South Dakota wants to make killing abortions doctors legal

I wish this was satire, or some kind of sick joke, but unfortunately, a bill under consideration in South Dakota is changing the definition of justifiable homicide to include:

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…

That’s right, people. This law would be the equivalent of painting a target sign on every abortion provider in the state.

The law is complete garbage; no state can make it a crime to perform a Constitutionally lawful act, but you can bet the pro-lifers (the irony of that name will never cease to astound me) will see this as justification if they decide to start taking the law into their own hands. All they need to do now is get the law passed, and leave a few guns hanging around some of their crazier members, and presto: no more abortions!

It’s already hard enough to get an abortion there. Not only does the doctor have to offer a sonogram, he also has to read out a script meant to discourage her from going through with it.

“The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Until recently, doctors also had to tell a woman seeking an abortion that she had “an existing relationship with that unborn human being” that was protected under the Constitution and state law and that abortion poses a “known medical risk” and “increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide.” In August 2009, a US District Court Judge threw out those portions of the script, finding them “untruthful and misleading.” The state has appealed the decision.

I guess making it seem legal to kill the doctors is the next logical step, right?

Comments (11)

  • avatar

    joe dixon

    Well,the law says “harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child.” I think cutting or denial of free medical care would likely lead to the death of an unborn child. War also would likely lead to the death of an unborn child. I wonder if I can commit justifiable homicide on any politician who votes for those things?

  • avatar


    Would someone press charges against a surgeon for “stabbing” someone with a knife while he/she performed a surgery? An abortion is a surgery and the woman is volunteering to have the baby removed, just like an appendix.

    These types of laws have been around for a long time. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act has been around since 2004.

    This law is to prosecute a person (a boyfriend, husband) who tries to punch their girlfriend,wife in the stomach or push her down the stairs to the kill the baby because he doesn’t want to take care of it.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Read the law more carefully, Brandon. This is to help define “Justifiable Homocide”. In other words, killing someone trying to harm an unborn baby.

  • avatar


    It might be worth noting that South Dakota has no abortion doctors, at least according to PZ: “they rely on a very few Minnesota doctors who regularly fly in to a few locations to deliver essential services.”

    Doesn’t make it any better of course…

  • avatar


    @Brandon: Ok Brandon…if I’m pregnant and I don’t want to carry on with the pregnancy, I go to an abortion clinic to remove the embryo or fetus; I’m also going to be responsible for the “baby’s” murder; so they will have the right to kill me?

    I’m in favour of abortion;it’s not only the woman’s right to decide what to do with her body but also there are some alternatives that are not reassuring. I don’t know how it’s like in your country, but here there are situations where newborn babies are put on plastic bags or cardboardbox and thrown in a garbage can or in a lake to drown or are put on the sidewalk under a bunch of leaves where the baby can die of cold or being attacked by a stray dog.

    This happens because unfortunately abortion is not legalized in Brazil and we don’t have legalized clinics(thanks to the politicians that don’t have the courage to even bringing the legalization of abortion to the Congress for voting/passing – if they do that a lot of religious groups will complain about it and those politicians don’t want to lose their precious votes on the next election); so the only way for the women is buying Citotec on the internet or go to a slaughter house that some people have the nerve to call a clinic since the conditions of hygiene is non-existent and the staff that makes the procedure are not specialized in abortions; therefore the risk of the woman having complications and getting an infection or some disease is really big.

  • avatar


    So, I wrote this for my school paper, but I’m pretty sure its going to get hacked up for length. I didn’t proof read it either, so I’m sure its not perfect. Anyway….

    Before I even begin to pick apart the controversial bill currently making its way through the South Dakota state government, I believe it is imperative to allow readers to actually see the bill as it is written so as to ensure fairness by allowing the words to speak for themselves:

    FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to provide for the protection of certain unborn children.
    Section 1. That § 22-16-34 be amended to read as follows:
    22-16-34. 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.
    Section 2. That § 22-16-35 be amended to read as follows:
    22-16-35. 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.
    -Via the South Dakota Legislature

    Real quickly- “master, mistress, or servant”? Whoa! This is 2011, right? I wasn’t aware that South Dakota was in a time warp, but apparently they are.

    Taken at face value, this is a fantastic law. As a feminist and a Woman, I love to see more legal protection for all women, not just those who have found themselves incubating a mass of tissue that could potentially become an independently functioning human being! As it stands, the United States justice system and the legislative forces of individual states are teeming with ambiguous, harmful statutes affecting women. Unfortunately, the proposed South Dakata bill will is another example of a meticulously worded, carefully constructed legal slap in the face of all Women.
    One of the first comments I read in response to an article on the proposed South Dakota bill read something along the lines of “Abortion providers should just move out of South Dakota!” That might be a legitimate question, except that there currently aren’t any abortion providers living in South Dakota. Rather, a provider is flown in to a clinic in Sioux Falls once a week. In a state with the strictest, most religion driven, anti-Women laws governing abortion, this just another attempt by anti-choice religious zealots to ban abortion without expressly saying it.

    Moving on… The bill, proposed by self proclaimed ‘Regan Conservative,’ Senator Phil Jensen, reflects his objective of protecting gun rights and life, as can be found on his personal website. Further, major supporters of the bill include a number of anti-choice fanatics, many of whom support groups that have repeatedly publicly supported and encourage those who have murdered United States abortion providers. One supporter in particular, he group “Concerned Women for America,” is still lauding the pathetic “exposes” of Planned Parenthood at the hands of fellow lunatics ‘Live Action.’ For anyone not familiar with the issue, Live Action prides itself on going undercover, duping Planned Parenthood into wasting their valuable time answering questions specifically crafted to put PP staff in compromising positions, and then presenting only ludicrously out of context clips of the visits so as to make PP look bad. Not surprisingly, all of their claims have been proven bogus, and any alleged wrong doing on the part of PP has been cleared through factual evidence; ie- necessary police reports having been filed by PP staff so as to protect the Women they believed to have been underage prostitutes but were in fact Live Action trolls. The websites of this and other anti-choice groups are full of comments from members calling for the murder of abortion providers, although those that are not veiled are immediately removed. Thankfully, there are Pro-choice activist committed to finding the violent posts before the evidence is deleted.

    I can’t say for sure whether or not Representative Jensen crafted this bill intentionally so as to create a loop hole that would allow those who killed abortion providers to claim a justifiable homicide defense, but with supporters like the aforementioned, I wouldn’t rule it out. Clearly the people pulling for the passage of this bill are not above pulling elaborate stunts against Planned Parenthood, so I wouldn’t put it past them to come up with a horrid scheme involving a pregnant member, her gun-toting husband, and an unlucky doctor. While this is a horrible scenario, what separates it from the convoluted means of brainwashing the mentally unstable that led to the murders of OB/GYN doctors George Tiller, David Gunn, Barnett Slepian, other doctors and staff members? In the minds of those who have no problem ruining my day with gory pictures outside of public buildings (Please get some new pictures, by the way. I’ve been seeing the same ones since 1983!), training their children to hate people they don’t know, and lauding murderers of abortion providers as heroes, where do you honestly think a line might be drawn? Again, I would love to live in a fantasy land where any law predicated on protecting Women from harm is proposed and enacted for the purpose of increasing Women’s rights and safety, but I live in reality and I don’t believe for a second that this bill is anything but another attempt by an already misogynist, non-secular state government to keep Women held down under archaic stereotypes and resultant legal constraints.

    I feel I need to make something abundantly clear: Pro-choice does not mean Pro-abortion! No one is holding up signs and screaming “I desperately want to go through the physical and emotional pain of having tissue removed from my uterus!” If anyone is, they aren’t pro-choice; rather, they’re either insane or putting on a satirical act. I, like every pro-choice person I know, would prefer a woman not get pregnant at all until she is ready, but unfortunately not everyone has realistic access to birth control. That said, its only right and kind to protect a woman from having to go through a pregnancy when she is unable to take proper care of herself and her child nutritionally, financially, emotionally, etc. The bill South Dakota hopes to make a state law is not only dangerous to the doctors providing a necessary service for women, they are putting Women’s rights, safety, happiness, and lives on the line. How is this bill in any way indicative of the “pro-life” stance on which it is predicated? How long until we hear about another Woman dying after a botched back-alley abortion? Is this thing on? Hello?
    Dr. George Tiller, the OB/GYN murdered in his church by a mentally ill militant anti-choice group pawn in May of 2009, is an exemplar of compassionate medical care and respect for women’s rights in the face of opposition. After years of daily threats, the fire-bombing of his clinic, failed acid attacks, and finally, a attempt on his life in which he was shot five times, he said the following:
    There was never any question in my mind that I was going back to work the next day. I belonged there and they were not going to separate me from my job and they were not going to separate me from my community. So I did go to work the next day, and we got everything done. People got taken care of, it took a long time. Arms hurt, bled a little bit, but so what? I am not going to be run over and I’m not going to run out. It’s just that simple.

    In the style of Dr Tiller, I recommend we all take the platform that whatever happens with this law and any future attempts at reversing or challenging a Woman’s right to choose, however veiled or disguised as benevolence and concern for Women’s well being, we stand up for the rights of ourselves and others and maintain a commitment to kindness, peace, and understanding. Remember, until everyone has their rights, no one does.

  • avatar

    joe dixon

    @Jacob Fortin. “Justifiable Homocide”? Is that what they call Freudian slip?

  • avatar


    “Read the law more carefully, Brandon. This is to help define “Justifiable Homocide”. In other words, killing someone trying to harm an unborn baby.” -Jacob

    These same laws have been in place since 2004 in the federal law. No one has charged a doctor for a crime.

    This law is to prosecute someone for harming the unborn child during ~an attack~, not during a freakin abortion.

    Quit postulating.

    Federal law currently states:
    Sec. 1841. Protection of unborn children

    `(a)(1) Whoever engages in conduct that violates any of the provisions of law listed in subsection (b) and thereby causes the death of, or bodily injury (as defined in section 1365) to, a child, who is in utero at the time the conduct takes place, is guilty of a separate offense under this section.

  • avatar


    Not knowing anything about contitutional law etc – but reading only the section quoted, surely this would mean that the potential justified homicide could only be carried out by the mother? If you insert ‘Jane’ in for ‘Such Person’ you’ll see that the attempted killing of Jane’s baby would justify Jane being able to pick up a gun and shoot doctor/whoever.

    Crucially, it would not justify anyone else being able to do a thing about it. Surely?

  • avatar

    Nick Hudson

    The way the bill is worded is, in my opinion, intentionally vauge as to allow the broadest possible interpretation of who would be able to be considered “justified” in commiting a homicide in defense of others. The purpose of this bill is to allow a loophole to justify or acquit those who take it upon themselves to assassinate abortion doctors in the name of being “pro-life”. Even my family, who are avowed pro-life, gun loving, “Jesus Christ Conservative” fundamentalist christian whackjobs, think that this law is carrying things just a bit too far.

    This bill could potentially be used to justify the murder of more than just abortion doctors, it’s possible that and parent or other “concerned party” could be justified in killing a friend or significant other who was engaged in transporting a girl out of state (Given the fact that there are few if any doctors performing abortions in SD.) with the intent to procure an abortion.

    Now I’ve seen some rationalize this draconian, and frankly reprehensible law as nothing more that a wayto discourage abortion doctors from setting up practice in SD. My response to that line of thinking can be boiled down to the following sentence. “In what world is it morally defensible to discourage someone from performing a legal act by making it legally justifable for them to be murdered?”.

    I’ve heard others argu that it doesn’t matter if it’s passed or not because it will be challenged and struck down, which is the likely outcome of the passage of this bill, my problem with that view is that such challenges and rulings take quite a bit of time and can be dragged out even longer with the appeals process and the longer that law is on the books the greater the likelyhood that it will be used as the justification for the execution of an innocent person.

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