Reproductive Sabotage: More Common Than You Think
As if verbal, emotional or sexual violence weren’t enough for victims of domestic abuse to worry about, a new pattern of abuse in relationships is emerging: reproductive coercion.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) put out a warning in January about reproductive coercion, saying that some men purposely sabotage their partners’ birth control efforts in order to get them pregnant. Recent research showed that a surprising amount of men actually do things like puncture holes in condoms, snatch birth control pills and even rip out women’s IUDs.
Um, excuse me? No.
Research also shows that reproductive coercion, which also includes verbal threats or physical aggression to pressure a woman into getting pregnant, isn’t just happening to young women who are already in damaging relationships. Doctors have come across women whose normally agreeable husbands try to get them pregnant against their will and make them feel guilty if they refuse. The survey, led by Rebecca Levenson of Futures Without Violence, showed that 13 percent of women, out of 641 females aged 18 to 41, have experienced this type of abuse, and one-third of those women also suffered violence from their male partners.
This is whole different level of creepy and controlling. I mean, women are actually having their IUDs pulled out of their bodies! What is going on?
One woman told Levenson her partner’s reasoning was so he “could keep her in his life forever.”
Jay Silverman, who studies violence against women at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, says that husbands and boyfriends are more actively involved in blocking women’s access to birth control than previously thought: “All the different forms of violence and coercion of women and girls from male partners are based in the entitlement to control their lives, physically and otherwise,” Silverman said. “They also feel entitled to decide whether she’s going to get pregnant or not.”
It’s all about the choice and power. I’m sure these men absolutely do not and would not support their wives’ or girlfriends’ choice to have an abortion. And with the multitude of abortion restrictions across the country, women don’t have an out if their partners force them to get pregnant.
Hmm, I wonder if these men and some republicans in Congress have anything in common?
Not only do some politicians make it their mission to keep women from accessing birth control or getting abortions, some also feel the need to publicly blast their misogynistic ideals and shame women about their reproductive rights.
GOP lawmakers in Texas attempted to pass at least 24 anti-abortion laws in the last year, and they approved the recent abortion bill, restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, while hearing screaming, angry protesters in the background. Rick Perry proclaimed, “It is a very happy, celebratory day,” as he signed the abortion restrictions into law. It’s like they enjoy pretending that women don’t exist, even with a horde of enraged women outside the Senate doors.
Luckily, obstetricians are here to help women who suffer from domestic attacks on their contraceptives. (Unfortunately, they can’t do anything about Rick Perry and company). The ACOG and other advocates for women are urging doctors to be on the lookout for signs of reproductive coercion, as well as to specifically ask patients if they’ve ever experienced this behavior from their partners. It is also recommended that health care providers advise women to take their birth control out of its packaging and put it in a different container or bottle. Gynecologists and other doctors can offer a safe space for women to talk about contraceptive sabotage, especially if they didn’t realize it was happening, as well as alternatives, strategies and resources for abuse.
This idea of reproductive coercion also brings up thoughts for me about women who simply don’t want to have children. Men who get married might think that their wife automatically wants to start having babies and being domestic, and society expects women to do that, as well. While many women who can’t have children struggle to start families and completely deserve to be able to, there are other women out there who are content only being responsible for one person. And that is perfectly OK, and it adds another reason why men should never pressure women into becoming mothers.
Photo from Thinkstock