Reproductive coercion is abusive behavior intended to manipulate power and control in a relationship through reproductive health. It is a feature of many abusive relationships. It involves using physical or psychological means, to try to control a victim’s reproductive choices in order to control their life.
Nearly 20% of women experience violence during pregnancy, with pregnant adolescents and women with unintended pregnancies at an increased risk. – NCADV
What is reproductive coercion? Using force, threats, or coercion, an abuser may:
- Pressure/force/persuade a victim to have sex without a condom, removing a condom during sex, promising to pull out before ejaculating and fail to do so
- Hide, remove, tamper, or otherwise discourage the use of hormonal or emergency birth control
- Control the outcome of a pregnancy, either by forcing the victim to keep a pregnancy to term or terminate a pregnancy
- Rape a victim, resulting in a pregnancy
So what does Reproductive Coercion look like if/when Roe falls and abortion becomes criminalized?
If an abuser knows that a victim had an abortion, they can threaten to expose them. They could use knowledge of an abortion to extort them for money, force them to stay in the relationship, or to punish them for leaving.
Decreased access to legal tools:
When seeking an Order of Protection, those in criminalized states will not feel safe to refer to reproductive coercion as evidence of abuse.
Victims tethered to abusers by children:
We know that women who are denied or unable to access abortion are more likely to stay in abusive relationships. Research from the UCSF Bixby Center shows that, compared to women who were able to end an unwanted pregnancy, those who could not access abortion care and ultimately gave birth were more likely to remain in physically abusive relationships over the next two and half years.
They also found that intimate partner violence is common among women having abortions, with between 6% and 22% reporting recent violence from an intimate partner, and that 8% of women sought an abortion because they had abusive partners.
According to the lead researcher: “being unable to have [the] abortion tethered women to violent men, while women who have the abortion were more able to escape abusive relationships.”
We know that some victims want/need to end their pregnancies because they do not want an abusive intimate partner to continue to be part of their lives, and when victims are unable to terminate, these abusers often stay in their lives.
Using a prior abortion as evidence during child custody to portray/prove that someone is an unfit parent. This is significant because the majority of those who seek abortions already have children: six out of 10 women who have abortions are already mothers, and half of them have two or more children, according to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Monitoring devices, spying on period or ovulation tracking apps, using tracking or spyware to monitor whether someone is considering using birth control or accessing reproductive healthcare services.
Abortions cost money and if Roe falls, they will become increasingly expensive. Hiding spending from an abusive partner that monitors accounts will become more difficult.
Law enforcement refusing to take intimate partner abuse seriously if the abusive party claims that the victim has had an abortion. An abusive partner may even be able to claim that their victim harmed their child.
If Roe falls, reproductive coercion will be tolerated by the legal system.
Reproductive coercion will be inflicted by the legal system.
We stand with victims of intimate partner violence, with those seeking abortions, and with those providing abortions.