South Dakota is considering a Republican-backed law that would bulk up the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include another kind of killing—one intended to prevent harm to a fetus. Mother Jones points out that if it passes, it could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen along with 22 other reps and four state senators, didn't initially include the "unborn child" wording; it was added in a little-noticed hearing last week. It will soon be up for a vote in the state's GOP-majority House.
Jensen says the move is just about "consistency": South Dakota currently allows prosecutors to charge people who commit crimes that result in the death of a fetus with manslaughter or murder. But, writes Kate Sheppard, "there's a difference between counting the murder of a pregnant woman as two crimes—which is permissible under law in many states—and making the protection of a fetus an affirmative defense against a murder charge." South Dakota, which has twice tried and failed to ban abortion, has some of the most limiting abortion laws in the country: There have been no providers in the state since 1994; Planned Parenthood flies in an out-of-state doctor weekly to see women at a lone clinic in Sioux Falls. (Click to read about a controversial abortion law Ohio is considering.)