Domestic abuse and abortion bans create “a very dangerous recipe” after spawning

A new report highlights the link between access to abortion and intimate partner violence since the Supreme Court struck down federal protections against abortion two years ago.

The report, conducted by the National Domestic Violence Hotline in collaboration with If/When/How, surveyed more than 3,400 people between October and December 2023. The organizations wanted to learn more about survivors’ experiences with reproductive coercion, intimate partner violence and the threat of criminalization. in a post-Roe v. Wade world (although, not all domestic violence experiences included in the survey occurred during the survey window). Reproductive coercion and reproductive abuse are umbrella terms that describe situations including when an abusive partner controls pregnancy outcomes, forces someone to have unprotected sex, or alters contraceptive methods, among other tactics.

The survey found that 63% of all respondents had been pressured or forced to have sex with a current or former partner when they didn’t want to, and nearly 40% said their partner had threatened them if they said no to sex. About a quarter reported that their partner pressured them to get pregnant, and 13% said their partner used or threatened violence while they were pregnant with the intention of terminating the pregnancy. More than 30 percent of respondents said they do not have access to an OB-GYN or a doctor who focuses on reproductive health. The survey was conducted on the Hotline website and all responses were anonymous.

“When you have a country that has allowed abusive partners to be completely encouraged to restrict access to health care, to allow someone to feel like they can’t control their own body, and when states and the country decide to say, ‘Actually, no , your bodies are not your own. It’s a very dangerous recipe, and the findings underscore that,” Crystal Justice, chief external affairs officer at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said at a news conference Monday.

Access to abortion and intimate partner violence are inherently linked, as pregnancy is an extremely dangerous time for victims of intimate partner violence. Killing by an abusive partner is the main cause of death for US pregnant and postpartum women – overcoming medical issues such as sepsis and hemorrhage.

“We often think of these life events, like a marriage or a pregnancy, as some of the happiest moments of our lives,” Justice added. “They are some of the most dangerous and often times when we see violence and abuse escalate into an abusive situation.”

Survivors are forced to walk the line of isolation and safety to get the abortion care they need, while minimizing the risks of criminalization and punishment by their abuser as well as the state.Noran Elzarka, If/When/How

The report includes testimonials from respondents who shared their experiences with reproductive coercion. Many describe their abusive partner controlling and monitoring their birth control, not allowing them to speak to a doctor alone, forcing a miscarriage, threatening to kill them if they become pregnant, or threatening to kill them if they have aborted.

“Overturning (of) Roe v. Wade destroyed my sense of safety and my life,” one respondent told NDVH and If/When/How. Another said they were “controlled, badly abused and had a knife pressed to my stomach” during each pregnancy.

One respondent recalled that her “late abusive husband allegedly impregnated me on purpose to force me to have an abortion.” Another said that during her relationship with her abuser, “he would force me to have unprotected sex so (I) could have more children to further my financial and economic abuse, making it harder for me to leave “. The majority of respondents were white women, but the survey included men, non-binary and transgender people.

Pregnancy and children are often used as another tool to control a victim — an experience echoed by a survivor of intimate partner violence during Monday’s press call. “Every child you have with someone like this (an abuser) is another connection to him. It’s one more thing that makes you their possession,” EL DuBois, a survivor and co-founder of Twisted Crown Foundation, he told reporters. “My daughter, I learned very early, was not a child to him. She was a possession. She was something to use against me.”

Since Roe came down, calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline about reproductive coercion have doubled across the country, according to an October report. Noran Elzarka, who works as a lawyer for If/When/How is the legal helplinesaid they have heard from several callers who are experiencing domestic violence and need reproductive health care.

“Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, our helpline has seen an increase in callers weighing the risks of their abusive relationship against access to abortion,” Elzarka said. “Survivors are forced to walk the line of isolation and safety to get the abortion care they need, while minimizing the risks of criminalization and punishment by their abuser as well as the state.”

As NDVH’s Justice summed it up: “If I can’t control my own body, how the hell can I control my journey to safety?”

Scroll down to read more about the report from the National Domestic Violence Hotline and if/when/how.

Reproductive Coercion and Abuse Report by Alanna Vagianos on Scribd

Need help? In the US, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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