South Dakota Shelves Controversial 'Justifiable Homicide' Bill

Two days after Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones reported on a controversial measure being considered in South Dakota that "would expand the definition of 'justifiable homicide' to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus," state lawmakers have opted to shelve the measure.

Sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, the measure drew ire for its awkward wording, which critics said opened a door toward legal sanction to kill abortion providers. Jensen attempted to litigate his way through the controversy over the next two days, wrangling with the legislative language and insisting to The Plum Line's Greg Sargent that "This has nothing to do with abortion."

Nevertheless, the measure is off the table for the time being. As the New York Times reported Thursday morning:

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."

It's interesting to consider that if it hadn't been for blogs and new media, this bill could very well have become law, though it's still unclear what real-world legal consequences that would have had.

Indeed, the legal consequences were pretty murky, given the fact that the scenarios Jensen offered seemed to make the change in the law seem redundant. But the consequences beyond the legal realm seem crystal-clear to me. Let's kick it back to the Times piece:

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.

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