Wednesday, February 16, 2011

South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers

A Mother Jones article first posted February 15 and updated February 16 reports on the shocking but not surprising move to redefine South Dakota's "justifiable homicide" law to include actions taken to prevent harm to a fetus. It's no stretch to see that this is an attempt to legalize attacks on abortion providers, and to use fear and intimidation to force abortion providers to abandon their work.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Bill Jensen, has tried to suggest - as the bill has come under increasing national scrutiny - that the bill doesn't actually apply to abortion because it's legal. This argument is specious; many states have kept anti-abortion laws on the books (or passed new ones) in anticipation of Roe v Wade being overturned one day, in which case the power to outlaw abortion would return to the states.

Moreover, this is an example of how radical right wing beliefs have become mainstreamed over the past 20 years - from the totally fringe "defensive action statement" after Michael Griffin shot Dr. Gunn in 1994 to the point where a bill arguing justifiable homicide can even be introduced, even if it is likely at this point to be scrapped or modified.

And finally, I don't know the current status, but in the past, the Dakotas had no one who lived there willing to do abortions - someone would fly in once a week or every other week. Check out my friend Dr. Susan Wicklund's book This Common Secret to read the story of a doctor committed to providing abortions in these unserved, rural states and to understand the stakes of this bill. 

Coupled with the intimidation of Dr. Mila Means who is attempting to provide abortion in Wichita, Kansas where it has been unavailable since the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the single-minded focus on the Republican House on curtailing access to abortion, and a series of "stings" on Planned Parenthood by the anti-abortion group Live Action, the South Dakota bill is clearly part of an escalating attack on women's reproductive rights and those who make those rights a reality. 

Update 2/17: The bill is being shelved, which is good news for now. But this is by no means the last we will hear of this.

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