I emailed Representative Nonini, and we had this exchange:
ME: My question is, do you also feel that those who coerce women into not having abortions should be penalized?
NONINI: No, I do not believe that coercing a woman into not having an abortion should be penalized.
Kudos to Nonini for honesty; most politicians would have dodged the question.
Nonini isn’t alone in feeling that pro-life coercion is acceptable. In August, I blogged about Michigan’s “Coercive Abortion Prevention Act.”1 As I wrote then, the law itself seems benign, at least on the surface. What makes it twisted, is that the Michigan pro-lifers who pushed CAPA through the legislature, actively worked to defeat an amendment to this law, which would have left CAPA intact but also have applied the same rules and penalties to people who coerce women not to have an abortion. In other words, in both Idaho and Michigan, pro-lifers explicitly opposed making it illegal to use threats or physical force coerce a woman into giving birth.2
It’s not really being against coercion if you only oppose it when you don’t like its results.
Of course, pro-lifers are pro-coercion; being pro-life by definition means wanting the state to coerce unwilling pregnant women to give birth. But I think there’s another reason pro-life politicians won’t support real anti-coercion legislation: They want to protect anti-abortion activists. In particular, I think they didn’t want to make it possible for women to sue so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers for using fright and intimidation to compel women not to have abortions.
Pro-choice groups in more liberal states should propose “Coercion Prevention Acts” of their own — acts which would make it illegal for women to be “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, or harassed” to compel her to make any reproductive decision (not just about abortion or not-abortion, but also sterilization and not-sterilization). Unlike the pro-lifers, we genuinely don’t favor coercion — so we can make the laws fair and even-handed, prohibiting coercion in either direction. If the laws are passed, then good.
And when “pro-life” leaders oppose such laws – as I’m sure they would – then at least they’d be a bit further exposed as hypocrites. Plus, their vote against outlawing coercion would be a lodestone around their necks when it came time for reelection.