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Controversial “defense of unborn” bill could be changed or dropped

Controversial “defense of unborn” bill could be changed or dropped

  • Updated

Rep. Phil Jensen said Wednesday that he is considering amending or withdrawing a controversial bill that incited a national uproar when opponents said it would legalize the killing of abortion providers.

House Bill 1171 has the stated purpose of making use of lethal force in defense of a fetus justifiable homicide. Supporters disputed that it would allow the killing of abortion providers and deferred the bill from its scheduled Tuesday hearing to consider amendments.

After meeting on Wednesday morning with South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, Jensen, R-Rapid City, said he is considering two options.

One is to amend the bill to make it clear that abortion providers don’t fall under HB1171’s purview. Where HB1171 says homicide is justifiable while resisting an attempt to harm a fetus “to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child,” Jensen could insert four words: “to a degree ‘that is unlawful and’ likely to result…”

Abortion is legal under South Dakota law and so would not qualify as an “unlawful” act.

Another option is to drop the bill entirely. South Dakota law, Jensen said, includes “unborn child” in the category of “person” – which is already included in the state’s justifiable homicide law. This could “rule out the necessity for having” HB1171, Jensen said.

The bill has been put off until Tuesday. Jensen said he expects to decide by Saturday which route he will take.

Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or


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