A new meta-analysis published in PLOS Medicine provides more information on the link between intimate partner violence and abortion. You can read the entire analysis online, but this post at WECARE summarizes some of the main points, from the point of view of people working to reduce abortions.

1) Intimate partner violence, including history of rape, sexual assault, contraception sabotage, and coerced decision-making, was associated with abortion.   Unfortunately with the limited data available to the authors, it was not possible to ascertain the typical timing of exposure to violence relative to abortion. However, it is likely that various patterns exist, with violence both preceding and following abortion in many victims’ lives. Escalation of violence after the procedure is a strong possibility, particularly when partners are against the abortion.In a high quality study by Fisher and colleagues (2005) published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the authors reported that women presenting for a third abortion were over 2.5 times more likely to have a history of physical or sexual violence than women presenting for their first.

2) Women in violent relationships were more likely to have concealed their abortion from partners compared to women who were not victims of violence. Women likely believed they could not continue the pregnancy and were afraid of the abusive partner’s behavior if the abortion had been revealed. Many women in abusive relationships may feel they have to abort, because they are trying to free themselves from the relationship, they do not want to bring a child into a home with violence, and/or they do not believe they have the emotional energy to go through a pregnancy and raise a child, among other reasons. With sensitive, appropriate pre-abortion counseling, women in abusive relationships can be identified and safely assisted out of the violent, dangerous situation and helped to continue their pregnancies if desired. Without sensitive, substantive care, abortion is often perceived as the only option available.

3) Women welcomed the opportunity to disclose IPV and to be offered help. Women who present at abortion clinics are often at a point where they are quite receptive to help, and if screening and intervention do not occur, countless women will continue their lives feeling trapped and afraid in a violent relationship. If the abortion take place, then there is a high probability that they will suffer psychological consequences as a result that further compound a life marked by significant suffering. Numerous studies from the peer-reviewed literature have documented the fact that women, who feel pressured by partners, abortion counselors, other people in their lives, and/or by life circumstances, are more likely to experience post-abortion mental health problems.

The study focused on women having abortions, but the findings also have obvious implications for crisis pregnancy centers.

(Thanks to Consistent Life for the tip.)

The 112th Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, due in large part to House Republican resistance to new provisions expanding protections for LGBT persons, undocumented immigrants, and Native Americans. A bill containing these provisions passed 68-31 with bipartisan support in the Senate, but the version passed by the House stripped them out, and the leadership refused to bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote.

VAWA advocates aren’t giving up, though. The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence has issued a statement expressing anger at the 112th Congress for failing to act, and calling upon the 113th Congress to pass a comprehensive bill immediately. Senator Patty Murray plans to reintroduce the bill when the Senate returns from recess. In the meantime, VAWA continues in its 2005 version.

Ending violence against women is a pro-life issue. That’s why we are asking you to join us and other advocates for women on Wednesday, November 14 for a Violence Against Women Act Day of Action. Please check back on that day for information on how to contact your legislators.

The Senate passed a version of the VAWA reauthorization with bipartisan support earlier in the year, with new provisions to help Native American, LGBT, and immigrant victims of violence. The House passed a substitute bill that omits these provisions and otherwise weakens the Senate version. Advocates argue that the House bill actually creates new dangers for undocumented women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Anti-violence advocates in the U.S. have not given up hope of passing the VAWA reauthorization in the lame duck legislative session. Please join us on Wednesday in urging Congress to restore the protections of the Senate bill and pass the reauthorization.

[Author’s note: this article was originally published in Life Matters Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1.]

The consistent life ethic is traditionally seen as a way to draw connections among issues that do not seem related at first glance, such as war, the death penalty, and abortion. However, the connections between forms of violence and injustice are sometimes more immediate. Recent research, including a study published in August 2012 by the Guttmacher Institute, has highlighted connections between intimate partner violence, poverty, and abortion.

Intimate partner violence and abortion

Multiple studies from countries around the world have established a link between intimate partner violence (sometimes also known as domestic violence) and unintended pregnancy and abortion.[i],[ii],[iii],[iv]

The increased abortion rate among women who have experienced intimate partner violence begins with an increased prevalence of unintended pregnancy. A health survey in Massachusetts found that 40% of women who reported being abused had experienced one or more unintended pregnancies in the past five years, compared to 8% of non-abused women.[v]

Women in abusive relationships who become pregnant face numerous pressures to abort. These include fear of being punished if their partner doesn’t welcome the pregnancy, fear that the child will be abused, and the belief that having a child will make it impossible to leave the abusive partner for good. Among women who had abortions in the United States in 2008, about 7% reported having been physically or sexually abused by their child’s father, compared with about 1% of women in the general population who report experiencing physical or sexual abuse in the previous 12 months.[vi]

Reproductive coercion

In 2010, University of California-Davis researcher Elizabeth Miller and colleagues conducted the largest study to date of a phenomenon Miller has termed reproductive coercion[vii]. Miller’s team surveyed women aged 16-29 seeking reproductive health services in five clinics in northern California. Of these women, 53% had ever been physically or sexually abused by a partner. Nineteen percent had experienced pregnancy coercion, defined as a male partner using emotional or physical pressure or threats to get a woman to agree to become pregnant. Fifteen percent had experienced birth control sabotage, in which their partner had deliberately interfered with their efforts to use birth control. Miller uses the umbrella term reproductive coercion to cover pregnancy coercion and birth control sabotage.

Reproductive coercion is often associated with intimate partner violence and may partly explain why intimate partner violence is associated with high rates of unintended pregnancy.

Guttmacher study of “disruptive life events” and abortion

In August 2012, the Guttmacher Institute published a study in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care about the circumstances under which women have abortions. The researchers surveyed 9493 women who had abortions, and found that most had experienced at least one “disruptive life event” in the last year, such as unemployment, divorce or separation from a partner, getting behind on the rent or mortgage, moving two or more times, or having a baby.[viii]

The women in the study who were living in poverty experienced more disruptive life events – and hence, more abortions – than the women who were making greater than poverty incomes. Women living in poverty were also more likely to report having been physically or sexually abused by their partners.

In addition to the quantitative survey, researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 49 women. Nearly half of these women said that disruptive events interfered with their ability to use contraception consistently. Women reported losing health insurance and having trouble affording prescription contraception and getting to doctor’s appointments. Consistent use, not simply any use of contraception, is key to preventing unintended pregnancy. Poverty and disruptive life events appeared to make consistent use more difficult.

There were no questions on the quantitative survey about reproductive coercion, but six of the 49 women interviewed in-depth reported experiencing it.

Conclusions

Intimate partner violence and poverty both make it more difficult for women to avoid unintended pregnancy and to carry to term if they become pregnant.

For pro-life advocates who are working to reduce the demand for abortion, these data suggest two courses of action. The first is working to end poverty and abuse themselves, and ensuring a strong social safety net to buffer against the effects of disruptive life events. Second, it is also important to ensure that women currently experiencing poverty and abuse have the information and health care access they need to prevent unintended pregnancy, as well as social and material support if they do conceive.

Mitigating the effects of injustice and working to end the injustice itself are not mutually exclusive approaches. As one example, Elizabeth Miller and colleagues reported in 2011 on a pilot program that tested a new harm reduction intervention for women experiencing abuse or reproductive coercion.[ix] Their intervention enhanced standard intimate partner violence counseling with information on reproductive coercion and strategies for minimizing the risk of unintended pregnancy by using birth control methods that were concealable or hard to tamper with. The enhanced intervention both reduced the incidence of reproductive coercion and increased the likelihood that women would leave abusive male partners.

Protecting lives that are threatened by poverty and intimate partner violence also turns out to be a way to protect lives that are threatened by abortion.

 


[i] Christina C. Pallitto, Claudia García-Moreno, Henrica A.F.M. Jansen, Lori Heise, Mary Ellsberg, Charlotte Watts, on behalf of the WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Intimate partner Violence, Intimate partner violence, abortion, and unintended pregnancy: Results from the WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Intimate partner Violence, Int J Gynecol Obstet 2012. Published online in advance of print September 6, 2012. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2012.07.003. Accessed September 17, 2012.

[ii] Lockart I, Ryder N, McNulty AM. Prevalence and associations of recent physical intimate partner violence among women attending an Australian sexual health clinic. Sex Transm Infect 2011; 87(2): 174-176.

[iii] Alio AP, Salihu HM, Nana PN, Clayton HB, Mbah AK, Marty PJ. Association between intimate partner violence and induced abortion in Cameroon. Int J Gynecol Obstet 2011; 112(2): 83–87.

[iv] Fanslow J, Silva M, Whitehead A, Robinson E. Pregnancy outcomes and intimate partner violence in New Zealand. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2008; 48(4): 391–397.

[v] Futures Without Violence. The Facts on Reproductive Health and Partner Abuse. Available at: http://www.knowmoresaymore.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/The-Facts-on-Reproductive-Health-and-Partner-Abuse.pdf. Accessed September 17, 2012.

[vi] Jones RK, Moore AM, Frohwirth LF. Perceptions of male knowledge and support among U.S. women obtaining abortions. Women Health Iss 2011; 21(2):117-23.

[vii] Miller E, Decker MR, McCauley HL, Tancredi DJ, Levenson RR, Waldman J, Schoenwald P, Silverman JG. Pregnancy coercion, intimate partner violence and unintended pregnancy. Contraception 2010; 81(4):316-22.

[viii] Jones RK, Frohwirth L, Moore AM. More than poverty: disruptive events among women having abortions in the USA. J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care 2012; published online in advance of print August 20, 2012. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jfprhc-2012-100311. Accessed September 17, 2012.

[ix] Miller E, Decker MR, McCauley HL, Tancredi DJ, Levenson RR, Waldman J, Schoenwald P, Silverman JG. A family planning clinic partner violence intervention to reduce risk associated with reproductive coercion. Contraception 2011; 83(3):274-80.

 

The Violence Against Women Act was originally passed in 1994 with the help of a coalition of pro-choice and pro-life advocates, including Feminists for Life. Since then, it's been relatively uncontroversial and enjoyed bipartisan support. VAWA is up for renewal again, and is now meeting with resistance from Senate Republicans who oppose new provisions aimed at improving services for Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, and LGBT individuals.

If you need additional pro-life incentive to help reauthorize VAWA, take a look at the statistics on the relationship between intimate partner violence, unintended pregnancy, and abortion in our "Family Planning Freedom is Prolife" presentation (.ppt) (.pdf), or in this factsheet from the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence has all the info you need on how to help:

You did it!! We now have 60 Sponsors in the Senate!

Thanks to Senator Heller (R-NV), who signed on to sponsor VAWA this week, we now have 60 sponsors – and one full day before our goal! Thank you for all your hard work!

Now we need to secure our sponsors’ commitment to S. 1925, the real VAWA, and to get as many new Senate supporters as possible. VAWA is coming to the Senate Floor and we need to have as big an outpouring of support as we can!

This week, we want you to help us by signing petitions, engaging your friends and family and getting the word out that every Senator needs to hear from you and your loved ones about why VAWA must be passed immediately.

Things are moving quickly – so “like” our Facebook page to get up to the minute information: http://on.fb.me/NTF_Facebook_page or check out our website: www.4VAWA.org

TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Suggested actions for this week include:
1. Ask your FRIENDS AND FAMILY members to call Senators to urge co-sponsorship and votes for S. 1925, the real VAWA!
2. Ask all the men you know to sign a petition supporting VAWA

Action 1: Ask your FRIENDS and FAMILY to call both of their senators’ D.C. offices today (http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm) and ask them vote YES on S. 1925 the real VAWA:

I urge Senator _____ to support the Violence Against Women Act and vote YES on S. 1925 AS IS. Don’t use VAWA as a political tool – pass it now so that all survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking can get the support they need!

Action 2: Ask all the men you know to sign a petition supporting VAWA
VAWA is everyone’s issue. Help us engage more men by asking the men you know and love to sign the 10,000 Men for VAWA petition
:

http://www.change.org/petitions/us-congress-10-000-men-supporting-the-violence-against-women-act

Check our website for fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates: www.4vawa.org

Check out and “like” our Facebook page where you can find a toolkit and other action and information items: http://on.fb.me/NTF_Facebook_page

Don’t forget to tweet about VAWA using the hashtags #ReauthorizeVAWA and #VAWA.

If you aren't on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email to Sean Black, sblack@icasa.org.

 

It's appropriate that October is both Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Respect Life Month, as domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence) and abortion are closely linked.

1 in 3 women worldwide are subjected to gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence (IPV), which may involve:

  • Sexual assault and contraceptive sabotage–thus heightened risk for/ incidence of unintended pregnancies.
  • Inhospitable circumstances for women to continue pregnancies and raise their children, leading more women to see abortion as their only choice.
  • Directly forced abortions.
  • Homicide of mother and/or child.

This fact sheet from Know More, Say More summarizes the research into the connection between domestic violence and unintended pregnancy, abortion, miscarriage, and homicide in the United States. The link between IPV and induced abortion has identified by studies from many other countries as well (including Australia, Bangladesh, Cameroon, and Italy). Some of these also link IPV and miscarriage.

Any strategy to reduce the incidence of abortion must address intimate partner violence and reproductive coercion. If you work with a pro-life group or crisis pregnancy center and would like to learn more about how your organization can serve abused women, please contact us.

Busy day today, but I wanted to draw people's attentions to a few items:

Groundbreaking Bill Integrates Pregnancy and Violence Prevention Strategies for Young People of Color

The “Communities of Color Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Act,” HR 2678, recognizes that a broader approach is needed to address teen pregnancy in communities of color, including the role coercion and violence plays in unintended pregnancy, and invests in getting young people of color the information and skills they need to build healthy relationships.  It further addresses the need among racial or ethnic minority and immigrant communities for culturally appropriate information and education on issues of reproductive and sexual health.


Know Your Rights: A Conference Call for Pregnant and Parenting Students!

Wednesday, August 10, 3pm Eastern

Pregnant and parenting students have a right to equal educational opportunities! Interested? Get more information about protections for students against discrimination.


Court: No tax-funded abortion in healthcare law

"Whether it is possible, under contingent circumstances, that at some point in the future, upon the execution of x, y, and z, that the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] would not prevent taxpayer funded abortion is entirely different from providing for 'tax-payer funded abortion,'" the opinion states. "The express language of the PPACA does not provide for tax-payer funded abortion. That is a fact, and it is clear on its face."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has accepted the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations about women’s health care services that should be provided by all insurers without co-payment under the Affordable Care Act. Among these services are HIV screening and counseling, domestic violence screening and counseling, support for breastfeeding, and contraception. These recommendations will be in effect for insurance policies with plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012. Religious organizations which are opposed to contraception may opt out of having that coverage provided by their insurance.

All Our Lives applauds HHS’s acceptance of the recommendations. Having these vital services available without a co-payment will help more women and children live healthy lives as well as making it easier for women to avoid unintended pregnancy and abortion.

In honor of International Women's Day, we'd like to say "thank you" to our friends and supporters on every continent (except Antarctica — anyone know a very cold supporter of women's rights?)!

We'd also like to draw the attention of our U.S. members to this call to action in support of the International Violence Against Women Act.

An overview of the global figures on violence against women compiled by Amnesty International reveals a horrifying scenario:

  • Only 3 countries in the world have legislation that specifically addresses violence against women as a category of criminal activity (Bangladesh, Sweden and USA).
  • At least 1 in every 3 women globally, has been beaten, raped, coerced into sex, or otherwise subject to physical violence in her lifetime.
  • Up to 70% of female murder victims are killed by their male partners
  • More than 135 million women have been subjected to (FGM) female genital mutilation and an additional 2 million girls are at risk each year (6,000 new cases every day).
  • 79 countries have no (or unknown) legislation against domestic violence.
  • Only 16 nations have legislation specifically referring to sexual assault.

If you live in the United States, please click on this link, to locate and contact your Senator/Representative, and send them an email, telling them to pass the IVAWA.  You can also include in your message a link to http://genderbyteslinks.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/a-call-to-all-u-s-citizens-make-history-please-help-pass-the-ivawa/ for more information.

This Alternet article highlights an important report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on the exploitation of immigrant women in the U.S. food industry. Of particular interest to reproductive peace activists is Section 3, entitled "Sexual Violence: A Constant Menace." The SPLC found that:

  • In a recent study of 150 women of Mexican descent working in the fields in California’s Central Valley, 80% said they had experienced sexual harassment. That compares to roughly half of all women in the U.S. workforce who say they have experienced at least one incident.
  • While investigating the sexual harassment of California farmworker women in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that “hundreds, if not thousands, of women had to have sex with supervisors to get or keep jobs and/or put up with a constant barrage of grabbing and touching and propositions for sex by supervisors.”
  •  A 1989 article in Florida indicates that sexual harassment against farmworker women was so pervasive that women referred to the fields as the “green motel.” Similarly, the EEOC reports that women in California refer to the fields as “fil de calzon,” or the fields of panties, because sexual harassment is so widespread.
  •  Due to the many obstacles that confront farmworker women — including fear, shame, lack of information about their rights, lack of available resources to help them, poverty, cultural and/or social pressures, language access and, for some, their status as undocumented immigrants — few farmworker women ever come forward to seek justice for the sexual harassment and assault that they have suffered.
  •  In interviews for this report, virtually all women reported that sexual violence in the workplace is a serious problem.

Poverty and undocumented status leave these women vulnerable to sexual abuse that they can neither refuse nor report without facing harsh reprisals.

The report also found that farmworkers are exposed to such high doses of pesticides that their health — and, if they are preganant, the health of their unborn children — is at serious risk. Within a seven-week period in late 2004, three children with severe birth defects were born to women who worked in the tomato fields of a single grower.

What can you do? The Alternet article recommends several steps that individuals can take:

But as both Alternet and the SPLC point out, individual actions aren't going to be enough. We need public policy that protects workers from abuse regardless of their immigration status. SPLC has specific recommendations, including bill numbers in some cases. If you live in the United States, please help stop the abuse of the women who help supply your food.