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Reproductive Coercion


Reproductive coercion is a form of sexual abuse that can take the form of emotional manipulation, threats or physical violence making it a part of a larger pattern of intimate partner violence.

Reproductive coercion is attempting to restrict someone’s reproductive autonomy for the purpose of maintaining power and control, one partner strips the other of the ability to control their own reproductive system. It can be difficult to identify this coercion because other types of abuse are often occurring simultaneously.

Reproductive coercion can be exerted in many of the following ways:

• Refusing to use a condom
• Refusing methods of birth control
• Purposely breaking or removing a
• Condom during intercourse
• Lying about having a vasectomy
• Lying about being on the pill
• Refusing to withdraw (“pull out”) after both partners had agreed upon this method
• Forcing a partner to not use any birth control eg: condom, contraception pill, implant, injection, or other
• Poking holes in condoms
• Flushing pills down the toilet
• Withholding finances needed to purchase birth control
• Monitoring a partner’s menstrual cycle
• Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease
• Forcing pregnancy
• Not supporting partner’s decision
• Forcing or preventing abortion
• Threatening or being violent to their partner if they don’t comply with their wishes to either end, or continue with pregnancy
• Continuously keeping their partner pregnant, by purposely getting them pregnant almost immediately after they have given birth

If someone is forcing their partner to become pregnant this isn’t necessarily about them wanting a child, but can often be about the power and control an abuser holds over a partner and their partner’s body.

​Reproductive coercion can also come in the form of guilt, pressure and shame from an abuser. Some examples are:

• Your partner constantly talking about having children
• Making a partner feel extremely guilty for not having or wanting to have children
• Making a partner feel incredibly guilty for not having or not wanting more children with them, if their partner already has children with someone else.

A gynaecologist, GP or health care provider is a useful resource, and will someone conceal contraceptive methods if this is an issue. GP’s can give someone birth control pills in plain envelopes and provide less detectable forms of contraceptive methods which may be an implant or an IUD with the strings trimmed.

“Rehouse to Rehome are here to provide support and resources. We encourage people to confide in their GP’s if they are experiencing any form of intimate partner violence. Above all, know that you are not alone. We are ready to provide support and assistance”.

The Details

Reproductive abuse is when a person tries to control your reproductive choices in order to control your life. Reproductive abuse is also often called “reproductive coercion.” Coercion is when a person tries to persuade someone to do something by using force or threats. Reproductive abuse can be a single act, or it can be part of a larger pattern of abusive behaviours.

Reproductive abuse can include sexual assault, rape, and other abusive actions concerning your sexual and reproductive health, such as:

  • Sexually-coercive behaviors, like when a person:
    • pressures or forces a sexual partner to have sex when s/he doesn’t want to have sex;
    • threatens to end a relationship if a person doesn’t have sex;
    • forces a sexual partner to not use birth control, including a condom, contraceptive pills, or other available options;
    • intentionally exposes a sexual partner to a sexually-transmitted infection (STI); or
    • retaliates against a sexual partner when told about a positive (STI) result.
  • Birth control sabotage, like when a person:
    • hides, withholds, or destroys a sexual partner’s birth control pills;
    • replaces or tampers with a sexual partner’s birth control pills without the partner’s knowledge or consent;
    • breaks or pokes holes in a condom on purpose;
    • removes a condom during sex without telling his/her sexual partner;
    • refuses to withdraw during sex, even if s/he previous agreed to do so;
    • pulls out a sexual partner’s vaginal contraceptive ring; or
    • tears off a sexual partner’s contraceptive patch.
  • Pregnancy pressure, which is when a person pressures a sexual partner to:
    • get pregnant when s/he doesn’t want to be pregnant;
    • continue a pregnancy when s/he wants an abortion; or
    • end a pregnancy s/he wants to continue.

Even if your sexual partner has not done any of the specific things listed above but is controlling your reproductive choices in other ways, you may still be experiencing reproductive abuse or coercion. If you think your partner is trying to control your reproductive choices, you may want to contact a domestic violence advocate for

  • buying birth control or condoms on your own, instead of allowing your partner to buy it;
  • keeping birth control or condoms in a hidden or private location;
  • inspecting birth control pills to make sure they are the correct pills;
  • inspecting condoms and condom wrappers for signs of tampering, such as holes or tears;
  • switching to a form of birth control that cannot be tampered, such as an IUD, injection, vasectomy, or other forms a medical professional may recommend;
  • and other methods an advocate or doctor could recommend.

This information was adapted from Addressing Intimate partner violence Reproductive and Sexual Coercion: A Guide For Obstetric, Gynaecological, Reproductive Health Care Settings The American Gynaecologists (ACOG) and Futures Without Violence.

Pregnancy coercion

Pregnancy coercion includes any behaviors intended to coerce or pressure a partner to become or not become pregnant.Pregnancy coercion involves various tactics, including verbal threats related to impregnation, coerced sex, refusal to use male-controlled contraception (i.e., condoms, withdrawal), interference with or pressure not to use female controlled contraception (i.e., hormonal methods), monitoring menstrual cycles or gynecological visits, pressure for or against female sterilisation, and monitoring of ovulation.

Threatened or completed physical violence may also be perpetrated against a partner to coerce them to become pregnant.

Birth control sabotage

Birth control sabotage involves tampering with contraception or interfering with the use of contraception.

Birth control sabotage includes removing a condom after agreeing to wear one (also called stealthing), damaging a condom, removing contraception (including vaginal rings, intrauterine devices (IUDS), and contraceptive patches), or throwing away oral contraceptive pills.

Other methods of birth control sabotage include preventing a partner from obtaining or refilling contraceptive prescriptions, refusing to wear a condom, stating that a condom is being worn when one is not, not withdrawing after agreeing to do so, exaggerating the risks of hormonal contraceptives, and not telling a partner if a condom broke or fell off.

Gender and sexual power dynamics and coercion associated with sexual power dynamics are both linked to condom nonuse.

Even women with high sexually transmitted infection knowledge are more likely to use condoms inconsistently than women with low STI knowledge when there is a high level of fear for abuse.

Controlling the outcome of a pregnancy

Controlling the outcome of a pregnancy is an attempt to influence a partner to continue or terminate a pregnancy.This can include abortion coercion, or pressuring, threatening, or forcing a partner to have an abortion or not. A Guttmacher Institute policy analysis states that forcing a woman to terminate a pregnancy she wants or to continue a pregnancy she does not want violates the basic human right of reproductive health.


Books and articles related to Reproductive Coercion

Pregnancy and Abuse: How to Stay Safe for Your 9 Months

Pregnancy is a time of change. If you’re pregnant, your life — and your body — starts taking on a new shape as you prepare to bring a little person into the world. Pregnancy can be full of excitement but also comes with an added need for support. It’s natural to need emotional support from a partner, as well as perhaps financial assistance, help to prepare for the baby and more.

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This Chart Explains Everything You Need To Know About Contraception Use In An Abusive Relationship

“Reproductive coercion can be the beginning of patterns of violence and control.”

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Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love Is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness: THE #1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

Lindsay Clark, M.D., couldn’t figure out why her patients were getting pregnant. An obstetrics and gynecology resident in Rhode Island, she was treating women who very recently had been pregnant, or had come to her with the opposite intent.

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Videos related to Reproductive Coercion

What Exactly Is Reproductive Coercion | All Caught Up

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Making the Connection--Reproductive Coercion

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Addressing Reproductive Coercion: Access & Equity III - Part 1 Introduction to Reproductive Coercion

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Assessing for & Responding to Reproductive Coercion

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Wakefield Council | Coercive Control

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