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Mich. Senate Advances Abortion Coercion Bills

Mich. Senate Advances Abortion Coercion Bills

December 15, 2014 — The Michigan Senate on Thursday voted to approve two bills (SB 1156, SB 1157) that would impose criminal penalties on individuals who attempt to coerce a woman into having an abortion, MLive reports (Oosting, MLive, 12/11).

The proposed bills would make it a misdemeanor to stalk, assault or threaten retaliation against a woman to try to coerce her into having an abortion. Offenders could face up to $5,000 in fines, and men responsible for the pregnancy who are 18 or older could be subject to fines up to $10,000 if the woman is a minor. Judges would also be able to impose jail time (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/11).

The measures, both passed by 26-11 votes, now head to the state House for consideration.

Bills' Scope, Lack of Clarity Questioned

Lawmakers also rejected an amendment proposed by state Sen. Rebekah Warren (D) that would have expanded the bills to apply to other types of reproductive coercion. Warren said, "These bills do nothing to address abusers who pressure women into becoming pregnant, oftentimes even interfering with their use of birth control, and then coerce them into continuing a pregnancy that the woman may not want" (MLive, 12/11).

Opponents of the measures have also argued that the bills are unnecessary because existing laws prohibit stalking and harassment (MLive, 12/11). Furthermore, the proposals do not clearly define what constitutes coercion. Warren added that the overall "lack of clarity" of the bills "stands to have a number of unintended consequences for women, their health care providers, and their families as they work through what are already very difficult decisions" (Neher, Michigan Radio, 12/11).