Legal To Kill South Dakota Abortion Doctors?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 16, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Is it legal to kill South Dakota abortion doctors?

This seems like a pretty absurd question to ask. Of course, it's not legal to kill South Dakota abortion doctors.

A bill introduced into South Dakota's legislature may arguably change this. The bill, HB 1171, would make it a justifiable homicide if a person were to kill someone while trying to protect their unborn child, or the unborn child of a family member, employer or employee. Supporters say it will protect pregnant women, but others say it will permit the murder of South Dakota abortion doctors.

Pro-choice advocates worry that the final language of the bill will trigger attacks on South Dakota abortion providers, reports Reuters. Though they don't believe this is the bill's intention, the language can be interpreted to approve of such behavior.

Representative Phil Jensen denies that this is the case, stating that his intent was to "bring continuity" to the criminal code. Explaining his position, he offered the following scenario, as relayed by Reuters. "Let's say an ex-boyfriend finds out his ex-girlfriend is pregnant with his baby and decides to beat on her abdomen to kill the unborn child." He would like to make the murder of the ex-boyfriend justifiable.

Let's take a closer look at current state law and how it would apply to this situation.

1. Attacking a woman with the purpose to kill an unborn child is illegal--this is a given, as it amounts to battery.

2. In South Dakota, if the person who comes to the aid of the ex-girlfriend is related to her, an employer or employee, that person may be entitled to a "Defense of person" defense should they kill the ex-boyfriend. Same goes for the ex-girlfriend defending herself.

3. To assert this defense, the ex-girlfriend must have been in imminent danger of suffering "some great personal injury" via the ex-boyfriend. If she was, then it's a case of justifiable homicide.

The remaining question is whether or not an attack brutal enough to put a baby's life in danger also inflicts great personal injury on the mother. Because if it is, the law as it stands covers these murders, but simply considers them to be justifiable as a defense of the mother.

The answer to this question is obviously up for debate. But given the kinds of attacks that result in the death of an unborn child, HB 1171 is appearing to be just another one of South Dakota's attempts to make a political statement against abortion.

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