In a recent poll we ran on Instagram, 63% of respondents claimed they have experienced reproductive coercion. But what is reproductive coercion and what can you do it you think you’re experiencing reproductive coercion?
Reproductive coercion is a collection of behaviours that interfere with decision-making related to reproductive health.
Basically, this means that someone (a partner, family, community members or the government, for example) is trying to force a person into making decisions about their own reproductive health and their body.
There are three main forms that reproductive coercion can take –
1. Pregnancy coercion
Pregnancy coercion means that someone is trying to influence or indeed, force a person into either getting pregnant or preventing pregnancy against their own will. For example:
- Refusing to negotiate condom or birth control use
- Manipulating, emotional or verbal abuse
- Forcing a partner to have multiple pregnancies and births within a short period of time
2. Birth control sabotage
Birth control sabotage can also take a number of forms
- A person interferes with a method of birth control that a person is taking, for example by hiding or throwing away pills, rings or patches
- Non-consensual condom removal, or “stealthing“, which is the practice of a man covertly removing or damaging a condom during sexual intercourse, when his sex partner has only consented to condom-protected sex.
- Refusing to contribute financially to emergency contraception, birth control or abortion (or for example, preventing you from attending a doctor’s appointment)
Watch this video on Madame Noire to join the conversation about stealthing – something that doesn’t only affect females in heterosexual relationships.
3. Controlling the outcome of a pregnancy
Some examples of what this coercion might look like:
- Threatening to leave or cheat
- Using violence or threats to influence someone into having (or not having an abortion, when they desire one)
- Threatening to out someone as a specific gender or sexuality, or indeed as being sexually active, if they don’t comply with a specific pregnancy outcome.
- Limiting access or banning abortions (yes, even governments are guilty of reproductive coercion)
Coercion is a type of abuse and is not acceptable. It is really difficult to get figures and data on how many people are affected by reproductive coercion, since it is in most instances, not reported. One report by the US-based National Domestic Violence Hotline claims 1 in 4 calls to their hotline is about birth control sabotage and pregnancy coercion.
Some resources to get help
We hope that by raising awareness of the issue, we can encourage people to speak up about it and get advice. We’re compiling a list of hotlines and organisations where you can get help. If you know of a hotline or organisation in your country that can offer support to victims, please contact us so we can add to our list.
- National Domestic Abuse Hotline (USA)
- National Domestic Abuse Hotline (UK)
- Lifeline (South Africa)
- Domestic Violence Nigeria (Nigeria): this contains a number of hotlines to regional help organisations
- Sexual Abuse Help Center (Germany)
- Victim Help (Switzerland)
- European Helpline Directory (Curated list of national hotlines from the European Commission)
Read our tips for :
- The condom conversation (if your partner is reluctant to use condoms and you want to use condoms, we have tips to empower you to make sure that you stick your ground)