State & Local Politics

South Dakota, Sharia law and abortion

The conservative assault on the freedom of American women continues
today in South Dakota, where the State Legislature is expected to vote
on a bill that would essentially redefine what constitutes “justifiable
homicide” to include the doctor or healthcare provider who performs the
legal procedure of abortion if the assailant is related to the woman who
receives the abortion.
The measure was introduced by state Rep. Phil Jensen, who tried to
backtrack from his barbaric proposal yesterday after a story in Mother Jones
started to gain national attention. Jensen’s explanation was that the
bill has nothing to do with abortion but rather seeks to make
self-defense laws “consistent” by saying that not only can a woman use
force to protect her unborn child if necessary, so can her relatives if
they also use force or kill someone to protect the unborn child. The
clarification doesn’t change the fact that the measure still says
despite the fact that a woman may decide to have an abortion, a relative
of hers — father, mother, son, daughter or husband — can decide to kill
the person who performs that procedure and claim it was a “justifiable”
Here’s the key language from the bill that will be voted on today:
FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to provide for the protection of certain unborn children.
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

The language and intent sound frighteningly close to another target of conservative ire, Sharia law, and what they call the “barbaric” practice of honor killings. Wouldn’t you know it? The very same state legislator, Phil Jensen, is also the key sponsor of one of three bills currently before the South Dakota Legislature that would prevent the application of Sharia law in South Dakota.  Essentially the measure says that there must be legal protection for the citizens of the state against any religiously inspired or morally motivated court decisions.
The specific language reads:
Section 2. That Article V, section 1 of the Constitution of the State of South Dakota, be amended to read as follows:
§ 1. The judicial power of the state is vested in a unified judicial system consisting of a
Supreme Court, circuit courts of general jurisdiction and courts of limited original jurisdiction as established by the Legislature. No such court may apply international law, the law of any foreign nation, or any foreign religious or moral code with the force of law in the adjudication of any case under its jurisdiction.

Now, unless you believe that, despite the fact Muslims constitute less than 1 percent of the population in South Dakota, the threat of Sharia law is imminent, this seems like a blatant attempt to stoke fears and promote ignorance. At a recent event in support of the measures speakers warned participants that Islam is an ideology, not a religion, that demands “supremacy in every area of life: religion, family, law, government and more”; and that “ Sharia allows honor killings and husbands to beat their wives.”
Ironically, the host of one event, Dale Bartscher, executive director of the Family Heritage Alliance, who also supports Rep. Jensen’s “justifiable homicide” measure, referred to Sharia law as “barbaric … completely at odds with core American values of freedom, equality, tolerance and justice.”
The blatant hypocrisy is chilling. Cloaked as an attempt to protect, the same Legislature is using a rationale and language in its “justifiable homicide” measure that it is decrying — thereby promoting fear and intolerance — in its anti-Sharia law campaign. On the one hand, the State Legislature says that the citizens of South Dakota must be protected from the threat of Sharia, which they say would legally impose its own religious and moral code on citizens, superseding the laws of the United States of America, while at the same time they are attempting to use the law to impose the morals and religious beliefs of some onto the women of South Dakota, superseding the laws of the United States of America that very clearly say it is legal for a woman to have an abortion. Kettle, you’re black.

This post has been updated.

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