Legislation introduced in Nebraska includes a "justifiable homicide" clause that could be used in defense of a fetus, potentially offering legal cover for the killing of abortion providers.
The bill, LB 232, was put forth by Nebraska state Sen. Mark Christensen, who fiercely opposes abortion even in cases of rape, as Mother Jones first reported. It would allow any third party the chance to use self-defense as a legal justification for killing someone believed to be threatening the life of a fetus.
Although it may not have been Christensen's intent, critics fear that the language it could make way for legalized killings of abortion doctors, who are already frequent targets of death threats from anti-abortion activists.
"I think it opens the door to something unintended," said state Sen. Steve Lathrop (D), according to Mother Jones.
"I don't think you came in here intending to make those who provide abortions a target of the use of force," he was quoted as telling Christensen, "but I think it may unintentionally do that or at least provide somebody with an argument that they were justified in that."
"It is very disturbing that lawmakers who target abortion providers are again making national headlines," said Nancy Keenan, president of the pro-abortion-rights group NARAL. "Nebraska lawmakers have the moral obligation to protect reproductive-health care professionals who are providing legal medical services to women. We call upon the bill's sponsor to insert language that explicitly protects abortion providers from violence."
Republicans in Iowa have introduced a similar measure, the Iowa Independent reports.
These episode are the latest in a series of controversial anti-abortion legislation Republicans have pushed in several states and on a national level. A similar but somewhat narrower measure was introduced in South Dakota recently, only to be stripped after controversy erupted.
House Republicans have also come under fire in recent weeks for proposing national legislation that would redefine rape as it relates to abortion coverage (the language was later amended), as well as a bill that could allow hospitals to refuse abortions to a woman even if her life was in danger.
The House last week approved a measure that would strip government-sponsored family planning funds from Planned Parenthood, which provides a variety of health care services, including abortion.
Correction: A prior version of this story attributed the bill to Nevada.