The Intersectionality Between Reproductive Coercion and Domestic Violence

In light of the national focus on Roe v. Wade, it is important to remember that reproductive coercion is a form of domestic violence and discussions about access to abortion cannot exclude those experiencing domestic violence victimization.


There is a very real threat to people capable of becoming pregnant due to the dynamics of power and control in abusive relationships. According to BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, one in four cisgender women, who are accessing reproductive healthcare services, report they are not in control of their reproductive lives. Destroying oral contraceptives, intentionally poking holes in condoms, forcing a partner to carry a pregnancy to term regardless of their wishes, and threatening acts of violence against a partner who does not wish to become pregnant, are all methods of reproductive coercion.


If these methods work and a victim does become impregnated, the abuse they are experiencing often escalates putting them at substantial risk for intimate partner homicide, which is the leading cause of death among pregnant and postpartum people (Wallace, Gillispie-Bell, Cruz, Davis & Vilda, 2021).


Even if the victim of reproductive coercion carries a pregnancy to term, there is often a serious economic consequence. Pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing are expensive, but many victims of domestic violence have restricted access to finances, making them reliant on their partners for economic stability. This forces victims into a devastating dilemma: Do they stay with the abusive partner to receive the funds to support their child? Or do they leave the abusive partner with no income, no place to stay, and no resources to care for their child?


Not only does reproductive coercion make it difficult to leave an abusive relationship due to financial reasons, but it also compounds the ties to the relationship. There will often be an ongoing legal relationship between the two due to a shared child that is nearly impossible to fully sever.


When having discussions about access to abortion, we cannot forget the intersectionality of reproductive coercion, domestic violence, and access to abortion. It is particularly significant for people low-income populations, people who exist outside the gender binary with uteruses, people of color, and those who already have established difficulties accessing healthcare.