The Coercive Abortion Prevention Act has received startlingly little attention since its introduction in the Michigan state Legislature last March. The bill, which the House approved in July, appears to address concerns that pregnant women could be forced into getting abortions. But the bill’s intent is more deceptive, and the bill would further complicate the already laborious process required to get an abortion. It is now up to the Senate to strike it down.

Sarah Royce

Aside from physical violence, there are a number of ways a woman could be coerced into having an abortion. An upset partner could threaten to move out, cut off financial support or file divorce if she does not terminate the pregnancy. The legislation seeks to criminalize these threats. Given that relationships can change, it is easy to imagine how the bill could also lead to false accusations and a costly legal process, if not jail time, for the accused. If a couple broke up following news of an unexpected pregnancy, for example, even a heated verbal argument could provide sufficient grounds to press charges. Better wording and a realistic means of establishing intent would be needed for such a law to have a chance of operating fairly.

Worse, this legislation makes abortion screening even more arduous. The bill requires that doctors run through a lengthy list of people – from the patient’s husband to her employer – asking if any of them tried to coerce or threaten her into an abortion. One affirmative answer and the woman must wait an additional 24 hours after the already legislated 24-hour waiting period ends. For minors, the doctor must contact child protective services.

This bill is a crude form of social engineering intended to force nuclear families to stay together at least until a child is born. In an opinion piece that ran last week in The Detroit News, Suanne Thompson of Right to Life of Michigan boasts that the bill is “designed to be a deterrent” and argues that it “will change behavior regarding personal and intimate relationships.” The bill also seeks to make the process for getting an abortion more laborious for those who are legitimately seeking one.

Protecting the rights of women is a worthy cause, but the proposed legislation does no such thing. This bill tries to make getting abortions more difficult and deters perhaps already broken families from separating under the guise of protecting the rights of women. The state Senate should prevent it from becoming law.

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