A new study in the journal Contraception reveals the power of a simple conversation: When trained counselors at family planning clinics ask young women if they have experienced reproductive coercion, it reduces the odds of their male partners forcing them to become pregnant.
Reproductive coercion refers to abusive male behaviors to promote pregnancy, including “birth control sabotage” (interference with contraception) and/or “pregnancy coercion,” such as threatening to harm a woman if she uses birth control or if she has an abortion, and threating to leave her if she doesn’t get pregnant.
The Family Violence Prevention Fund responded enthusiastically to the results of the study:
A brief intervention was associated with a 70 percent reduction in the odds of male partner pregnancy coercion among women who recently had experienced intimate partner violence. Study participants who were asked about reproductive coercion and then counseled about harm-reduction strategies — including switching to longer-acting contraceptives and contacting domestic and sexual-assault resources — were also 60 percent more likely to report ending a relationship because it felt unsafe or unhealthy.
“There is a strong, indisputable link between domestic and dating violence and unintended pregnancy. This study is extremely important because it identifies an effective solution that can be implemented relatively easily,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President and Founder Esta Soler. “We need to build on these results by making this intervention the norm in health care settings throughout the nation as quickly as possible.”
The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; the intervention was designed by reproductive health experts, UC Davis School of Medicine, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the FVPF.
An earlier study this year, also published in Contraception, concluded that 20 percent of women experienced pregnancy coercion and 15 percent experienced birth control sabotage.
The FVPF is calling for immediate action based on this latest evidence: “This study is extremely important because it identifies an effective solution that can be implemented relatively easily,” said Soler. “We need to build on these results by making this intervention the norm in health care settings throughout the nation as quickly as possible.”
Go to FVPF’s Know More Say More website for more information and opportunities for action. The site includes resources for healthcare providers, including suggestions on how to assess for reproductive coercion [PDF], including sample scripts, and how to integrate assessments into clinical practice [PDF].