Before I even begin to pick apart the controversial bill currently making its way through the South Dakota state government, I believe it is imperative to allow readers to actually see the bill as it is written so as to ensure fairness by allowing the words to speak for themselves:
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.
-Via the South Dakota Legislature
Real quickly- "master, mistress, or servant"? Whoa! This is 2011, right? I wasn't aware that South Dakota was in a time warp, but apparently they are.
Taken at face value, this is a fantastic law. As a feminist and a woman, I love to see more legal protection for all women, not just those who have found themselves incubating a mass of tissue that could potentially become an independently functioning human being! As it stands, the United States justice system and the legislative forces of individual states are teeming with ambiguous, harmful statutes affecting women. Unfortunately, the proposed South Dakota bill is another example of a meticulously worded, carefully constructed legal slap in the face of all women.
One of the first comments I read in response to an article on the proposed South Dakota bill read something along the lines of "Abortion providers should just move out of South Dakota!" That might be a legitimate suggestion, except that there currently aren't any abortion providers living in South Dakota. Rather, a provider is flown in to a clinic in Sioux Falls once a week. In a state with the strictest, most religiously driven, anti-women laws governing abortion, this is just another attempt by anti-choice religious zealots to ban abortion without expressly saying it.
Moving on, the bill, proposed by self proclaimed ‘Reagan Conservative,' Senator Phil Jensen, reflects his objective of protecting gun rights and life, as can be found on his personal website. Furthermore, major supporters of the bill include a number of anti-choice fanatics, many of whom support groups that have publicly supported and encouraged those who have murdered United States abortion providers. One group in particular, Concerned Women for America, is still lauding the pathetic "exposés" of Planned Parenthood (PP) at the hands of fellow lunatics Live Action. For anyone not familiar with the issue, Live Action prides in itself on going undercover, duping Planned Parenthood into wasting their valuable time answering questions specifically crafted to put PP staff in compromising positions, and then presenting only ludicrously out of context clips of the visits to make PP look bad. Not surprisingly, all of their claims have been proven bogus, and any alleged wrongdoing on the part of PP has been cleared through factual evidence; i.e. necessary police reports having been filed by PP staff to protect the women they believed to have been underage prostitutes, but were in fact Live Action trolls. The websites of this, and other anti-choice, group are full of comments from members calling for the murder of abortion providers, although those that are not veiled are immediately removed. Thankfully, there are pro-choice activists committed to finding the violent posts before the evidence is deleted.
I can't say for sure whether or not Representative Jensen crafted this bill intentionally to create a loop hole that would allow those who killed abortion providers to claim a justifiable homicide defense, but with supporters like the aforementioned, I wouldn't rule it out. Clearly, the people pulling for the passage of this bill are not above pulling elaborate stunts against Planned Parenthood, so I wouldn't put it past them to come up with a horrid scheme involving a pregnant member, her gun-toting husband and an unlucky doctor. While this is a horrible scenario, what separates it from the convoluted means of brainwashing the mentally unstable that led to the murders of OB/GYN doctors George Tiller, David Gunn, Barnett Slepian and other doctors and staff members? In the minds of those who have no problem ruining my day with gory pictures outside of public buildings (please get some new pictures, by the way. I've been seeing the same ones since 1983), training their children to hate people they don't know, and lauding murderers of abortion providers as heroes, where do you honestly think a line might be drawn? Again, I would love to live in a fantasy land where any law predicated on protecting women from harm is proposed and enacted for the purpose of increasing women's rights and safety, but I live in reality, and I don't believe for a second that this bill is anything but another attempt by an already misogynist, non-secular state government to keep women down, under archaic stereotypes and resultant legal constraints.
I feel I need to make something abundantly clear: pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. No one is holding up signs and screaming "I desperately want to go through the physical and emotional pain of having tissue removed from my uterus!" If anyone is, they aren't pro-choice; rather, they're either insane or putting on a satirical act. I, like every pro-choice person I know, would prefer a woman not get pregnant at all until she is ready, but unfortunately not everyone has realistic access to birth control. That said, it's only right and kind to protect a woman from having to go through a pregnancy when she is unable to take proper care of herself and her child nutritionally, financially, emotionally and so forth. The bill South Dakota hopes to make a state law is not only dangerous to the doctors providing a necessary service for women, they are putting women's rights, safety, happiness and lives on the line. How is this bill in any way indicative of the "pro-life" stance on which it is predicated? How long until we hear about another woman dying after a botched back-alley abortion? Is this thing on? Hello?
Dr. George Tiller, the OB/GYN murdered in his church by a mentally-ill, militant anti-choice pawn in May 2009, is an example of compassionate medical care giving and respect for women's rights in the face of opposition. After years of daily threats, the fire-bombing of his clinic, failed acid attacks, and finally, an attempt on his life in which he was shot five times, he said the following:
There was never any question in my mind that I was going back to work the next day. I belonged there and they were not going to separate me from my job and they were not going to separate me from my community. So, I did go to work the next day, and we got everything done. People got taken care of, it took a long time. Arms hurt, bled a little bit, but so what? I am not going to be run over and I'm not going to run out. It's just that simple.
In the style of Dr. Tiller, I recommend we all take the platform that, whatever happens with this law and any future attempts at reversing or challenging a woman's right to choose, however veiled or disguised as benevolence and concern for women's well being, we stand up for the rights of ourselves and others and maintain a commitment to kindness, peace and understanding. Remember, until everyone has their rights, no one does.