What is Reproductive Coercion?
One in four survivors has experienced reproductive coercion, yet few people are familiar with the term. Reproductive coercion is any behavior aimed at controlling a person’s reproductive choices. It can take many different forms, including throwing away birth control or poking holes in condoms, lying about a vasectomy, or forcing a partner to get pregnant or have an abortion. One of the most deceptive forms of reproductive coercion is “stealthing” or removing a condom during sex without a partner’s consent.
Younger women, especially those 18 to 24, and teenage girls are most vulnerable to reproductive abuse. This is especially true for Black and Latina girls and women, who are the least likely to have access to resources or help. An alarming one in eight sexually active high school girls has experienced reproductive abuse. Often they’re pressured by older partners who demand unprotected sex as “proof” of fidelity or threaten to end the relationship if the girl refuses to get pregnant.
Reproductive coercion leaves people, mostly women and girls, vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Once pregnant, survivors may become financially dependent upon their partners, making it harder for them to leave the relationship. They also risk other types of abuse, including physical, financial, and emotional violence. The abuse also can take a physical toll, leaving pregnant survivors more susceptible to high blood pressure, bleeding, and premature labor.
Ending Reproductive Coercion
Like other forms of intimate partner violence, reproductive coercion is ultimately about power and control. And unfortunately, most people don’t recognize this behavior as abuse. But working together we can break this cycle of violence. Ending reproductive coercion begins with educating young people about healthy relationships. Laws offering domestic violence survivors paid leave would make it easier for them to seek health care and prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STDs.