Blog Posts

Update on South Dakota “justifiable homicide” bill

South Dakota's House Bill 1171 has been shelved due to concerns that, as worded, it could provide a defense for killers such as Scott Roeder.

The phrasing caused concern and disbelief on both sides of the abortion debate, with activists in the abortion rights and anti-abortion movements calling the language poorly conceived at best, and perhaps an incitement to violence. The bill was cheered, though, by those anti-abortion activists who argue that the use of violence is justified to stop doctors from carrying out abortions.

It's refreshing to see a reporter make the distinction between those abortion opponents who favor violence and the rest of the movement. I think it's important to remind everyone, especially the "justifiable homicide" crowd, that their advocacy of murder is unacceptable to the rest of us.

I believe that the bill's sponsor, Phil Jensen, absolutely did not intend it as license to kill abortion providers. Remember, as he introduced it, the bill specified that a woman could legally use lethal force "to protect herself against the unlawful force or unlawful deadly force she reasonably believes to be threatening her unborn child."

When the bill was amended, the language about "unlawful force" was removed. I'd love to know who removed the "unlawful force" provision and why. Unfortunately, the South Dakota Legislature web site doesn't give the name of the person who amended it (or any other bill, for that matter), and their audio of the session doesn't seem to work. I'll keep looking.