South Dakota Ups the Ante on Abortion: Death for the Doctors, Chiding for the Women?
Behold – the latest attempt by South Dakota’s legislature to intimidate any doctors who might consider performing abortions there:
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions.
Here’s the full text of the act, with the amendments to current law underlined:
FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to provide for the protection of certain unborn children.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. That § 22-16-34 be amended to read as follows:
22-16-34. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.
Section 2. That § 22-16-35 be amended to read as follows:
22-16-35. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person in the lawful defense of such person, or of his or her husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant, or the unborn child of any such enumerated person, if there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony, or to do some great personal injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished.
That, my friends, is scary shit. The media and blogosphere exploded with the news this morning, forcing on us the unwelcome reminder that there are parts of the country where this kind of insanity actually flies.
The good news is that some of the more sensational headlines – a prime example being Mother Jones’s “South Dakota Moves to Legalize Killing Abortion Providers” – are a wee bit misleading. Writing for Slate, Dave Weigel notes that the outcome for killers of abortion doctors is completely contingent on the legality of abortion, now and in the future:
It’s legal to perform abortions. And this is why the Jensen bill wouldn’t legalize the killing of abortion doctors. It just looks like it does, right now. It would legalize of abortion doctors if abortion became illegal.
The problem, according to NARAL’s Alisha Sedor, is that a law that looks like it allows the killing of abortion providers is just as dangerous as one that actually does.
“I don’t believe the intent is malicious,” Sedor said. “But the potential legal implications of the bill are what make it dangerous. If it passes without an amendment exempting attacks on providers, it could incite violence from individuals who believe their actions will be found justifiable in court.”
The assumption that right-wing vigilantes may not consult with their lawyers prior to loading their shotguns is probably a fair one. The doctors who do this kind of work (and their nurses, secretarial staff, and volunteers) are used to an unrelenting atmosphere of hostility and harassment created by people who want to see them dead.
“There’s no way I can imagine what his family went through. That’s impossible for me to comprehend. I don’t think they could ever wake up a day and feel secure in the knowledge that nothing was going to happen.”
That quote comes from a friend of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was murdered in May of 2009 by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder. Dr. Tiller had already survived two previous attempts on his life: his clinic was firebombed in 1986, and he was shot in both of his arms (a total of five times) in 1993. If you haven’t seen Rachel Maddow’s full-length documentary on the circumstances surrounding Dr. Tiller’s death, I can’t recommend it enough – and you can watch it online instantly.
And wait, folks, the story’s not over. A second bill – one that has received substantially less attention – could potentially have a much greater impact on the women who seek abortion in South Dakota. If you’re an atheist, this should make you mad:
Another proposed law, House Bill 1217, would force women to undergo counseling at a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) before they can obtain an abortion. CPCs are not regulated and are generally run by anti-abortion Christian groups and staffed by volunteers—not doctors or nurses—with the goal of discouraging women from having abortions.
Many so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” consider evangelizing a vital part of their mission, one that takes a backseat only to convincing women not to abort – by any means necessary. Tina Dupay investigated one such facility, finding that they didn’t even bother to hide their religious affiliations:
Avenues is a California primary clinic, fully licensed and accredited by the state. So exactly what kind of medical facility lures women with the promise of free pregnancy tests and leaves them fearing eternal damnation?
The mission statement on Avenues’ Web site reads, “Avenues Pregnancy Clinic is a Christ-centered ministry dedicated to affirming the value of life. Our mission is to provide a network of care to those experiencing pregnancy-related crisis and compassionately presenting Biblical truth resulting in changed lives to the glory of God.”
According to their site, Avenues has been “presenting Biblical truth” to women since 1988.
Dupay spoke with two women about their experiences with Avenues. One, “Maggie,” described the following nightmare:
The women talk to her about “living in sin.” They ask her if she believes in God. Yeah, sure, she tells them, she believes in God (and Allah and Buddha and the Master Cleanse). After two-and-a-half hours the nurses ask Maggie if she would like to give her life to Jesus Christ and pray with them. Maggie is blindsided. All she wanted was to know if she was pregnant.
She leaves with a Bible and an existential crisis. “They were so convincing; they said all this stuff,” Maggie tells me, in tears, after her ordeal. “I don’t know. Is it wrong that I’m living with Mike?”
But hey, don’t worry – the bill says religious discussions are off the table during government-forced sessions! That solves the problem, right? Color me unconvinced.
Proselytizing aside, it’s a well-known fact that the vast majority of these CPCs provide patently false or misleading information about abortion. A 2006 report filed by the U.S. House’s Committee on Government Reform showed that 87% of them were lying to their clients about the “consequences” of the procedure, the efficacy of birth control, and other related issues.
This bill, if passed, will make anti-abortion organizations the gatekeepers to abortion care. I want to know what’s stopping them from postponing the mandated “private interviews” to prevent women from obtaining abortions before the clock runs out and the procedure becomes cost-prohibitive or illegal. I want to know what’s protecting women from being subjected to blatant lies about a medical procedure they have every right to obtain.
But most of all, reader, I want to know what you plan to do about it.
Listed below are all the state congressmen who tacked their names onto HB 1217. If you’re represented by any one of them – and even if you’re not – please consider giving them a piece of your mind.
Rep. Roger Hunt (R) – District 10
Rep. Gen Abdallah (R) – District 10
Rep. Jim Bolin* (R) – District 16
Rep. Thomas Brunner* (R) – District 29
Rep. Justin Cronin (R) – District 23
Rep. Dennis Feickert (D) – District 3
Rep. Brian Gosch (R) – District 32
Rep. Brock Greenfield* (R) – District 6
Rep. Jon Hansen* (R) – District 35
Rep. Steve Hickey* (R) – District 9
Rep. Charles Hoffman* (R) – District 23
Rep. Lora Hubbel* (R) – District 11
Rep. Phil Jenson* (R) – District 33
Rep. Patrick Kirschman (D) – District 13
Rep. Frank Kloucek (D) – District 19
Rep. Don Kopp* (R) – District 35
Rep. Melissa Magstadt* (R) – District 5
Rep. Scott Munsterman (R) – District 7
Rep. Stace Nelson* (R) – District 25
Rep. Lance Russell* (R) – District 30
Rep. Manny Steele* (R) – District 12
Rep. Patricia Stricherz* (R) – District 8
Rep. Shawn Tornow (R) – District 14
Rep. Burt Tulson (R) – District 6
Rep. Edward Van Gerpen* (R) – District 19
Rep. Mark Venner* (R) – District 24
Rep. Hal Wick (R) – District 12
Sen. Al Novstrup (R) – District 3
Sen. Corey Brown (R) – District 23
Sen. Phyllis Heineman (R) – District 13
Sen. Ried Holien (R) – District 5
Sen. Elizabeth Kraus* (R) – District 33
Sen. Dan Lederman* (R) – District 16
Sen. Ryan Maher* (R) – District 28
Sen. Russell Olson (R) – District 8
Sen. Timothy Rave (R) – District 25
Sen. Larry Rhoden (R) – District 29
Sen. Todd Schlekeway (R) – District 11
* Also introduced HB 1171, the act redefining justifiable homicide.