Objective: To increase our understanding of how intimate partner abuse may limit women's reproductive choices.
Methods: Findings were obtained from a larger study involving interviews with 38 women participating in a hospital-based domestic violence program. We asked participants whether and in what ways their abusive partners had limited their ability to choose whether or not to have children. Content analysis was used to identify main themes.
Results: Thirteen (34%) participants reported that partners had limited their ability to choose whether or not to have children. Seven of these women described tactics to try to get them to have children, and 7 reported being pressured or forced to have abortions (1 woman reported both). Two women underwent sterilization in response to the abuse. Four of the 13 women reported contradictory behaviors by their partners around family planning, such as not allowing birth control, then demanding that the participant terminate the pregnancy.
Conclusion: Women described several ways in which their abusive partners controlled or attempted to control their reproductive lives that have received little or no prior attention. Further studies are needed to determine the prevalence and consequences of these behaviors, particularly the extent to which women in abusive relationships feel coerced into sterilization or abortion.