Should it be a crime to trick a woman or one’s wife into pregnancy? For example – surreptitiously poking holes in your condoms or trading out birth control pills for placebos? Some domestic violence groups say yes.
The official term for this type of abuse is “reproductive coercion” — and it can encompass anything from poking holes in a condom without a woman’s knowledge, to hiding her birth control pills, to making her feel guilty about not wanting to have a baby, to trying to yank out her intrauterine device (IUD). If a woman does become pregnant, the coercion can either take the form of pressuring her to have an abortion when she wants a child, or pressuring her to continue an unwanted pregnancy when she wants an abortion.
According to a 2010 study into the issue, as many as 15 percent of low-income women who rely on public family planning clinics experience this type of tampering with their birth control. And it’s a particular prevalent aspect of abusive relationships — a clear sign that a man is attempting to control and manipulate his partner’s body. In fact, at the beginning of this year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a new policy statement recommending more widespread screening for reproductive coercion. “We want to make sure that health care providers are aware that this is something that does go on and that it’s a form of abuse,” one of the experts who helped write the new recommendations explained at the time.
Domestic violence prevention advocates argue that reproductive coercion should fit under the criminal statutes regarding domestic abuse and rape. It’s possible to make the legal case that it constitutes an act of violence — but, as the Daily Beast reports, one of the central roadblocks to prosecuting reproductive coercion is the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have a robust definition of consent.