Kansas lawmakers approve bill to make coerced abortion a felony

Kansas legislators approved a bill on Monday that would make it illegal to coerce a woman into undergoing an abortion.

Under House Bill 2436, it would be a felony to coerce a pregnant woman to have an abortion. It defines coercion as the use of physical or financial threats to the woman’s wellbeing if she does not have an abortion when she has said she does not want to abort.

“The bill is very carefully crafted, very narrowly tailored to address these situations where these women who may be victims of sex abuse or human trafficking are being compelled to have an abortion,” Jeanne Gawdun of Kansans for Life said. “It gives them some legal backing for their protection, also it gives tools to prosecutors to be able to seek justice.”

An amendment that would have expanded the bill to include protections against abusive contraceptive use was rejected.

Under the bill, coerced abortion would carry a sentence of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, but a Senate’s rewrite allows a maximum of one year incarceration and a $10,000 fine if the father of the baby was the one who pressured the woman into an abortion, he is at least 18 years old, and she is a girl under age 18. The bill would also allow a 25-year sentence if the coercion to abort includes stalking, blackmail, criminal threat, domestic battery, kidnapping, assault, human trafficking, rape, or other specified criminal offenses.

“If a woman has expressed her desire to continue the pregnancy and someone threatens her, whether it is to harm her physically, whether it’s to harm her financially, or whether it is to hold documentation in the case of someone who is being trafficked, that would now be punishable as a crime,” said Rep. Rebecca Schmoe, who has spoken publicly about a doctor who tried to coerce her into an abortion when she was young.

Studies show that 64% of post-abortive women have reported being pressured in abortion. At the same time, 67% said they received no counseling before undergoing an abortion and 79% said they received no information about available alternatives. Often, mothers face pressure from parents, boyfriends, employers, and friends to have an abortion when they don’t want one.

The Kansas legislation was approved first by the Kansas Senate last week and then by the Kansas House on Monday. It will now head to the desk of Gov. Laura Kelly.

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