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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Pressuring a woman to have an abortion would be a criminal act under legislation approved Thursday by the Republican-controlled Senate, where backers said coerced abortions are a real problem and detractors countered that they already are illegal.
The legislation would prohibit threatening, stalking or assaulting a pregnant woman or anyone else with the intent to force an abortion against her wishes. After learning a woman does not want to terminate her pregnancy, a person also could not threaten to cut off legally required financial support or withdraw from a contract.
The bills, approved 26-11 almost entirely along party lines, were sent to the GOP-controlled House for consideration in the waning days of the legislative session.
A 2012 state law requires abortion clinics to screen patients for coercion, but lawmakers' attempt at the time to criminalize coercive abortions was removed before Gov. Rick Snyder signed it.
"If you don't support this, you're supporting the pimps and human traffickers that are victimizing women every day in this state," said Sen. Rick Jones, a Grand Ledge Republican.
But Democratic Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor said the legislation is an "answer in search of a question." She unsuccessfully tried to amend the bills to also impose criminal penalties on "birth control sabotage and pregnancy coercion."
"They are redundant and unnecessary bills that seek to prohibit actions that are already illegal under Michigan law," Warren said, citing an aggravated stalking law and criticizing the bills as too vague.
Under the legislation, coercing a woman to terminate a pregnancy against her will through stalking, aggravated stalking or an assaultive crime would be a felony carrying a variable amount of prison time depending on related offenses. It would be a misdemeanor to discontinue or threaten to cut off or reduce required financial aid, end a contract with her or fire her from her job in attempt to coerce an abortion.
The misdemeanor would bring a maximum $5,000 fine. The fine could be doubled if the father of the fetus was at least 18 years old and the pregnant girl was under age 18.
One Republican, Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights, joined Democrats in opposing the legislation. One Democrat, Tupac Hunter of Detroit, was among Republicans voting for it.
Senate Bills 1156-57: http://1.usa.gov/1vFqcMu
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