“Justifiable” homicide is usually claimed in self defense cases, and in particular home invasions that end up with a dead burglar. You could say it’s one of the many things that’s big in Texas.
But in South Dakota, a group of Republican state legislators have crafted a bill that would expand the legal definition of “justifiable homicide” in a way that’s plain and unambiguous: they’re trying to legalize the murder of abortion doctors.
In House Bill 1171, which cleared committee recently and will go to a full vote by the legislature soon, their redefinition is clear.
It states: “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.”
It was enough to draw out a feature story from Mother Jones, which noted that along with the principle sponsor, state Rep. Phil Jensen, 22 other state representatives and four state senators were also attached to the text.
Despite appearances, Jensen was not the author of language redefining “justifiable” homicide. The legislature’s website noted that the bill had been “extensively amended (hoghoused) and may no longer be consistent with the original intention of the sponsor.”
But in a hearing last week, “[a] parade of right-wing groups—the Family Heritage Alliance, Concerned Women for America, the South Dakota branch of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, and a political action committee called Family Matters in South Dakota—all testified in favor of the amended version of the law,” Mother Jones‘s Kate Sheppard wrote.
Doctors and clinics that provide reproductive health services have in the past been targeted by conservative extremists. The most recent high-profile assassination, against Dr. George Tiller, happened in May 2009. He was shot in his church, in Wichita, by a man named Scott Roeder.
Tiller was one of the nation’s only providers of later-term abortions, which remains a rare and legally restricted procedure. He was also a frequent target of Fox News conservative opinion host Bill O’Reilly, who’d for years referred to Tiller on his show as “Tiller the baby killer.”
Roeder was sentenced to life in prison and has since developed a cult following among some extremists online. Though he was said to have been a “lone wolf” -style gunman, his connections to the pro-life movement became abundantly clear.
And today, it seems, from at least one sector of the South Dakota legislature, the message is that the law should make exception for men of his ilk.
There is only one clinic in the state that offers abortion services.
Image: A six-week old human fetus. Credit: Wikimedia commons.
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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