Pregnant women can experience violence from their partners; so can women who willingly decide to terminate their pregnancies. Known as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), this issue is “significant yet preventable,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and “affects millions of women regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or educational background.”
What is IPV?
The ACOG defines Intimate Partner Violence (what once was called Domestic Violence) as “a pattern of assaultive behavior and coercive behavior that may include physical injury, psychologic abuse, sexual assault, progressive isolation, stalking, deprivation, intimidation, and reproductive coercion,” which can include forcing a partner to become pregnant or forcing a woman to have an abortion, even both. Various studies have found that about 20 percent of teens and young adults and about 16 percent of women ages 18 to 44 have experienced, or are currently experiencing, reproductive coercion.
These behaviors are done by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate/dating relationship with another; the acts are aimed at establishing control. According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1 in 3 American women have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. The information issued by the ACOG states that about 324,000 pregnant American women are abused annually; sometimes that abuse results in the death of the woman’s unborn, the woman herself, or both.
Is Abortion the Answer to IPV and Pregnancy?
Even though pregnant women experience Intimate Partner Violence, so also do women who abort, especially those who terminate multiple times. In a study conducted by several researchers, including Megan Hall, Lucy Chappell, and Bethany Parnell, and published in 2014, findings show that “intimate partner violence is associated with termination of pregnancy and that a woman’s partner not knowing about the termination is a risk factor for intimate partner violence among women seeking termination.” The researchers further concluded, “violence can lead to pregnancy and to subsequent termination of pregnancy, and that there may be a repetitive cycle of abuse and pregnancy.”
Findings indicate that intimate partner violence rates among women having one or more abortions ranged from a low of 2.5% to a high of 40%. Even the smallest percentage of women experiencing IPV is too high. Abortion is not the answer to curbing this violence. As another study reports, women who have had an abortion may experience and even intensify Intimate Partner Violence and that the more abortions a woman has, the more likely she is to experience such violence from her intimate partner.
In a study conducted in Finland and cited by U.S. researchers, “compared to women who carried to term, women who had aborted in the year prior to their deaths were 60 percent more likely to die from natural causes, seven times more likely to die from suicide, four times more likely to die of injuries related to accidents and fourteen times more likely to die from homicide. Researchers believe that the higher rate of deaths related to accidents and homicide may be linked to higher rates of suicidal or risk-taking behavior.” Studies in Denmark and other countries came to similar conclusions.
What to Do?
Health care providers who care for women need to be more greatly aware of the signs of IPV in all women, including pregnant women and women seeking abortions. Medical professionals need to ask questions and not allow an intimate partner to control the conversation or answer the questions for the patient; medical providers need to also look for signs of physical, as well as emotional, abuse.
For women who endure Intimate Partner Violence, though you may be scared, you need to speak to someone in confidence. That can include your health care provider or a nurse at a pregnancy center, such as True Care. There are safe houses in many communities and people available to help you.
If you are in an abusive relationship, whether you’re pregnant or not, please seek help. If you live in Casper, contact the Self Help Center at 235-2814.
You can also contact a national hotline listed below:
National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or
Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
For your safety, and that of your unborn if you are pregnant, please inform someone of your situation and get the help and services you need and deserve.