Reproductive coercion, defined as threats or acts of violence against a partner’s reproductive health or reproductive decision-making, is a form of abuse many people experience. A survey done by The Hotline and partners in 2011 found that 25% of people who contacted The Hotline reported experiencing reproductive coercion. Preliminary data from 2021 shows that 1,526 individuals who contacted us reported reproductive coercion, showing that this is an issue people continue to face.
While it can affect anyone, specific communities may face added barriers to receiving the care and support they need. Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, who have historically been denied access to reproductive health care, may experience discrimination and less quality care when getting support. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans individuals, they may be denied reproductive health care due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.
A person of any gender can coerce their partner into making reproductive decisions they do not want.
Reproductive coercion is a form of power and control because one partner takes away reproductive health decisions and options from the other. Examples of reproductive coercion include:
- Refusing to use a condom or other types of birth control
- Breaking or removing a condom during intercourse (also known as stealthing)
- Forcing their partner to get an abortion, or preventing them from getting one
- Threatening to tell family, friends, or law enforcement about receiving an abortion
- Withholding finances needed to purchase birth control (a form of financial abuse)
- Threatening their partner or becoming violent if they don’t follow their wishes to either end or continue a pregnancy.
Reproductive coercion can also be emotional, and could look like pressure, guilt, and shame from an abusive partner. They might constantly talk about having children, or make you feel guilty for not having or wanting children with them. Pregnancy is the second most dangerous time in an abusive relationship, so a partner coercing the other into getting pregnant can increase the danger in the relationship. Even after birth many abusive partners will use children as another form of control. They might threaten to take custody of the children if their partner leaves, or say it is best for the children to have both parents in the home.
It is crucial to make a safety plan if you are experiencing reproductive coercion. Talking with a health care provider or gynecologist can be a useful step, especially if you need to conceal contraceptive methods for your safety and physical autonomy. If your partner goes to doctor’s appointments with you, try to find a moment when they’re out of the room to ask your care provider to provide an excuse to talk alone with you. This can give you the time and privacy needed to talk about less detectable forms of contraception or other steps you can take to control your reproductive choices. If you need a doctor or health care provider that your partner does not know about, you can use our Find a Health Center tool to find resources near you. Depending on the state you live in, you may want to speak with a legal advocate to better understand any restrictive reproductive health laws in your state and how it could affect your situation. You can find legal resources in your area here.
We know that each situation is unique, and our advocates are available 24/7 to talk about and explore different options that may be best based on your circumstances. You always have the right to make your own decisions regarding your reproductive choices.
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