Birth control has been a hotly contested issue of late, what with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and political efforts to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. One thing that most people agree on is that women should have the right to decide if they want to get pregnant or not (unless religious beliefs alter your decisions about birth control).
But what if somebody took that right away?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) defines reproductive coercions as “‘behavior that interferes with contraception use’ and said the most common coercive practices included ‘hiding, withholding, or destroying’ contraceptives or threatening a partner in order to force her to become pregnant.” 66% of women involved in intimate partner violence state that they underwent birth control sabotage. Many women can be negatively effected by the results of reproductive coercion, and preventative measures need to be taken in order to stop it.
A new report soon to be released by the ACOG, " Committee Opinion No. 553: Multifetal Pregnancy Reduction" provides many different methods to help OB/GYNS to prevent reproductive coercion from happening. Some of the methods the report includes are education, screening, counseling, use of long-acting contraceptives (e.g. IUDs), and screening women alone, away from controlling partners. Doctors may also give out emergency contraceptives in indistinguishable envelopes and IUDs with the strings cut off. Other approaches to prevent reproductive coercion include informing individuals about sexual interaction at a young age, and educating them about safe sex practices, the risks of STIs, and the consequences of risky sexual behaviors.
While birth control sabotage is generally more of a problem for women, men are affected as well. Like any other form of intimate violence, reproductive coercion is usually used to assert power over an individual. While it may be rare, in some cases, some women may lie about being on birth control in order to stay in a relationship. Unfortunately, as it stands, there is not much research about the effects of reproductive or sexual coercion on men. More research is needed to see how often it occurs and how it affects men. Unfortunately, male sexual abuse is much less reported then female sexual abuse, so this information is difficult to find.
Steps should be taken early in the process of sexual maturation to inform people about healthy relationships. Discussions about positive relationship practices, signs of intimate partner violence and communication exercises are positive ways to prevent intimate partner violence or any subset of IPV.
Clearly, doctors are taking the right decision in informing victims about reproductive coercion and taking preventative steps. You may also take the same preventative measures by recognizing warning signs of intimate partner violence or domestic abuse. To learn more, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).