South Dakota State Rep. Phil Jensen is considering a change to his bill that would broadly allow for killing in defense of an unborn child to be considered “justifiable homicide,” following an outcry over the possibility that the language would pave the way for the murder of abortion doctors to be legally defensible.Greg Sargent of the Washington Post reports that Jensen is considering language to make it clear that murdering abortion providers is not protected by the new language: “There’s no way in the world that I or any other representatives wish to see abortion doctors murdered. So we’re looking at some language that will include that. We’re looking at some language that would protect abortion providers.”
“You’re going to have crazies out there,” he said. “Crazies do crazy things.”
Jensen told Sargent that he’s discussing changes with the state’s Attorney General today.
As TPM reported on Tuesday, House Bill 1171 passed out of committee on Monday, and was scheduled for a House vote Wednesday.
South Dakota law currently says that homicide is justifiable if it is committed in self-defense, or in defense of someone who appears to be in mortal danger. If Jensen’s bill is passed, new language would be added that specifies that defending an unborn child can also in some circumstances be considered “justifiable homicide.”
Pro-choice groups have argued the bill opens the door to defensible murder of a doctor performing abortions. Jensen was adament when TPM spoke to him on Tuesday that since abortion is legal, the new law would not apply: “This code only deals with illegal acts, which doesn’t include abortion.”
Stanford Law Professor Robert Weisberg told TPM on Tuesday that the problem is that the abortion distinction is “just not in the statue,” and any criminal defendant who killed someone performing an abortion could use the statute as a defense.