A conceptual re-evaluation of reproductive coercion: centring intent, fear and control

Reprod Health. 2021 Apr 27;18(1):87. doi: 10.1186/s12978-021-01143-6.


Background: Reproductive coercion and abuse (RCA) is a hidden form of violence against women. It includes behaviours intended to control or dictate a woman's reproductive autonomy, for the purpose of either preventing or promoting pregnancy.

Main text: In this commentary, we argue that there is a lack of conceptual clarity around RCA that is a barrier to developing a robust evidence base. Furthermore, we suggest that there is a poor understanding of the way that RCA intersects with other types of violence (intimate partner violence; sexual violence) and-as a result-inconsistent definition and measurement in research and healthcare practice. To address this, we propose a new way of understanding RCA that centres perpetrator intent and the presence of fear and/or control. Recommendations for future research are also discussed.

Conclusion: We suggest that IPV and SV are the mechanisms through which RCA is perpetrated. In other words, RCA cannot exist without some other form of co-occurring violence in a relationship. This has important implications for research, policy and healthcare practice including for screening and identification of women in reproductive healthcare settings.

Keywords: Family violence; Intimate partner violence; Reproductive autonomy; Reproductive coercion; Sexual violence; Women.

Publication types

  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Coercion*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Intimate Partner Violence*
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproduction
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*