Department of Family Services

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Michael A. Becketts

Understanding Reproductive Coercion

(Posted 2024 March)

pregnant woman laying on couchReproductive coercion is a term used to describe any situation in which one partner is exerting power over the other in a way that impacts their reproductive health, such as forcing someone to engage in sexual activity, refusing to use contraception or interfering with a partner’s contraception usage, or restricting a partner from seeing a reproductive health care provider.

Reproductive coercion can happen in a variety of ways:

  • Refusing to use a condom or other type of birth control
  • Breaking or removing a condom during intercourse
  • Lying about their methods of birth control (i.e., lying about having a vasectomy, lying about being on the pill)
  • Refusing to “pull out” if that is the agreed upon method of birth control
  • Forcing their partner not to use any birth control 
  • Sabotaging birth control methods (poking holes in condoms, tampering with pills, or flushing them down the toilet)
  • Withholding finances needed to purchase birth control
  • Monitoring a partner’s menstrual cycles
  • Trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease on purpose
  • Forcing pregnancy or not supporting a partner’s decision about when or if they want to have a child
  • Forcing a partner to get an abortion or preventing them from getting one
  • Threatening a partner or becoming violent if they don’t comply with their wishes to end or continue a pregnancy
  • Continually keeping a partner pregnant (getting them pregnant again shortly after they give birth)

Reproductive coercion can also come in the form of pressure, guilt, or shame. Examples include if your partner constantly makes you feel guilty for not having or wanting children with them — especially if you already have kids with someone else.

If you believe your partner is attempting to get you pregnant without your consent or sabotaging your birth control, your gynecologist or health care provider can be a useful resource, especially in helping you understand which birth control options work best for your safety and physical autonomy. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing interpersonal violence, call the Domestic and Sexual Violence 24-Hour Hotline at 703-360-7273 for resources and support. If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

This posting is part of the Department of Family Services' Community Corner where you’ll find timely information about upcoming events, parenting and wellness tips, programs and services, and more! Share these helpful posts with your friends and family. Don't miss out on future postings! Sign up today!

For media inquiries, contact Department of Family Services' Public Information Officer Amy Carlini by email, office phone 703-324-7758 or mobile phone 571-355-6672.

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