March 7, 2006
Sentencing provisions of South Dakota's new abortion ban
According to this CNN.com story, South Dakota's new law banning nearly all abortions provides that doctors who perform an abortion (except to save a woman's life) "can be charged with a felony punishable by up to five years in prison." This reference prompted me to check out the text of the new South Dakota law, which is known as the Women's Health and Human Life Protection Act and is available here. The law simply provides that any doctor performing an illegal abortion is guilty of "a Class 5 felony." A separate section, available here, sets forth South Dakota's sentences for different classes of felonies.
To get some perspective, I explored South Dakota's homicide offenses and discovered that the state's two degrees of murder, two degrees of manslaughter, and vehicular homicide are all graded more severely than a Class 5 felony. (Aiding a suicide, however, is a Class 6 felony.)
There seems to be relatively few Class 5 felonies in South Dakota. Based on a quick review of South Dakota's criminal laws, it appears that perjury under oath, promoting prostitution, forgery, distributing over an ounce of marijuana, and threatening a juror are all Class 5 felonies. Theft of a firearm and theft of over $1000 both qualify as more serious Class 4 felonies, along with rioting and vandalizing property worth over $1000 and tampering with a witness.
In short, South Dakota's new law to ban abortions, examined purely from a sentencing perspective, has some surprising company.
March 7, 2006 at 12:45 AM | Permalink
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The two faced hypocrisy of the legislators who endorsed this latest anti-woman bill shines forth clearly in these sentencing guidelines.
SD has, by means of a legal fiction, declared that part of human gestational material (HGM) is "a person" from conception. Since they are apparently dealing with deliberate pre-meditated homicide the appropriate charge would not be a class 5 felony but first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder - against the formerly pregnant woman because she "hired the hit": and : and the physician could co-operate with the prosecution and bargain hir charges to conspiracy to commit murder.
Since the charges do not actually reflect the gravity of the crime, assuming the HGM actually constitutes a person, it is patently obvious that even in SD legislators recognize that the Supreme Court and the public would not support such legislation and furthermore the legislators don't believe the nonsense this law is based upon because they don't have the courage of their "convictions". Still - SD is the state that incarcerated a poor, African American, drug addict for "murder" when her fetus was stillborn.(see Regina McKnight - http://www.mapinc.org/napwnews/v01/n894/a10.html )
When this two faced approach to this question is used it becomes all too obvious that the objective of the legislation is nothing but an attempt to control women and deny them their constitutional right to bodily integrity. How long will it be before the current climate leads to a declaration that women are once again "minor persons" in need of a guardian?
Posted by: Eileen | Mar 7, 2006 5:00:41 PM
The McKnight case in Eileen's comment was in South Carolina, not South Dakota.
Posted by: Marvin | Jun 28, 2006 3:22:08 AM
I am wondering how much time a person can get for a class 5 felony for forgery in south dakota? My husband forged my name on the title of our vehicle and they are prosecuting him.
Posted by: Becky Phillips | Mar 21, 2008 11:17:45 AM
Posted by: | Oct 14, 2008 10:56:16 PM