What is reproductive coercion?
Abuse is all about control. There are endless tactics by perpetrators to initiate and sustain control over an intimate partner, some methods of which are not as obvious or frequently discussed.
Reproductive coercion is one of those obscure techniques. This form of abuse refers to trying to maintain control via attempts to impregnate a significant other against her will, control the outcomes of her pregnancy, coerce her into having unprotected sex, and/or interfere with contraceptive methods.
How can recognize if this is happening to me or someone I know?
This list consists of some examples of this form of abuse, but it is important to be aware that reproductive coercion might manifest in other ways as well.
- Using emotional, physical, or economical threats to try to force a woman into becoming pregnant.
- Making a woman feel guilty for not wanting to become pregnant.
- Accusing a woman of cheating if she does not want to become pregnant.
Birth control sabotage:
- Economically or physically preventing a woman from obtaining birth control.
- Throwing away, destroying, or hiding a woman’s birth control pills.
- Pulling off contraceptive patches or pulling out vaginal rings.
- Refusing to pull out during sex when that was previously agreed upon.
- Refusing to use condoms, removing condoms without consent, or poking holes in condoms.
Pregnancy outcome control:
- Convincing a woman that she has to continue a pregnancy and that she has no other options.
- Convincing a woman that she has to have an abortion and has no other options.
- Hurting or threatening to hurt a woman if she continues with a pregnancy or has an abortion.
- Physically or economically preventing a woman from obtaining an abortion.
- Physically assaulting a woman in an attempt to induce a miscarriage.
- Making a woman feel guilty about choosing to continue with a pregnancy or choosing to have an abortion.
Why would men want their intimate partner to have a baby? That’s just more work and responsibility for them down the road.
There are a few reasons an abuser may want to impregnate their significant other. The concept of removing any autonomy a woman has over her body is appealing to some men. We see this throughout political policy; thus, it does not seem so strange to see this in individual men as well. There are historical beliefs that coincide with the rigid traditional perspective that the purpose of women is for them to carry and raise children while the man leads the family. Our culture feeds into this strict idea of gender roles through media, law, public education, religion, etc. While these influences on their own definitely do not cause men to sabotage birth control or pressure their partners to get pregnant, they may contribute to those behaviors in a man who is already prone to wanting an excessive amount of control over his partner.
Some abusers additionally coerce their significant others into pregnancy and follow up by pressuring or forcing her into terminating the pregnancy. This is just another method of obtaining a sense of complete control over her physical and emotional self.
Any of these scenarios are likely to contribute to the dependency the woman has on the man, therefore ensuring the longevity of the relationship and his power.
That’s intense! It probably only happens in the most extreme cases of abuse. I’ve never heard of it, so it has to be pretty rare, right?
Research has demonstrated that this phenomenon is significant and not as uncommon as people think. Here are some quick facts that may help shed some light on how prevalent this issue is:
- Adolescent girls in relationships with physical abuse were 3.5 times more likely to become pregnant than girls in non-abusive relationships. (Roberts et al, 2005)
- ¼ of these adolescent girls in abusive relationships reported that their abusers were intentionally trying to get them pregnant. (Miller et al, 2007)
- A woman having an unintended pregnancy is 4x more likely to be experiencing intimate partner violence than a woman with a planned pregnancy. (Pulled from ncadv.org)
- Physically abused women are 3x more likely to have an STI than non-abused women. (Pulled from ncadv.org)
- Approximately 25% of physically or sexually abused women also report being pressured or forced into becoming pregnant. (Pulled from ncadv.org)
Jeeze. Well now that I’ve read this, some of it really resonates with my situation… what do I do?
- Call our Help Line at 573-642-4422 to speak with an advocate about how CARDV can support you.
- Talk to your doctor or OBGYN about your situation and about the possibility of obtaining a method of birth control that cannot be sabotaged or controlled by anyone but you (IUD, implant, etc).
- Talk to friends/family you trust so that you have emotional support.
If you have a friend who you suspect might be a victim of reproductive coercion, feel free to call our Help Line for more information on how you might be able to help. Remember as a supportive person to always BELIEVE the victim, LISTEN to their story, and RESPECT their needs and the pace at which they move forward in their situation.