Welcome to South Dakota: The Anti-Choice State

Interested in murdering abortion providers without penalty?  You may soon have your chance!  A provision expanding the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus was added to HB 1171, a law under consideration in South Dakota.  This bill was voted out of committee and is now on its way to a floor vote in the Republican-held House of Representatives.

Supporters of the bill claim that that they are just trying to clarify the state definitions of "justifiable homicide" by allowing murder if the person were trying to protect the life an unborn child and had a personal relationship with the woman.  So, if a woman were being attacked and her husband rushed in to save her and her fetus and killed the attacker, the husband would be "justified."  Except  that such self-defense measures are already considered "justifiable homicide."  If we look at the language carefully, we get a much clearer picture of this bill's actual purpose: justifying the murder of abortion providers.

Last week, I wrote about the possibility of finding common ground with the pro-life movement.  In my post, I talked about how the pro-life movement is not just about protecting the "unborn," but instead is about punishing women and restricting our rights.  HB 1171 is just another example, except it goes even farther.  Now, pro-lifers are moving beyond restricting women's rights and are seeking to permit murder of those who DO want to protect women's rights.  I'm sure pro-lifers think this irony is clever -- we're harassing them for allowing murder, which is what they believe we are permitting all the time with access to abortions.

Except that it isn't funny.  I won't lie -- South Dakota has never given anyone the impression of being a Mecca for the respectful treatment of women and the advancement of female empowerment.  SD resident PlainsFeminist offers a solid recent history of reproductive restrictions in her 2006 post, but here are some highlights: 

In 1973, the state sought a constitutional amendment to protect the unborn;

In 1980, the state passed a law requiring a 24 hour waiting period before having an abortion;

In 1997, the state passed a law requiring parental notification if a minor has an abortion; and,

In 2006, the Governor signed into law a bill banning abortion entirely unless a woman's life was threatened (this law was intended to serve as a legal challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade).

This bill isn't the only one attacking women's rights moving through the South Dakota legislature.  As Mother Jones points out, other measures, such as one requiring women to seek "counseling" at Crisis Prevention Centers, are also being considered.  (You remember these Centers; a Congressional Report found that they routinely gave false and misleading medical information to women in an effort to discourage them from having abortions.)  South Dakota may not be the state that immediately comes to mind when we think of radical anti-choice agendas, but it certainly should be.  The state hasn't even had an abortion provider since 1998 -- Planned Parenthood flies in a doctor once a week.

Speaking of which, a lot of attention over the past few weeks has been directed at Congressional attempts to entirely defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides millions of  women with family planning services and basic medical care.  But while women's rights and access to health care are being systematically and ruthlessly attacked at the federal level, we know that reproductive health is also being chipped away at the state and local levels as well.   The rest of the country may know South Dakota as the home to Mount Rushmore and little else, but it's time to start paying closer attention.