House Bills 4787 and 4830 are poor public policy that do nothing to protect women from the real problem of reproductive coercion.
Let’s just say right from the start here that coercing a woman into having an abortion is a terrible thing no one should ever be able to do. That’s why there are laws already on the books in Michigan that make abortion coercion a crime.
But that wasn’t enough for anti-choice advocates, who lobbied hard for the deceptive “abortion coercion” House Bills 4787 and 4830 — and won. As I’ve written about here before, these bills claim to be an effort to protect women against being coerced into having an abortion when, in reality, they are part of a decades-long public and political anti-choice campaign to market the false theory that abortion is harmful to women.
What’s more, Michigan HB 4787 and 4830 do nothing to protect women from other forms of domestic violence and reproductive coercion, including forcing a woman to have a child against her will. A woman is far more likely to be forced to carry a child than to have an abortion, but when Democrats introduced amendments that would include protections against those forms of coercion, they were voted down by Republicans.
The legislation has passed the Michigan House and Senate, and is now headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk for his signature. Yet the bills remain rife with problems, says Merissa Kovach, field organizer for the ACLU of Michigan.
It’s poor public policy that’s sloppy, one-sided and redundant. The fines are excessive — $5,000 and $10,000, which is 10 to 20 times higher than the cap on misdemeanor fines in the state of Michigan. The maximum misdemeanor fine for a similar kind of offense in Michigan is $500 or 93 days in jail. These arbitrary, excessive fines will likely invite lawsuits by individuals who could be charged with a crime under this law.
According to Kovach, the only reason for setting the fines so high is because supporters of the legislation felt this sort of crime was worthy of that level of punishment. “But we can’t create policy that criminalizes people on whims,” she says.
The ACLU of Michigan worked with the Michigan Legislature to educate both Democrats and Republicans on the problematic nature of such excessive, arbitrary penalties. In fact, an amendment to bring the charges in line with state law was introduced, but voted down.
And, of course, the problem remains that the legislation doesn’t do anything to help women who experience other kinds of reproductive coercion.
ACTION: Governor Snyder could sign HB 4787 and 4830 into law at any time, even though he’s vetoed similar legislation in the past. Use the ACLU of Michigan’s tool to send a letter to Governor Snyder urging him to veto this legislation, too.
HB 4787 and 4830 do nothing to protect women and these bills are just bad public policy. Michigan deserves better.