Sunday, July 28, 2013


As it turns out, reproductive coercion is something that happens. That is, men sabotage their partners' birth control, or lie about condoms falling off, or intimidate/threaten/beat their partners to prevent them using birth control. Reproductive coercion is a form of abuse. Its purpose is to tie a woman to her abuser for life.

This is a terrifying notion. The idea that a man could betray me in that fashion, the idea that any woman could have to bear the consequences of that betrayal, and the idea of a child having to grow up in that situation is utterly frightening.

But then consider what else is happening to these women. Imagine being in a situation where your partner is trying to force you to become pregnant, or in a situation where you are already pregnant against your will, and then trying to get help.

In many parts of this country, a woman in that situation will be slut shamed. Even well-meaning doctors might assume that woman is a fool who doesn't understand how to use birth control.

Or, that woman could encounter a professional who "values life."

After being abused by her partner, this woman could be denied access to birth control by a pharmacist. She could be denied access to the morning after pill. In many parts of the country, there is no practical way for this woman to access RU-486, a pill that induces abortion, which would be a way that she could obtain an abortion without her partner's knowledge. In some states, if she is married to her abuser, he will be notified if she attempts to have an abortion at a medical center.

Can you imagine coming to the realization that your partner lied to you--put holes in a condom or claimed it fell off and he didn't notice, or hid your birth control pills, or flat-out raped you--and that you were pregnant as a result? Can you imagine being then told by your doctor that you should've known better? That although you arranged a doctor's appointment at a time when you were able to get away from your abusive partner, you have to come back in 24 hours because the state isn't sure you really want an abortion? That you can't have RU-486 unless you can come back to the doctor's office two more times, even though this is not medically necessary, and instead you could go home, take the second pill, and say you were having a miscarriage? Or that you can only have an abortion if your husband, the man who betrayed you so you could never get away from him, signs a paper giving you permission?

I desperately hope that reproductive coercion is rare. But even if it is, the idea that anyone is put in the position, in the United States, of being forced to bear a child and be tied for life to a man who abused her in that fashion is abhorrent. The fact that this exists is reason enough that safe, legal abortion should be available to every woman. Because nobody deserves to live that way. No child deserves the life that goes along with that. Adoption might be an option in a situation like that, but adoption could also result in the abuser escalating his abusive behavior. In any case, it's not up to me. It shouldn't be up to the government. This should never happen to anyone, but if it does, the least we can do is allow a woman the dignity of deciding what happens next.

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