South Dakota sets aside controversial abortion bill

PIERRE, South Dakota Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:38pm EST

Related Topics

PIERRE, South Dakota (Reuters) - Lawmakers in the South Dakota House of Representatives voted on Thursday to delay further action on a controversial bill that supporters say would protect pregnant women from attack but critics fear could legalize the killing of abortion providers.

By a vote of 61 to 4, the legislators agreed to "table" the bill, known as HB 1171. The proposed law would have expanded the definition of justifiable homicide to include killing by a family member "in the lawful defense of ... his or her husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant, or the unborn child of any such enumerated person."

By tabling the bill, the legislators merely agreed to set aside for future consideration. But it is a parliamentary procedure that typically ends discussion of the proposal for the current legislative session.

The bill was introduced in late January by Phil Jensen, a Republican legislator from Rapid City, and is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Jensen was one of the lawmakers to vote to table the proposal but three of the bill's other supporters opposed the action.

Many states have laws that permit individuals to protect others with deadly force. But Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based pro-choice group that has been tracking state abortion laws since the early 1970s, said the proposed law was the first of its kind that could be construed to provide legal protection for committing murder in order to prevent conduct likely to result in the death of an embryo or fetus.

Jensen's bill has been denounced by a variety of groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice America, which say it could incite violence against abortion providers.

South Dakota has been at the center of some of the most bitter recent fights between supporters and opponents of abortion, which was legalized in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

In both 2006 and 2008, state legislators passed laws banning most abortions unless they were necessary to save a woman's life. In both cases, the laws were subsequently overturned by the state's voters at the polls.

(Reporting by Michael Avok in Pierre and James B. Kelleher in Chicago; Editing by Peter Bohan)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
Robert76 wrote:
Why is it that everywhere the Republicans have a majority they use it to sponser insane bills and forment violence all in the name of family values.

If their idea of family values is murdering doctors….leave me out.

Maybe it is time for our maker to come down and weigh in on these self proclaimed christians.

Feb 17, 2011 9:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.