News Abortion

Michigan Vies For “Coercion Test,” Virginia Wants to Ban “Sex Selected” Abortions

Robin Marty

More legislation to fix issues that don't really exist.

Anti-choice activists’ love of creating laws to deal with issues that don’t exist is continuing, this time in Michigan and Virginia.

Via Michigan Messenger:

A new anti-abortion-rights bill introduced in the Michigan House Thursday calls for criminalization of “coercion to abort.”

In its current draft, House Bill 5134 mandates a “physician or qualified person assisting the physician shall orally screen the patient for coercion to abort and domestic violence using the screening tools developed by the department.”

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If a patient discloses coercion to abort, the physician must:

  • Inform the patient that coercing a woman to have an abortion is illegal and grounds for a civil action under which “she may receive financial compensation for her damages.”
  • Postpone the abortion for at least 24 hours after coercion has been disclosed.
  • If a patient under 18 discloses domestic violence or coercion to abort, the physician must report the situation to a local Child Protective Services office.
  • The facility providing abortions must conspicuously display information about violence against women.

Ooh, “financial compensation!”  Play the “all women will do anything for money” card while telling them that they don’t know their own minds. 

And in Virginia, the biggest problem facing the state appears to be women choosing to abort because of the gender of their babies.  Even though there’s no proof of it being a problem in the country.

The Washington Post reports:

There are four states in the nation where it’s illegal to abort a fetus because of its sex. Randy Minchew would like to make it five.

The Leesburg Republican, a lawyer running for Virginia’s House of Delegates, says he will push to outlaw what’s known as “sex-selective abortion” if elected.

Even anti-choice advocates say it’s really not a priority, but that “it’s a conversation that should be had.”  Because proposing unnecessary restrictions on reproductive health is always a good conversation starter.

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Michigan Governor Signs Republican-Initiated ‘Abortion Coercion’ Bills Into Law

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Snyder signed into law HB 4787 and its companion bill, HB 4830, last week, making it a criminal offense to coerce a pregnant person to have an abortion against their will.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law last week a two-bill package that will penalize citizens who engage in what Republican lawmakers are calling “abortion coercion.”

Snyder signed into law HB 4787 and its companion bill, HB 4830, on June 9, making it a criminal offense to coerce a pregnant person to have an abortion against their will.

As part of an omnibus anti-abortion legislative effort in 2012, the Republican-controlled legislation implemented provisions that involved a screening process for coercion at abortion clinics.

HB 4787, sponsored by Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Township) and supported by Right to Life of Michigan, explicitly criminalizes coercing someone into an abortion. Under HB 4787, penalties include “a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000.00.”

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The law also outlines the many forms of coercion the bill seeks to prevent, including threats. For example, “threaten” is defined as making “2 or more statements or to engage in a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to believe that the individual is likely to act in accordance with the statements or the course of conduct.”

The companion law, HB 4830, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton), creates felony penalties of jail time or $5,000 to $10,000 fines for those found guilty of violating HB 4787.

In May, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bills by a 3-1 vote, sending the measure to the Senate for a full vote. The House of Representatives had approved the two-bill package in March.

In 2012, Michigan lawmakers in support of the omnibus bill cited a 2004 study co-authored by David Reardon, the engineer who founded the anti-choice nonprofit organization, the Elliot Institute. That study, titled “Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women” was published in the Medical Science Monitor and suggested 64 percent of women who had abortions said they felt pressured into having the procedure performed.

Pro-choice advocates have criticized the study, noting that it used a small sample size of American women, 50 percent of whom already believed abortion was “morally wrong.” Advocates also point to a 2005 Guttmacher Institute study in which 14 percent of women who were asked their reasons for choosing abortion cited “husband or partner wants me to have an abortion,” and 6 percent cited “parents want me to have an abortion.” However, the Guttmacher study also found that less than 0.5 percent of each group cited those wishes as the single most important reason for having the abortion.

Many critics note that the Michigan laws do not include language that protects people forced into carrying a pregnancy to term and only focuses on those who are forced into terminating a pregnancy.

Sen. Rebekah Warren, (D-Ann Arbor) in particular, criticized that aspect of the legislation, according to the Detroit News.

“If we’re going to say today that it’s unacceptable today to coerce a woman into having an abortion and terminating a pregnancy, it should be equally unacceptable to force a woman into continuing a pregnancy that may not be in her best interest, that may not be what she needs for her health or mental well-being or for her future,” Warren said.

When the Michigan legislature began considering the two bills in 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood affiliates in Michigan spoke out against the law, arguing they were unnecessary.

Shelli Weisberg of the ACLU of Michigan told MLive.com that coercive abortion laws were rooted in false assumptions that those seeking abortion care are “confused, misled or coerced.”

Similarly, Planned Parenthood and lawmakers like Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren), said Michigan already had laws in place to prevent and penalize people who engage in coercive behavior such as stalking and discriminating against pregnant people, according to the Detroit News.

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Michigan GOP Pushes ‘Coerced Abortion’ Measure

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Supporters claim that the measure will protect women from being forced into terminating a pregnancy, while opponents say the language of the bill is too vague and will promulgate myths about abortion.

The Michigan legislature is considering a pair of bills that would criminalize coercing a woman to have an abortion, a policy that has been pushed for years by anti-choice lawmakers.

Supporters claim that the proposals will protect women from being forced into terminating a pregnancy, while opponents say the language of the bills is too vague and will promulgate myths about abortion.

“Coercive abortion laws like these are the byproduct of a decades long public and political campaign to market that anyone who seeks an abortion does so because she’s confused, misled or coerced,” Shelli Weisberg of the ACLU of Michigan told MLive.com.

While a requirement of the bills addresses women who are forced into terminating a pregnancy, that measure does not mention women who are forced into carrying a pregnancy to term. Opponents of the proposed law say that shows the real agenda behind such legislation.

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“These bills are one-sided in that they criminalize only coercion to terminate a pregnancy rather than evenhandedly covering the whole array of reproductive coercion,” Mary Pollock, government relations coordinator for the American Association of University Women of Michigan, told MLive.com.

Anti-choice legislators, however, have said that is a separate issue and could be addressed in other legislation.

Sponsored by Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Township), HB 4787 would make it a criminal offense to coerce a pregnant person to have an abortion against their will.

The bill, supported by the anti-choice Right to Life of Michigan, would add criminal penalties to a law passed legislation in 2012 that requires abortion providers to screen for coercion before performing the procedure.

HB 4787 defines coercion in several ways, including discontinuing, attempting to discontinue, or threatening to discontinue support for a pregnant person who has stated that they don’t want to terminate their pregnancy.

Included in the definition of coercion is withdrawing from a contract or agreement, attempting or threatening to withdraw, or otherwise violating the terms of that contract or agreement. Termination of employment is also mentioned.

As the bill is written, a pregnant person could prove coercion if they have made “any statement or act, including inaction, that would clearly demonstrate to a reasonable person that she is unwilling to comply with a request or demand to have an abortion.”

Opponents of HB 4787 criticized its definition of coercion, and said that it is too vague and open to interpretation.

“A boyfriend saying to a girlfriend who’s pregnant, ‘I really don’t want to have kids, maybe we should break up’ is one thing. It’s different than dragging her into an abortion clinic and forcing her to have an abortion,” Weisberg told the state House Criminal Justice Committee during a hearing Tuesday, reported WDET.

A companion bill sponsored by Rep. Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton), HB 4830, would create felony penalties for a violation of HB 4787.

Measures similar to HB 4787 and HB 4830 have been introduced in several states over the past few years, and were successfully passed this year by Republican majorities in Tennessee and North Dakota.

Price also introduced HB 4788, which would make it a class E felony for a third or subsequent conviction of the assault and battery of a pregnant woman when the assailant knows the woman is pregnant. If convicted, a person would face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Republicans during the hearing attempted to link the proposed legislation to preventing intimate partner violence. “Abortion coercion is another unfortunate element of domestic violence,” Rep. Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth) said, reported WDET.

Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon) challenged the notion that the proposed bills are related to intimate partner violence.

“The sponsors of these bills say they will combat domestic violence, but they do nothing to help women who are coerced into carrying a pregnancy to term by abusive partners—a problem that is far more pervasive than coerced abortion,” Hovey-Wright said, reported MLive.com.

A 2014 study by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health found that women in abusive relationships who were forced to continue unintended pregnancies were less likely to be able to escape their abusive relationship. “[W]e found that the incidents of domestic violence by the man involved in the pregnancy declined among women who had the abortion but stayed steady when she carried the pregnancy to term,” wrote Dr. Diana Greene Foster, principal investigator of the study. “This indicates that being unable to have the abortion tethered women to violent men, while women who have the abortion were more able to escape abusive relationships.”

The Democrats at the hearing, all of whom are women, voiced strong opposition to the coerced abortion bills.

The committee did not hold a vote on any of the bills. A vote is expected to be held next week. Republicans hold a 5-3 advantage in the committee.

If the committee approves the bills next week they would then move to the full house for further consideration. Republicans hold a 63-47 majority in the state house and a 27-11 majority in the state senate.