Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation argued to Mother Jones that Rep. Jensen’s House Bill 1171 is “an invitation to murder abortion providers.” It gives extremists the necessary fetal-defense statute to escape punishment for murder. As Kristin Aschenbrenner of the South Dakota Advocacy Network for Women puts it, the bill has everything to do with granting a fetus personhood.

House Bill 1171 may not be abstract, but it may be legally dubious, says law Prof. Sara Rosenbaum of George Washington University.

“It takes my breath away,” Rosenbaum said via e-mail. “Constitutionally, a state cannot make it a crime to perform a constitutionally lawful act.”

House Bill 1217 would require entrance counseling

In addition to House Bill 1171, House Bill 1217 would require that women considering abortion first undergo counseling at an anti-abortion, Christian-run Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC). Such CPCs were the subject of a 2006 congressional investigation that found that the information disseminated was often false or misleading.


Mother Jones

South Dakota House Bill 1171

An interesting question posed to anti-abortion demonstrators

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This post has 6 comments

  1. Charon says:


    or Native women abortion was not an issue to be played out in the political arena, it was a personal decision for women to make and her decision was not questioned, it was respected. This concept of strangers having control over our personal decision-making is oppressive.

    This is about doing what is right for a just society, South Dakota Legislators need to focus on improving the health and welfare of it’s citizens, finding ways to eradicate violence, not ways to support it by passing laws to justify it.

    This is no surprise, the South Dakota Legislation has for many years been trying to out law a women’s right to access abortion, that action is driven by the “Right Wing”, usually funded by out side pools of resources. Even when the people of South Dakota voted down an abortion ban at the polls in 2006 & in 2008 the legislators continue to go against the people and continue to try to out law a women’s right to abortion. Legislators when are you going to support the people that put you into office, if the majority vote down a ban on abortion then why do you continue to work against the people’s wishes? “Right Wing” organizations that have millions can be very persuasive.

    This bill promotes violence and does nothing to improve the quality of life for anyone in the State of South Dakota. Any bill that would make it easy / provide impunity to commit justifiable homicide is based on “power and control” which is one of the basic principals of “violence against women”. Think about it people, who is behind this movement to control women and take away our right to make our own decisions!

    This bill if not a bill that has the best interest of women in mind, it is a bill to control us and take away our right to decide on the size of our family or if we even want a family. It makes women a baby machine and is very similar to what Hitler did during WWII when he made women have babies against their will; it was for the Third Reich, not to support family, women or a just society.

  2. See DaLogic says:

    Diluted! Diluted! Diluted thinking and it is the reason America is headed for destruction. People want to impose their will on one another; education is not a priority, and making a 15 year old have a child she doesn't want is our focus. How would you like to be the kid of a mother who didn't want you and will probably resent you for taking away opportunities? You think the child would thank you? HA!

  3. See DaLogic says:

    Are you crazy? The whole reason we are seeing the increase in the welfare nation is due to unwanted teen pregnancies. Then we can, but I won't, talk about rape that results in pregnancy. The problem is that the rich will always have abortions, in the doctor's offices after hours. Making abortion illegal for all only makes abortion unattainable for those who can't afford to have the child anyway. Why can't people see that the whole thing is class warfare. It's not about a life. We can't be a country for the death penalty (which is am most definitely for) and against a woman's right to choose. Further, Americans have all but stopped adopting American orphans; instead, we go to Africa, China, and other countries to get kids. It's shiek; and the CHURCHES that are against abortion herew, fund the congregation to adopt foreign babies from these countries.

  4. Franrose says:

    "An eye for an eye makes the whole nation blind."

  5. celebs4truth says:

    I'm kinda torn here. Although no killing seems justified, abortion doctors are basically murdering unborn children. If you believe in an eye for an eye, then those doctors deserve to be killed too! Who made them god? Additionally, Planned Parenthood was founded by a Nazi Supporter, Margaret Sanger, who had open disdain for blacks, and she wanted the abortion clinics to be in black and poor areas…which, whata ya know, ended up being the case. If Americans weren't so complacent they'd know these things.

    • Starlow says:

      Wow, celebs4truth. If that's the kind of truth you're selling, I'll pass. To assume that the Bible is correct is what is complacent in my book, because you're blindly accepting it as fact without proof. The scientific method is the best available course of inquiry known to humankind so far in terms of pursuing a rigorous course of trials and testing, leading unto observable proof. If you have a better method of discerning empirical truth, I'm all ears. Honestly.

      But if we were to set religion aside for a moment, would you still look at it as "murdering unborn children?" I guess I'm curious what you base your position on – a clergyman's position on what constitutes personhood (when you're dealing with an early fetus), or a doctor/scientists' … ?

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