Bill could legalise killing of abortion provider


THE SOUTH Dakota House of Representatives was to debate a Bill yesterday afternoon that would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killing in the defence of an unborn foetus.

House Bill 1171 is sponsored by state representative Phil Jensen, who opposes abortion rights.

Mr Jensen claims the Bill has nothing to do with abortion, but pro-abortion rights activists have been galvanised by an article published on the Mother Jones website on Tuesday, entitled “South Dakota Moves to Legalize Killing Abortion Providers”.

“Justifiable homicide” was the defence used by Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider, in a church in Kansas in 2009.

Roeder, who is now serving a life sentence, said he killed Tiller to save the lives of unborn children. Eight doctors have been murdered by US anti-abortion extremists since 1993. Seventeen others have survived assassination attempts. Mr Jensen’s Bill states that homicide is legal if it is committed by a mother “while resisting an attempt to harm” her unborn child.

The provision was expanded in a committee hearing last week to include homicide committed by the mother’s parents, spouse or children in defence of her foetus. At least four right-wing, anti-abortion groups testified in favour of the broader definition.

Republicans hold strong majorities in the South Dakota house and senate, where many of the minority Democrats also oppose abortion rights.

“If this Bill passes, in theory it would allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman with an abortion,” said Representative Peggy Gibson, a Democratic member of the legislature. “It’s a licence to kill abortion providers.”

The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families warned that Bill 1171 could have far-reaching consequences if a “misguided extremist invokes this ‘self defence’ statute to justify the murder of a doctor, nurse or volunteer”.

Mr Jensen has told interviewers the Bill is merely intended to make South Dakota law “consistent”, because state laws already allow prosecutors to charge people with manslaughter and murder for actions that result in the death of foetuses. South Dakota already has some of the most severe restrictions on abortion in the US.

There have been no abortion providers in the state since 1994, though the Planned Parenthood group flies a doctor into Sioux Falls once a week to see patients.

State law requires a woman to wait 24 hours after counselling before undergoing the procedure, and doctors are required by law to read this sentence to patients: “The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

House Bill 1217, a separate piece of legislation also under consideration, would require women to undergo a second round of counselling at a crisis pregnancy centre at least 72 hours before an abortion. Most crisis centres are run by anti-abortion Christian groups.

Mr Jensen is also promoting a referendum that would add the following sentence to South Dakota’s constitution: “No such court may apply international law, the law of any foreign nation, or any foreign religious or moral code with the force of law in the adjudication of any case under its jurisdiction.”

Mr Jensen has called the provision “the Sharia Bill”. Last November, 70 per cent of voters in Oklahoma approved a resolution banning the consideration of Sharia in their state. It was struck down by a federal judge, but similar legislation has been introduced in at least 13 other states.

Mr Jensen told the Rapid City Journalthat the issue had come up in Minnesota “where you had folks from Somalia who desire to have the courts of Minnesota rule according to Sharia Law”.

A journalist for Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC website tracked down the origin of the Somalia/Minnesota canard. It arose from Muslim cab drivers not wanting to carry passengers carrying alcohol in 2007.

A four-year-old Fox News story about the incident has since been viewed 1.6 million times on an apocalyptic Christian website.