South Dakota Shelves "Justifiable Homicide" Measure

| Thu Feb. 17, 2011 11:30 AM EST

As we noted in an update Wednesday afternoon, South Dakota legislators have officially shelved the measure that would have allowed protection of a fetus to qualify as "justifiable homicide." After Mother Jones revealed that the bill created the potential for anti-abortion activists to use this as a defense for killing abortion doctors, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Phil Jensen, faced a good deal of backlash in the state and across the country.

From the Times:

The House speaker, Val Rausch, said that the legislation had been shelved, pending a decision on whether to allow a vote, amend the language or drop it entirely. A spokesman for Gov. Dennis Daugaard said, "Clearly the bill as it’s currently written is a very bad idea."

When we first reported on the bill, Jensen maintained that its intent was only to clarify the code and balked at the interpretation that it could create a legal defense for killing abortion providers. Now there at least seems to be a recognition that the measure, passed as it was written, would have had serious consequences. And the Times even managed to find at least one anti-abortion activist who was willing to admit that the bill as it was written would have been used against abortion providers:

Dave Leach, an Iowa anti-abortion activist, praised the bill, saying it could end abortions in South Dakota by scaring away doctors or by establishing grounds for someone to kill those who stay.
"There may be something I'm overlooking, but from all appearances, this bill would certainly justify an individual taking the life of an abortionist in order to save human lives," he said.

It will be interesting to see if the bill comes back in an amended form, or whether it's gone for good at this point. Meanwhile, though, the bill that would force women to visit Crisis Pregnancy Centers—which are generally run by anti-abortion rights groups—before they can obtain an abortion is still on the table in South Dakota and likely to pass.

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