Proposed SD law would legalize murder of abortion providers–and pregnant women

This is the logic of anti-choice legislation taken to its extreme.

From Mother Jones:

A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state’s GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

It’s clear this bill likely has the goal of inciting violence–murder–of abortion providers. But I think this logic can actually be taken a step further, to include the murder of a pregnant woman herself.

Often one connection between anti-choice legislation that isn’t talked about is how it affects the rights of pregnant women who do want to parent. I’m talking about the rights of pregnant women to decide what kind of medical treatment they will seek–and not necessarily abortion.

There is an incredible battle going on around the country about the rights of pregnant women to refuse certain types of medical care (as the rest of us are legally entitled to do). In numerous cases, women have been forced against their will to have c-sections or other medical procedures in the name of the protecting the fetus.

This proposed legislation takes that logic to it’s extreme–not only is it okay to super-cede the autonomy and rights of pregnant women in the name of the fetus–you could actually justifiably murder her in pursuit of this as well. In addition, of course, to doctors performing perfectly legal and constitutionally protected abortions.

Can we agree to stop calling them pro-life now?

Update: The Sponsor of the bill, Rep. Gensen, says allowing for the murder of abortion providers is not his intent with the law. The problem is, the language in the bill is really vague, leaving all sorts of interpretation up to the courts if the bill becomes law. This is an often employed tactic–made language vague, say something different about your intent, but hope for other consequences. Don’t buy the BS folks.

Join the Conversation

  • nazza

    We are so pro-life that we will kill you.

    All humans are created equal. But some are more equal than others.

  • Nick B

    I’m as pro-choice as anyone, but you should read the bill again. It says that murder is justifiable if the mother kills someone in the defense of her fetus.


    Homicide is justifiable if committed by Person X while resisting any attempt to murder Person X, or to harm the unborn child of Person X in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.

    The second portion of the bill extends the protection to the unborn children of your family, master/mistress/servants. That last part, being able to kill on behalf of your servant, might be an issue. However, I doubt any reading of the law would make legal killing of the mother to protect the fetus, because such action would result in the death of the fetus too.

    Also: Why does SD law allow for masters, mistresses, and servants?

    • Joyce Arthur

      I believe Nick is wrong. Check the actual wording of the bill, which has two clauses:

      I’m a writer, not a lawyer, but here’s my literal interpretation of the law’s wording in relation to defense of a fetus: The first clause means that the pregnant woman herself can kill someone in defense of her fetus. The second clause means that anyone – let’s say “Joe” – can kill someone who is a threat to the fetus of Joe’s pregnant spouse, parent, child, employer, or employee. This can be seen by dropping the middle clause, which is unnecessary and not part of the “unborn child” clause:

      Full clause: “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…”

      Clarified unborn clause: “Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person in the lawful defense of … the unborn child of any such enumerated person…”

      Note that this wording would not necessarily preclude killing the pregnant woman herself, since from a legal standpoint, the “person” being defended (the fetus in this case) is not required to survive the rescue attempt in order for someone to be justified in acting in its defense. The idea of killing a pregnant woman in order to defend her fetus may seem absurd, but it actually makes perfect sense from the anti-choice viewpoint – when the law recognizes the fetus as a separate being with rights, its physical dependence on a woman for survival becomes irrelevant. It’s also consistent with Catholic doctrine, as Catholic hospitals will let pregnant women die along with their fetuses rather than do an abortion that would save the woman’s life. Also, remember that the focus of the anti-choice movement is not on saving fetuses, but on compelling women to fulfill their motherhood role – to which they can be sacrificed because that is their reason for being.

  • sam izdat

    What’s with this enumeration of protected persons?

    “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…”

    Master? Mistress? Servant?