Photo of the South Dakota quarter.
Would a law justifying killing abortion doctors be a just law? CC by United States Mint/Wikimedia Commons

South Dakota is one of the toughest states in the U.S. when it comes to abortion law. South Dakota ran abortion clinics out of the state until they were jettisoned in 1994, and Planned Parenthood is only allowed to fly a representative in for special situations. If South Dakota House Republicans have their way with House Bill 1171, things will become much more serious. “Justifiable homicide” would be expanded in scope to condone the killing of those who intend to harm a fetus, which could be construed to include abortion doctors.

South Dakota drives abortion doctors out

With a 9 to 3 party line vote, House Bill 1171 made it out of committee. It is sponsored by long time anti-abortion activist and South Dakota state Rep. Phil Jensen. When a fetus is killed, the bill would label that murder or manslaughter, and Jensen thinks people should be charged accordingly. He explained that a “consistency” in South Dakota’s criminal code is necessary.

Activists do not seen gray areas with HB 1171

Mother Jones got National Abortion Federation’s Vicki Saporta’s opinion on the matter. Saporta said that Rep. Jensen’s House Bill 1171 is “an invitation to murder abortion providers.” Extremists have an excuse to get away with murder in this case, she contends.

Giving a fetus personhood is what the bill is about, according to Kristin Aschenbrenner of the South Dakota Advocacy Network for Women. 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.”

Counseling included in House Bill 1217

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.

Articles cited

Mother Jones:

South Dakota House Bill:

An interesting question posed to anti-abortion demonstrators:

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