Killing a doctor who performs abortions could soon be legal in South Dakota — that is, if a bill passed out of committee in the state House of Representatives on Monday, which makes it a "justifiable homicide" for someone to kill anyone attempting to harm an unborn child, becomes law.
State Rep. Phil Jensen (R), who introduced the bill, was quick to deny that the law is designed to prevent women from having abortions, telling TPM that it is instead a way to provide "consistency" to South Dakota law, and afford "a greater degree of personhood to an unborn child."
Homicide is justifiable if 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, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.
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, if there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony, or to do some great personal injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished.
The legislation passed out of committee along party-lines with a vote of 9-3.
Jensen cited a South Dakota law currently on the books that includes killing "an unborn child" as part of the definition for manslaughter. He told TPM he's "trying to bring some consistency to South Dakota" with this new language.
He denied that the bill would open the door to killing abortion doctors, since abortion is legal. "This code only deals with illegal acts, which doesn't include abortion," he said.
"There is a time and a place where you can defend yourself and it may result in the death of someone who's attacking you," Jensen continued.
As an example, Jensen described a scenario in which an "ex-lover or ex-spouse who doesn't want to pay child support," and so confronts the pregnant woman and "begins to beat on their abdomen and try to abort their baby." This would "give protection for those who come to the aid of a pregnant woman."
Even though the law already protects people (including, presumably, pregnant women) who commit murder in self-defense, and those who might commit murder while defending someone else, Jensen simply argued: "It protects not only the woman, but also the life of the unborn child."
Vicki Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Federation, argued to Mother Jones that in practice,"this is not an abstract bill," and could invite "misguided extremist [to invoke] this 'self-defense' statute to justify the murder of a doctor, nurse or volunteer."
Jensen said the bill will go to a vote Tuesday at 2:30 PM EST.