Nebraska Bill Could Legalize Killing Abortion Doctors
Following in the footsteps of an abandoned South Dakota effort, Nebraska legislators seem poised to consider a bill that would expand the concept of justifiable homicide in wildly unacceptable directions:
The legislation, LB 232, was introduced by state Sen. Mark Christensen, a devout Christian and die-hard abortion foe who is opposed to the prodedure even in the case of rape. Unlike its South Dakota counterpart, which would have allowed only a pregnant woman, her husband, her parents, or her children to commit “justifiable homicide” in defense of her fetus, the Nebraska bill would apply to any third party.
“In short, this bill authorizes and protects vigilantes, and that’s something that’s unprecedented in our society,” Melissa Grant of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland told the Nebraska legislature’s judiciary committee on Wednesday. Specifically, she warned, it could be used to target Planned Parenthood’s patients and personnel. Also testifying in oppostion to the bill was David Baker, the deputy chief executive officer of the Omaha police department, who said, “We share the same fears…that this could be used to incite violence against abortion providers.”
Baker’s concern is well-grounded: Abortion providers are frequent targets of violent attacks. Eight doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists since 1993, and another 17 have been victims of murder attempts. Some of the perpetrators of those crimes, including Scott Roeder, the murderer of Wichita, Kansas, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, have attempted to use the justifiable homicide defense at their trials. Several of the witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing cited Tiller’s murder as a case where a law like the one Christensen introduced could have come into play.
For his part, Christensen insisted that his measure is not intended to target abortion providers. Like Jensen, Christensen claimed that his bill is merely meant to allow pregnant women to defend their unborn children without fear of prosecution. “LB 232,” he said, “is really nothing more than an attempt to make sure a pregnant woman is not unnecessarily charged with a crime for using force to protect her unborn child from someone who means to bring harm to her unborn children.”
Is Christensen telling the truth? Well here’s what the relevant part of the bill (PDF) says:
Subject to the provisions of this section and of section 28-1414, the use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable to protect a third person when:
(a) The actor would be justified under section 28-1409 in using such force to protect himself or herself against the injury he or she believes to be threatened to the person whom he or she seeks to protect;
(b) Under the circumstances as the actor believes them to be, the person whom he or she seeks to protect would be justified in using such protective force; and
(c) The actor believes that his or her intervention is necessary for the protection of such other person.
Section 28-1414 deals with the reckless or negligent use of force in the protection of oneself or another and, theoretically at least, could apply to a situation where someone murders an abortion doctor as part of a conscious plot. However, Christensen is wrong when he says that his bill only applies to pregnant mothers protecting their unborn children. There is no such limitation in the law and, even if it isn’t his intent, it seems clear that the law could, as Deputy Chief Baker states, incite violence against abortion providers.
This is just one example of the somewhat surprising number of abortion related bills that newly elected Republican state legislators have introduced this year. It may play well with their base, but I can’t see how it helps the party politically in the long run.