Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Anti-abortion South Dakota moves closer to legalizing murder

A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus -- a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion -- even if she wanted one. 

Look, I get the opposition to abortion. I get what the "pro-lifers" are fighting for. I get they think that abortion is murder and must be stopped. But abortion is legal, within certain parameters, and there's no way killing a doctor who happens to perform abortions is justifiable.

Now, Jensen claims that his legislation has nothing to do with abortion and would not legalize such killing. As he told Greg Sargent, "It would if abortion was illegal. This code only deals with illegal acts. Abortion is legal in this country. This has nothing to do with abortion."

Right. Then what's the point?

As Miriam argues at Feministing, "[t]he problem is, the language in the bill is really vague, leaving all sorts of interpretation up to the courts if the bill becomes law. This is an often employed tactic–make language vague, say something different about your intent, but hope for other consequences."

There's no doubt that the extreme (and violent) anti-abortion right would welcome such legislation and would take it to its extreme conclusion. Yes, of course, you should be able to defend yourself if you're pregnant and someone is threatening you and your unborn child, but this bill would go much further than that, regardless of Jensen's supposed objections.

"For all the ridiculous paranoia on the right about creeping 'sharia law,'" writes Steve Benen, "here we see a Republican plan at the state level to make it legal to assassinate medical professionals as part of a larger culture war."

It seems unlikely that such a law would ever hold up under judicial scrutiny, but you never know, particularly in a state like South Dakota. Regardless, it certainly tells us a great deal not just about the anti-abortion right but more broadly about the theocratic extremism of the GOP.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home