Reproductive coercion has many hideous faces, including that of the man arrested for raping his wife for refusing to have an abortion. But a new study shows that a simple conversation can make a difference in one form of coercion.
Thomas Hill, a 24-year-old of Camden, New Jersey was arrested this week for raping his wife in a room where three children, including two of his own, slept, allegedly because she refused to have an abortion. Violence against a partner for refusing to have an abortion is a horrific violation of a woman's autonomy over her own body — the fundamental value behind being pro-choice.
As we've discussed, there's another form of reproductive coercion, which defies stereotypes about men and women's behavior, and is disturbingly common: forcing women to be pregnant or carry unwanted pregnancy to term:
One in five reported "pregnancy coercion," while 15% said they'd suffered from "birth control sabotage." And these were correlated with other types of abuse - 35% of respondents who experienced partner violence experienced pregnancy coercion or birth-control sabotage as well. Says study author Elizabeth Miller, "Not only is reproductive coercion associated with violence from male partners, but when women report experiencing both reproductive coercion and partner violence, the risk for unintended pregnancy increases significantly."
Can medical professionals do anything to help women whose reproductive rights are under assault by their violent partners? A new study shows that just being asked about partner violence and reproductive coercion at a clinic could make a difference:
Researchers specifically asked young women whether their partners had attempted to force them to become pregnant. The study found that young women who recently experienced partner violence had a 70 percent reduction in the odds that they would continue to experience pregnancy coercion following the questioning. The study participants also were 60 percent more likely to report ending a relationship with a partner because they felt unsafe or the relationship felt unhealthy.
The interventions by clinic professionals would include talking about partner violence and putting women in touch with victim-advocacy and support groups. It turns out just talking can mean making a change.
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