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Abusers use many sinister forms of violence to control their victim. For some, their abusive partners will force them to become pregnant, keep an unwanted pregnancy or end a wanted pregnancy against their will as a means of power and control.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and the Feminist Women’s Health Center, abusers use reproductive coercion to pressure or coerce their female partners into becoming pregnant or into continuing or ending a pregnancy against her will. Tactics of reproductive coercion can include manipulation, intimidation, threats and violence. Abusers will use this type of intimate partner violence to maintain their domination over their victim.
The NCADV says that approximately 25 percent of women who are being physically or sexually abused by their partners also report being pressured or forced to become pregnant. Unfortunately, many women may not recognize this as an abusive behavior, especially if there is no previous history of physical violence.
What does reproductive coercion look like in relationships? Abusers often:
- Threaten to hurt their partner if they refuse to become pregnant;
- Use physical or economic control to prevent their partner from obtaining birth control;
- Hide or destroy a birth control;
- Accuse their partner of infidelity if they want to use contraception;
- Accuse their partner of not really being in “in love” if they does not want to become or remain pregnant;
- Use violence, or threaten violence, to convince their partner to either continue or end a pregnancy;
- Physically assault their pregnant partner in order to induce a miscarriage; or
- Force their partner to have multiple pregnancies within a short time frame so that she is unable to work outside the home and is financially dependent on her abuser and less able to escape without risk.
If you recognize reproductive coercion in your relationship, reach out to a domestic violence advocate near you and begin safety planning. Also see our related article, "Can He Rape Me If We're Married?"
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