As spring slowly comes to an end, it can be grounding to take time to reflect on the new life and new beginnings that came with the season. We see buds in bloom all around us and baby animals learning to walk. It gives us an appreciation for the miracle of life!
It can be easy, however, to take for granted the choice to reproduce when this is not something that has been forced upon you or taken away from you. Reproductive coercion is a behavior that interferes with the decision-making of a woman’s reproductive rights. This can include birth control sabotage, pregnancy coercion, or controlling the outcome of a pregnancy, such as forcing an abortion or making a woman carry the baby to term. Reproductive coercion is a way for abusers to maintain control over their victims by taking away the most important and life-long choice they have: the choice to raise a child.
Fighting for reproductive justice can help to reduce violence against women while also decreasing the prevalence of reproductive coercion in abusive relationships. One study showed that a woman’s odds of experiencing domestic violence rose by 10% with each pregnancy, and a study in 2010 showed that 2.1 million women became pregnant as a result of rape by an intimate partner and 10.3 million women have had a partner who tried to get them pregnant against their will, or refused to wear a condom. Reproductive justice means supporting a woman’s right to have the children they want, raise the children they have, and plan their families through safe, legal access to abortion and contraception. There have been many laws that have helped pave the way to support women’s reproductive rights and reduce reproductive coercion, such as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the Supreme Court struck down requirements that women must notify their husbands before they obtain abortions. The Supreme Court realized that this requirement could cause battering and more violence in the relationship, but unfortunately states continue to pass laws limiting abortion access to women, which may actually increase domestic violence by forcing women in abusive relationships to carry pregnancy to term.
There is still a lot of work to do locally and nationally on reproductive justice for survivors of domestic violence. One way to continue to support survivors is to oppose restrictions to access to family planning services, support laws and policies that improve economic conditions for low-income women so they have the ability to leave abusive relationships, and advocate for access to comprehensive reproductive health care. And, as always, let’s continue to empower survivors to make their own reproductive choices!
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