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Harsher Abortion Penalties Introduced By Michigan Lawmakers

Sep 23, 2015

Michigan State House of Representatives
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

People would face criminal penalties for coercing someone to have an abortion under a bill in the state House.   

Republican state lawmakers have been trying to add the penalties for years. Supporters say prosecutors should have them as a tool to crack down on domestic abuse.  “Abortion coercion is another unfortunate element of domestic violence,” said state Rep. Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth), who chairs the House Criminal Justice Committee.   “And I do think we want to isolate it and elevate it to a specific crime against women. And, in my opinion, also it’s a crime against the unborn.”  Heise’s committee heard testimony on House Bill 4787 on Tuesday.

Opponents of the bill told the panel that the measure is unenforceable because the term “coercion” is vague.  “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,” said Shelli Weisberg with the ACLU of Michigan. 

Weisberg says the bill also reinforces a harmful narrative about women.  “This rhetoric that women are weak and undecided and, of course, they should be protected from themselves,” she said.

Heise says the committee will likely approve the bill next week.

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— Jake Neher is the State Capitol Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network. Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org