An exploration of perceived contraceptive coercion at the time of abortion

Contraception. 2018 Apr;97(4):329-334. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2017.12.009. Epub 2017 Dec 15.


Objective: To explore patient experiences of contraceptive coercion by healthcare providers at time of abortion.

Study design: We conducted a qualitative study of English-speaking women seeking abortion services at a hospital-based clinic. We used the Integrated Behavioral Model and the Reproductive Autonomy Scale to inform our semi-structured interview guide; the Scale provides a framework of reproductive coercion as a lack of autonomy or power to decide about and control decisions relating to reproduction. We enrolled participants until thematic saturation was achieved. Two coders used modified grounded theory to analyze transcribed interviews with Nvivo 11.0 (Κ=0.81).

Results: The 31 women we interviewed from June 2016 to March 2017 were all in the first trimester, and predominantly young (mean age 27±5 years), non-Hispanic Black (52%) and Medicaid-insured (68%). Some participants (42%) reported feeling "pressured" into choosing some form of contraception. A subset of participants (26%) voiced that providers seemed to prefer LARC methods or were "pushing" a specific method. Several participants perceived pressure to choose any method due to providers' preference to prevent repeat abortions. Conversely, participants who were offered a range of methods through the use of decision aids and who were given time to deliberate demonstrated more reproductive autonomy.

Conclusions: Almost half of participants perceived a form of coercion around their contraceptive counseling. Coercion manifested in perceived provider preference for specific methods or immediate initiation of a method. Participant narratives involving decision aids to offer a range of methods and time for deliberation demonstrated greater reproductive autonomy and less coercion. Abortion stigma may mediate potentially coercive interactions between patients and providers.

Implications: This qualitative study explored contraceptive coercion at the time of abortion. Findings highlighted provider pressure to initiate contraception, LARC preference, and abortion stigma. Offering many methods and opportunity for deliberation supported autonomy and satisfaction. Findings inform ongoing efforts to improve contraceptive counseling and promote reproductive autonomy, while addressing unintended pregnancies.

Keywords: Abortion; Coercion; Contraception; Counseling; Qualitative; Shared-decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior
  • Coercion*
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology
  • Contraception*
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Family Planning Services / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Perception
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned / psychology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Stigma
  • Young Adult