Intimate partners coerce thousands of women in the United States into pregnancy each year through manipulation, threats of violence, or acts that deliberately interfere with the use of, or access to, contraception or abortion. Although many of these pregnancies occur within the context of otherwise abusive relationships, for others, pregnancy serves as a trigger for intimate partner violence. Beyond violence preceding or resulting from pregnancy, women who experience coerced pregnancies often suffer other physical, financial and emotional harms. Despite its correlation to domestic violence, reproductive coercion fits imperfectly, if at all, within our existing laws designed to combat domestic violence or rape. Although the harms of forced sex and, though to a slightly lesser extent, the harms of domestic violence, are well understood and accepted in our culture and our laws, the harm of experiencing a pregnancy through coercive acts remains largely invisible in both spheres, despite the prevalence of coerced pregnancies. This article begins by filling in the missing narrative of reproductive coercion by exploring the social and legal contours of how women are coerced into pregnancy, the harms that can result, and the deep correlation between such acts and domestic violence. It then explores how our cultural and legal conflation of pregnancy with sex, motherhood and even abortion, limits our ability to isolate and understand the experience of pregnancy coercion. This article concludes by considering how arming feminists and other advocates with an increased understanding of the interrelatedness between pregnancy, coercion, and intimate partner abuse can help to broaden domestic violence laws and policies, and reconceptualize pregnancy prevention as violence prevention.
21 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 275-318 (2015)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Camp, A. Rachel, "Coercing Pregnancy" (2015). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 1313.