House OKs bill creating penalties for abortion coercion

Jonathan Oosting Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Michigan’s Republican-led House on Thursday approved legislation that would create new criminal penalties for coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will.

Sponsoring Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, called abortion coercion an “equal opportunity” offense against women. Most Democrats opposed the bills, arguing they are unnecessary and primarily designed to appease anti-abortion special interest groups.

“Employers threaten to demote or fire pregnant employees, college coaches threaten to take away scholarships, and parents too can be coercive,” Price said.

The two-bill package would create new abortion coercion penalties matching underlying offenses of stalking, assaultive crimes or related threats. The legislation would create new misdemeanor fines for withdrawing support, firing a woman or engaging in coercion related to human trafficking.

“It’s high time that we empower women with the tools to fight back against this coercion,” Price said.

The bills passed the House in a series of mostly party-line 65-43 votes.

Democrats proposed expanding the bills to prohibit all forms of “reproductive coercion,” such as sabotaging birth control pills or poking holes in condoms to impregnate a woman against her will.

The amendments were rejected by the GOP majority, with members suggesting the actions would be better addressed in separate legislation.

“These bills aren’t about protecting women,” said Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon. “If they were, you would have jumped at the chance to protect women who face coercion and abuse to remain pregnant. You have done nothing for them.”

Michigan’s 1993 informed consent abortion law already prohibits coercion to abort, treating it as a form of felony extortion. The state’s civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on familial status, including a pregnancy.

The legislation now heads to the state Senate for further consideration.

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