South Dakota‘s proposed “justified homicide bill” has been withdrawn for the time being, but don’t be surprised if it returns like cow flop on a South Dakota rancher’s boots.
What’s the controversy? Read from the bill for yourself, “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.”
Some proponents of the bill, including bill sponsor and anti-abortion advocate Rep. Phil Jensen (R-South WTFistan), claim the bill has nothing to do with abortion. Opponents, and even some advocates believe that’s hogwash – and if you can read, that seems a reasonable interpretation – and doubt that it’s legally sound.
Legal wrangles over abortion have gone non-stop since Roe v. Wade became the basis for the law of the land, but the nation rarely looks at the pretzel logic behind the legality debate.
Pro-lifers often argue a fetus is a full-blown human being and that it’s justified, if not morally correct, to perform a sort of vigilante capital punishment on abortion providers because they’re “murderers”. So if self-appointed juries can mete out capital punishment for “murdering” abortion providers, how can many of those same people support state-sponsored capital punishment.
Even if one wraps themselves in the cloak of religion, how’s it possible to cite the 6th commandment without caveat – Thou shalt not kill – as the basis for killing an abortionist while ignoring it when a capital criminal walks the Green Mile?
And for the record, pro-lifers could reverse this tangle of law and morality to bash the other side. After all, why is it OK for pro-choice advocates to argue it’s OK to terminate a pregnancy, but are equally inflamed about abolishing capital punishment.
The legality of this issue is valid, but it’s a dicey legal case that’s spread beyond just the courtroom. For years, both sides have short-sightedly used Roe v. Wade as a one-issue litmus test for judge approval to the exclusion of all other issues. Judges should be made up of more than this one issue.
Abortion is a tough nut, a moral and legal tangle whipped raw by high emotion. There’s no perfect answer because it isn’t a zero sum issue with a clear winner or loser – no matter how much the opponents and proponents wish it would be.
Perhaps we’d all be better off to step back and think about this a little more dispassionately instead of counting the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pinhead.
Or, a South Dakota legislator.