Editorial: South Dakota’s justifiable homicide bill endorses domestic terrorism

Editorial Board

Imagine you’re a doctor who performs abortions for women who need them. Imagine you’re one of the four out-of-state doctors who spend one day per month in a small clinic in Sioux Falls, S.D., to do this for women who have not had access to an in-state provider since 1994.

Imagine a woman who has been raped seeks your help in ending the pregnancy that resulted from the violent act. Imagine this woman’s father does not approve of abortions, and refuses to support her decision or your legal right to assist her.

Imagine South Dakota state law says it’s all right for him to walk into that small, lonely clinic, and kill you.

House Bill 1171 would do just that, despite its sponsor, state Rep. Phil Jensen‘s statements to the contrary.

Jensen told Talking Points Memo that the “code only deals with illegal acts, which doesn’t include abortion.”

But we’ve read the bill, and we disagree with Jensen.

“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,” according to House Bill 1171.

It seems to us that there would be plenty of room for a criminal defendant who killed an abortion doctor to claim that this law protects him or her from legal repercussions. There’s nothing there to distinguish abortion from “great personal injury” in the eyes of a husband or family member who disagrees with a woman’s choice.

In the cases of the eight doctors assassinated by anti-abortion extremists and the 17 who were victims of attempted murders since 1993, some perpetrators have already tried to use a justifiable homicide defense in trial. This legislation endorses that defense.

By endorsing extremist violence, this bill endorses domestic terrorism.

This legislation is not about protecting a woman’s or a child’s life, and it’s shameful to operate under such a guise.

And furthermore, it’s a waste of the legislature’s time. Just like so many other states, South Dakota is in a budget crisis; with a $127 million shortfall, in fact. And its legislators are focusing their energy on making it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions.

We thought Republicans were supposed to be about fiscal responsibility.

Shame on the ones from South Dakota who would rather focus on justifying violence from anti-abortion extremists.