Earlier this year, we wrote about a study conducted by researchers at the University of California at Davis which found that a significant number of unwanted pregnancies are the result of reproductive coercion – young women and teenagers being pressured into becoming pregnant by their male partners.
Reproductive coercion is a form of intimate partner violence rooted in the abuser’s struggle for power and control over their victim, rather than a sincere desire to have a child. One in five women surveyed said they had experienced pregnancy coercion and 15% had experienced birth-control sabotage.
Researchers recently published a follow-up to the original study, which measured the effects of clinicians discussing reproductive coercion with their patients prior to an unwanted pregnancy. The LA Times reports:
Among women who were recent victims of intimate partner violence, the patients who were asked about pregnancy coercion and birth control sabotage were 71% less likely to become pregnant against their will, according to the study. They were also more likely to break up with their boyfriends – 52% of them did, compared with 45% of their counterparts who were treated at the clinic where pregnancy coercion and birth control sabotage weren’t discussed.
According to the researchers, the results link ending unhealthy relationships to lower rates of unwanted pregnancy, emphasizing the need to include discussions of pregnancy coercion and birth control sabotage in the realm of reproductive education. As we previously noted, it’s vital to educate women about the skills they need to free themselves from abusive relationships, but outreach must include men as well. Weight must be placed on preventing and avoiding manipulative situations in addition to ending them. As this study shows, the conversation about unwanted pregnancy can’t stop at contraception, and hopefully this will be a cue to healthcare providers and educators to amp up the approach to reproductive freedom.