‘I had no control over my body’: Women’s experiences of reproductive coercion in Aotearoa New Zealand
Keywords:Reproductive coercion, intimate partner violence, coercive control
INTRODUCTION: Reproductive coercion broadly describes behaviour intended to undermine the reproductive autonomy of a victim through pregnancy coercion, contraceptive sabotage, and controlling pregnancy outcomes. This research sought to understand the experiences of victims of reproductive coercion in Aotearoa New Zealand.
METHODS: Participants shared their experiences of reproductive coercion from an intimate partner through an online survey that was distributed via social media and posters that were put up primarily in Family Planning clinics across the country. Five participants subsequently participated in in-depth interviews.
FINDINGS: Participants (mostly women) in this research experienced high rates of controlled access to contraceptives (83.8%), contraceptive sabotage (58.6%), and pregnancy coercion (64%) by an intimate partner. Furthermore, 40.5% of participants who had ever been pregnant had experienced a partner attempting to prevent them from accessing an abortion, and over 30% were subjected to a partner’s attempts to force an induced abortion or miscarriage. Many also expanded on their partners’ coercion regarding reproductive decisions, and abuse during, and after, labour and birth. However, they were rarely asked about reproductive coercion and abuse by health care or social service practitioners.
CONCLUSIONS: Reproductive coercion is a phenomenon that is globally under-researched. Emerging evidence suggests this is a highly gendered issue, and that there needs to be greater focus on promoting how we can improve and protect women’s reproductive autonomy. Findings from this research indicate the need to incorporate discussions about reproductive autonomy and coercion in screening for intimate partner violence.
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