South Dakota Shelves Controversial ‘Justifiable Homicide’ Bill

February 17, 2011 4:15 a.m.

The South Dakota Legislature is shelving a bill that would allow for killing in defense of an unborn child to be considered “justifiable homicide,” until it decides whether to hold a vote, amend the controversial language, or throw the bill out entirely.Earlier this week, State Rep. Phil Jensen (R) introduced the bill, which would have added language to current South Dakota law specifying that, in some circumstances, killing someone in defense of an unborn child is “justifiable homicide.” Currently, the law allows for murder as self-defense, or in defense of someone whose life appears to be in danger.

A.G. Sulzberger of the New York Times reports that House speaker Val Rausch confirmed a vote on the bill has been postponed indefinitely. A spokesman for South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) told the Times: “Clearly the bill as it’s currently written is a very bad idea.”

As TPM reported earlier this week, Jensen had argued that the new law would not apply to abortions, since abortion is legal. “This code only deals with illegal acts, which doesn’t include abortion,” he said.

But legal experts noted that the bill’s language was vague to the point that it could have made the murder of an abortion doctor legally defensible. After public controversy over the language, Jensen told Greg Sargent of the Washington Post: “There’s no way in the world that I or any other representatives wish to see abortion doctors murdered.”

Masthead Masthead
Editor & Publisher:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Senior Newswriters:
Editor at Large:
General Manager & General Counsel:
Executive Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: