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Reproductive Coercion in Teens

Newsweek has an article about a phenomenon called Reproductive Coercion.

Essentially, the male in the relationship is coercing the female to become pregnant so he can control her forever, through the child. After the baby, he reasons, he’ll be able to control her forever. Her odds of leaving him to find another man lessen and he will have more control over the rest of her life. Having a baby only strengthens her resolve to stay in a dangerous relationship.

New research suggests that reproductive coercion is often found where physical and emotional abuse is found. Controlling his partner is the same motivator as all other forms of abuse, and one of the mechanisms for controlling his partner is trying to get her pregnant.

He may insist she not use birth control, monitor her menstrual cycle, flush birth control pills down the toilet, forbid her from seeing a doctor or going to a family planning clinic, and refuse to use a condom or poke a hole in one.

Like domestic and dating violence, the rate of reproductive coercion for teenage girls mirrors the rate for adult women.

The difference being that teenage girls have little experience with relationships and often don’t know that what is happening to them is wrong, dangerous, controlling or abusive.

The boundary between reproductive coercion and relationship violence—and whether there is, in fact, a boundary at all—is a difficult issue for health-care providers to address. In some cases, it can fit a spectrum of other abusive behaviors, from threatening to physical violence, that create an imbalance in a relationship’s power dynamic. “Just like violence, it’s a power thing,” says Walker, who has seen patients whose boyfriends monitor their periods to ensure they’re not taking Depo-Provera contraceptive shots (which often cause women to skip their period). “The man is taking away a woman’s power to decide she’s not going to have a child. Still, the line is unclear. Miller, for example, would be hesitant to categorize reproductive coercion as a form of partner violence, since many states have laws mandating reporting of such incidents. “I’m not sure that a young woman telling me that her partner flushed her birth control down the toilet necessitates me reporting that to the authorities,” says Miller. In these situations, Miller has two concerns: getting the teenager onto a birth control she can hide from her partner (possibly Depo-Prevera shots, which last three months and are administered at a doctor’s office) and building a relationship with the patient to explore the possibility of ending the relationship.” What we hear from domestic-violence survivors is they don’t like being told they have to leave a relationship,” says Miller. “So instead of saying, ‘This is an abusive relationship,’ our counseling is very much focused on having them explain how this affects their health.”

In every situation, every abusive relationship is about control.

The best prevention is to talk with your daughter about her right and responsibility to control her own body, her own mind, her own choices, her own life, her own future, her own decisions, her own reproductive system, her own friends, her own job, etc.

To control ourselves is our inherent birthright.

2 replies
  1. Sophia says:

    This is how my daughter came to be. I was seventeen, was blind dated with an abusive guy who immediately got me pregnant and wouldn’t allow me to seek any medical attention (abortion or otherwise).
    Thankfully, I’m out of this relationship, but since he’s the biological father of my child, he legally can see her and take her for weekends at a time, and constantly harass me on the basis of ‘being a good father’. Sometimes I hate my state laws.

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