South Dakota lawmakers are about to consider a bill that would expand the meaning of justifiable homicide to include "resisting an attempt to harm" an unborn child related to the killer, Mother Jones reports. "If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion-even if she wanted one," writes Kate Sheppard. Or, as one national advocate put it, it issues an "invitation to murder abortion providers."
For years, South Dakota has been a frontline for state abortion restrictions — it has twice tried to ban abortion entirely by referendum, failing each time. Now, the "unborn child" provision has been tacked onto an existing bill drafted to clarify justifiable homicide, supported by the testimony of right-wing groups, including Phyllis Schafly's Eagle Forum and the Concerned Women for America. What, no Operation Rescue?
It's already nearly impossible for a woman to safely terminate a pregnancy in the state. There are no local providers and haven't been for seventeen years, except for a doctor flown in by Planned Parenthood weekly. And any abortions that do take place do so under extreme strictures—doctors have to read from a script that says, "The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." They tried to get doctors to tell a woman she has "an existing relationship with that unborn human being" and that abortion would present "known medical risk" and "increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide," Sheppard points out, until it was overturned by a judge for essentially forcing doctors to lie. An appeal is pending.
"Justifiable homicide" is a familiar rationale among anti-abortion terrorists. The last murderer of an abortion provider cited justifiable homicide in killing Dr. George Tiller (although technically he wouldn't be protected in South Dakota under the current proposal unless he was related to a woman who was treated by Tiller.)
But as Kate Harding pointed out this morning, the bill would also conceivably protect an abuser who would do anything to keep his partner pregnant. It's not at all a stretch — a report released on reproductive coercion, "1 in 4 women who agreed to answer questions after calling the [National Domestic Violence] hot line said a partner had pressured them to become pregnant, told them not to use contraceptives, or forced them to have unprotected sex." The link between forced pregnancy and partners prone to other forms of violence is depressingly direct. If the bill passes, they might as well start advertising South Dakota as a safe haven for it.