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Posted at 4:36 PM ET, 02/15/2011

South Dakota: Abortion isn't illegal, but if you do it, we can kill you

By Alexandra Petri

A bill just passed out of committee in the South Dakota House of Representatives states:

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.

Wait, what?

I understand what the bill's chief sponsor, Phil Jensen, is trying to say. He told the Plum Line's Greg Sargent that "This code only deals with illegal acts. Abortion is legal in this country. This has nothing to do with abortion."

It just seems, though, that if you include in a law that it's "defensible homicide" to kill in defense of an unborn child -- not just if there is reasonable ground to sense an intended felony but also if there is an apparent design to "do some great personal injury" -- you have a weird way of saying that abortion is legal in South Dakota.

Nothing says, "this is permitted by law in this state, and attempts to make it illegal have been repeatedly overturned by this state's citizens" like "if you do it, it's okay for someone to kill you."

If someone told me that jaywalking was legal in D.C., but that if I did it, someone could justifiably kill me, I wouldn't jaywalk. "What?" I would say. "Sorry! Please call me when it is no longer okay for them to do that." Maybe I'm alone in this, but hearing that it's okay for you to kill me if I do something tends to discourage me from doing it.

But the uproar about this bill points to a larger problem. For defenders of a woman's right to choose, the host of laws that sprang up in the wake of the Laci Peterson case, creating more severe punishments for killing a pregnant woman, have placed the law on a collision course with itself. As the legislator pointed out, in South Dakota killing an unborn child is manslaughter. Is this not the next logical step?

Well, no. That's why we need to be careful about where we draw the line.

By Alexandra Petri  | February 15, 2011; 4:36 PM ET
Categories:  Petri, Seems Suspect  | Tags:  South Dakota, abortion, what?  
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Many Americans claim to believe abortion is the same thing as murder. Their refusal to stop it by violence suggests to me they know it isn't. See for why most people won't kill abortion providers, even if South Dakota makes it legal.

Posted by: fakedude2 | February 16, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Could this law be interpreted as allowing you to shoot anyone who intended to vote to re-elect the yahoos who wrote this law? Just asking.

Posted by: billring99 | February 16, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

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