Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Legal Insanity

The idea of a civil society is that you accept some give-and-take with your neighbors in order to achieve a larger society. But civil society is not that deep in the American identity. The New England colonies were founded by religious fanatics with an intolerance for differences over doctrine or morality. That trait still exists in the US. Here is a bit from an article in Mother Jones magazine:
South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers

A bill under consideration in the Mount Rushmore State would make preventing harm to a fetus a "justifiable homicide" in many cases.

By Kate Sheppard

A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.


"The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers," says Vicki Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers. Since 1993, eight doctors have been assassinated at the hands of anti-abortion extremists, and another 17 have been the victims of murder attempts. Some of the perpetrators of those crimes have tried to use the justifiable homicide defense at their trials. "This is not an abstract bill," Saporta says. The measure could have major implications if a "misguided extremist invokes this 'self-defense' statute to justify the murder of a doctor, nurse or volunteer," the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families warned in a message to supporters last week.
Let's test the "morality" of this bill...

Suppose you felt that a nation calling on its youth to go to war to defend the country is morally wrong. Wrong because it results in the killing of these youth and you honour "life" above all else. Consequently you come up with a catchy slogan for your group like "Liberty and Life" and denigrate those who would marshal a military to defend the nation as "baby killers". With your group you call on like-minded "freedom lovers" to kill legislators in order to stop them from passing a military budget, a "death bill", and you call for the assassination of the President because he is "ordering innocent youth to their deaths". You are in moral anguish because literally hundreds of thousands, even millions, can die in a major war, so forcing youth to shoulder arms is homicide and genocide on a grand scale. In a fanatic's mind this justifies setting up "militias" and undertaking an extensive terrorist campaign to stop the the mobilization of a military. Our "Liberty and Life" group would kill political figures, assassinate leading military figures, murder military recruiters, etc. in the name of a "higher authority". They would claim this is justified because these "despicable" figures are sending innocent people to their death.

But most people would disagree with the above call to murder and mayhem. They accept that citizenship requires supporting a military to defend the country. But a commmitted minority, if they follow their own "moralaity" disagree, and not just with words. They are willing to harass, bomb, and kill to achieve their "moral" goal. That's the position of the anti-abortion, so-called "pro life" group that feels killing is just another way to express their profoundly moral "pro life" morality.

A people cannot have a "civil society" if minorities can declare war on other groups because of their "moral differences". Certainly minorities have the right to appeal to and argue for a change of the laws to accord with their moral vision. But to do what the "pro life" group is doing, i.e. legalize murder because you are against "murder", is absolutely nutty and undermines any attempt at a civil society. Compromise and reason are the social glue. Fanaticism and ultimatums are the sledge hammer that unglues a society.

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