The governor signed into law the Coercive Abortion Prevention Act on June 8, 2016 adding P.A. 149 of 2016 and P.A. 150 of 2016 to the list of laws to protect women.
Research confirms that a substantial number of women feel forced by boyfriends, spouses, parents and others to have an abortion against their will. Women are coerced through threats of physical violence, withdrawal of financial support, loss of housing and violation of employment contracts or other legal agreements. Furthermore, numerous studies have confirmed that women presenting for their second or more abortion are substantially more likely to be suffering domestic violence.
H.B. 4787 adds to Michigan’s current anti-extortion/coercion provisions by including coercion to abort as a specific crime. It will be illegal to coerce a woman to abort by threatening or actually committing the following actions: physical assault, withdrawing financial support, or terminating or otherwise violating a legal contract, destroying or concealing a passport or other identification, and threats to deport or arrest.
H.B. 4830 establishes penalties commensurate with the seriousness of the prohibited action. Physical assault and stalking carry more severe penalties, while withdrawal of financial support or violation of a legal contract will be punishable by stiff fines.
As many as 64% of women who have abortions report feeling pressured. This pressure often rises to the level of coercion, as housing, university athletic scholarships, and other financial support are used as leverage to force women to abort. Further studies reveal that in an alarming number of cases, coercion escalates into physical violence and even murder. In fact, homicide is the leading pregnancy related cause of death among pregnant women. These bills will give women the legal backing they need when being coerced to abort, and help prevent the tragedy of physical assault and murder of pregnant women.
Both H.B. 4787 and H.B. 4830 were presented to the governor on 5-31-16. On 5-25-16 the Senate approved both bills 26-11 mostly along party lines. Pro-abortion members offered several amendments that were defeated and prolife members offered rebuttals to the amendments. The Coercive Abortion Prevention Act was voted out of the Senate Judiciary committee along party lines on May 3, 2016. Right to Life of Michigan and the ACLU offered testimony that was often at odds with each other. It was a rather heated hearing. The full House voted on March 24, 2016 and passed the bills with a 65-43 vote mostly along party lines with the exception of our one endorsed prolife Democrat and one other Democrat. H.B. 4787 and 4830 were both voted out of committee on September 29, 2015 along party lines. Pro-choice members of the committee offered several amendments that were not approved. On September 22, 2015, a hearing in the House Criminal Justice committee heard testimony from Right to Life of Michigan and two post-abortive women who were coerced into their abortions. The line of questioning from pro-choice members of the committee suggested that coerced abortions are uncommon and that if preventing coercion was really the goal of the legislation, than coercion to maintain a pregnancy should also be included. H.B. 4787 was introduced on July 14, 2015 by Representative Price and H.B. 4830 was introduced by Representative Jenkins on Aug. 19, 2015. The bills were referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee. These bills are a reintroduction from the previous term.
Prior versions of CAPA have been introduced over the past five sessions. The screening portion of the package was put into place with the passage of the 2012 Prolife Omnibus bill and was set to go into effect in March 2013; however the criminal bill (H.B. 4787) contains the definition and therefore the screening process has yet to begin.
Earlier Legislative Action
Identical bills to 4787 and 4830 were introduced last term by Rep. Amanda Price (H.B. 4598) and Rep. Nancy Jenkins (H.B. 4599) but they unfortunately never received a committee hearing. Identical bills were also introduced in the Senate by Sen. Judy Emmons (S.B. 1156) and Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (S.B. 1157). Both of those bills made it through committee and were passed on the Senate floor. They were referred to the House Criminal Justice committee but never had a hearing.Rep. Bruce Rendon sponsored the omnibus H.B. 5711 (“Prolife Bus”) in May 2012, that incorporated the abortion coercion screening provisions found in H.B. 5134 and 5182. H.B. 5711 passed the House on June 13, 2012. The Senate then acted on H.B. 5711, 4798, 4799 & 5181 on 12/6/12, with H.B. 4798, 4799, & 5181 passing by votes of 29-9, and H.B. 5711 passing 27-10. This sent the four bills back to the House for a final concurring vote.
After last-minute concerns were raised by Gov. Snyder about details in H.B. 4799, tie-bar amendments linking the coercion bills to the Prolife Bus, were broken by an amendment approved by the House on December 14, 2012. The House then gave final approval to only the Prolife Bus, leaving H.B. 4798, 4799 and 5181 to “die” at the close of the session. Because the coercion screening provisions in the Prolife Bus rely on the definition of coercion contained in H.B. 4799, that legislation must be reintroduced and passed quickly so the coercion screening may go forward, since the Prolife Bus law took effect on 3/12/13.
H.B. 4798-99 were introduced on June 22, 2011, H.B. 5134 was introduced on October 27, 2011, and H.B. 5181-82 were introduced on November 29, 2011. The House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors held a hearing for testimony only on December 6, 2011. RLM testified in favor of the bills, and three women shared powerful personal stories about witnessing coercion to abort or experiencing such coercion themselves. The ACLU testified in opposition.
The Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Tuesday, April 24, 2012, and reported out the entire CAPA package on Tuesday, May 1, 2012, on votes of 3-0.