What Abusers and “Pro-Family” Conservatives Have in Common

"The pill"

“The pill”

Birth control sabotage is a common form of partner abuse. In a report released by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 25 percent of women callers to the hot line, who voluntarily answered questions about birth control and pressure to get pregnant in their relationships, reported some form of reproductive coercion.

The callers said their partners hid birth control pills or flushed them down the toilet. Some refused to wear condoms or poked holes in them. One woman’s partner became furious when she got her period.

The study’s authors state firmly that reproductive coercion is a form of abuse. Family Violence Prevention Fund president Esta Soler says,

While there is a cultural assumption that some women use pregnancy as a way to trap their partner in a relationship, this survey shows that men who are abusive will sabotage their partner’s birth control and pressure them to become pregnant as a way to trap or control their partner.

Physical and emotional abuse go hand-in-hand with birth control sabotage: Another study on reproductive coercion found that one-third of women using reproductive health clinics (of five studied), whose partners were physically abusive, also said their partners had pressured or forced them into pregnancy, often hiding or destroying contraception.

This tactic should alarm feminists and anti-domestic-violence workers. It also suggests a revealing political analogy.

It seems these ostensibly “pro-family” men, who are busily destroying contraception in pursuit of children, have a lot in common with the “pro-family” (read: anti-reproductive rights) political agenda.

So why aren’t we willing to call the anti-choice agenda abusive, too?

Birth control sabotage

Birth control sabotage

The conservative political agenda is anti-women working outside the home, anti-abortion, anti-birth control, and once upon a time, anti-battered women’s shelters (the better to keep women inside the home and attached to intact nuclear families). Each of these stances, in some way, disempowers women.

It’s easy to see how restricting shelters keeps women under the thumb of abusive men: It’s a no brainer. If there’s no safe place to go, you’re trapped.

The same holds for denying women access to birth control or abortion. If you’re pregnant with this man’s child, you’re attached–you’re trapped, again, by an unwanted pregnancy.

And women who don’t work outside the home tend to have less say within it. Not to mention that a lack of income makes it hard to leave an abusive partner.

The “pro-family” political agenda may claim to uphold “traditional” American values, but for for many young men claiming to want “normal” nuclear families, pregnancy coercion is a form of abuse and control. What kind of “family values” are those?

This is a rerun, I’m on vacation. This post originally appeared on the Ms. Magazine Blog, February 18, 2011

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on March 27, 2015, in feminism, men, relationships, reproductive rights, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I’ve spent a long time wondering why we don’t see this comparison more and more! I think the similarities between the so-called “pro-life” movement and abusive men are countless. I’ve always thought the need for control over women is similar in both and learning that such a high percentage of abusive male partners engage in reproductive coercion only cements this view for me. I think if we looked into the personal lives of many of these conservative anti-choice politicians, we’d find that many of them abusive their wives and female partners.

    I’m very interested in the fact that conservative lawmakers once opposed battered women’s shelters. I’m appalled by this fact. I’ve never heard this before, but it makes a lot of sense to me. It makes sense that keeping women in the homes of abusive men would give them more control over them, and they would be inclined to keep them inside the home under the guise of ‘keeping families together.’ I would be interested to look at the language used in campaigns from then and compare it to the types of things the ‘pro-life’ movement uses today. I think we would see a lot of disturbing similarities.

  2. The irony behind an individual’s motivation to prevent their partner to safe health resources and then abuse them while claiming they are pro choice is defintely cringeworthy. To sabotage the life of someone you claim to love and physically abuse them to a point where they are trapped in your hold is dark and twisted, but to claim that it was for love is psychotic. Women on a daily are forced into these situations and for prolife individuals the lack of safety for the women is of no concern, but what is important to them is the amount of control they will be posess from denying women sexual healthcare. Even worse is that they then deny healthcare and service to the said children that are born into a world of abuse and poverty. If you are going to preach about saving the life when in the womb then you should continue to support that life after birth. It seems to be one big hypocrisy of what will give men more control over women,and it is extremely disheartening.

  3. Pineet Grewal

    Although I never really thought about it this way, I’m not surprised and I couldn’t agree more. At least based on my experience within my immediate and extended family, I can say that society has used women’s ability to have children or love for their children to trap women. Some of the women in my family that have children have expressed the need to stay with their husband despite vocally expressing their unhappiness in that relationship. Many would argue that there are things like child support that could help women out. However, coming from someone that is apart of an Indian/Punjabi family, divorce is not something that is very socially acceptable. Although it is becoming more common in younger generations, it is not something that is promoted within the culture. The reason why I bring this up and as you discussed in the blog, women are always in some way trapped by men that may or may not be a part of their lives. Men are the ones that have shaped modern indian culture and men are the ones that have shaped American culture. It is so sad to me how an abusive partner would want to forcibly bring a child into this world JUST to have some control over his wife. It is so selfish and what is even sadder is that there are many “pro life” people out there that would support this. Many believing they are saving a life when I honestly believe they are just ruining another by supporting this birth despite the mother’s disapproval.

  4. I myself have a child from an abusive relationship and luckily I have an amazing supportive family who help me raise my son while I get myself into a career. When I found out I was pregnant I was scared and willing to try anything to get the father to change so that we could be a family, because financially it was impossible with only me working one minimum wage job(which my hourly wage doesn’t even cover childcare). Pregnancy is a tough thing, plus I was working full time and a full time student during my first two trimesters of pregnancy and my boyfriend at the time was always furious that I was too tired to sex him up. Around the 5 month mark my family and I got him out of the house. I now have an amazing three year old and I’m a single mother.
    My issue now is getting financial help-welfare, food stamps, childcare subsidies, even C.A.R.E through school- without child support from his father. In order to get child support, I have to fill out a declaration of parentage and declare him the father of my son(he’s not on the birth certificate and never will be, and really, why would I want him to be.) So still, after 3 years of single motherhood, I’m stuck in a place where I have to work harder to take care of my family, where it puts me in a position of weakness-one I wont accept- once again in a position of subordination to this man. He could so easily regain power but none of the help I would receive is worth it to me. I think of how much easier it would be if I got enough to help pay for daycare, preschool, diapers, food but I am strong woman with power over my own life and my own family, so I work hard so I can have my own fulfilling career.
    I just recently came to the realization that he got me pregnant on purpose, to keep me stuck. He didn’t like me working, he didn’t like it if I was standing when we were in a group. Anyone telling me what I can and can’t do with my body is abusive, including anti-choicers. Not only are they tryign to tell me what I can and can’t do with my body, they are trying to tell me I need a man to provide for me, even if he’s dangerous.

  5. This post is really disturbing, because it reminds me that some women are just forced and not having control over their own body anymore. When I grew up I heard sometimes stories about women who tricked their men to get pregnant, but stop taking the pill or doing everything to get pregnant so the guy won’t leave her, but I never really thought about it in the opposite way where men trick women into it. It s so wrong and it is such a wake up call to be careful, no matter what.

  6. After reading this post, it made me think back to an NYT article about abortion clinics that were closed down in Texas due to it being “unsafe for patients.” Conservatives who were known to be anti-abortion were behind it. Really, they’re not all that different from these men who abuse their girlfriends or wives and coerce them to get pregnant. These people think they can control the reproductive organs of these women and it’s not right. I hadn’t been aware of how common it was for abusive men to sabotage their significant other’s contraception. In the NYT, 13 clinics were closed causing inconveniences for women who wanted to seek treatment. It meant they had to travel further to find a clinic that was open. I would say that could be seen as a parallel between the conservative, anti-abortionists and the “pro-family” abusers.

    Here is the article:


  7. As others have said, to me this topic seems strange and rare to me even after being exposed to it during lecture. I find it terrible that any man would do such a thing to a woman he most likely loves. I hope in the future this will not be a problem for any woman.

    But thinking about this problem, I hope people facing this issue get knowledge other birth control methods such as Depo-Provera a shot that is once every few months. And if they do not have access to knowing these alternatives, we should find a way to educate all women about these options.

    It is still awful that men would force their wife into pregnancy to keep them together. Can’t they just learn to have a good relationship with them!

    • Thanks for the alternate contraception suggestion. It’s a good one.

      The thing about abusers is that they aren’t really capable of love. Or at best love is trumped by their need to deal with their damaged selves. They’re basically more concerned about themselves than anyone else, And their main concern is to feel a sense of power and status, Which comes from controlling others, And making other people feel lesser-than.

  8. I hadn’t thought about this issue in this way before. some very good points. Makes me think about how religious extremists think they are in the right and everyone else is wrong which is the opposite of practicing what God in my opinion really wants.

    • Interesting how often religious extremists do the opposite of the greatest Commandment: Love. (according to Christian scripture, Which is even Muslims consider sacred)

  9. A woman who allegedly lured a pregnant woman to her home with a false ad, cut the baby out of her body, and let the child die may not face murder charges, because Colorado law does not consider an unborn child a “person.”


    • It’s male partners or the conservative right wing? How about women?

      • Abusive male partners and conservative right-wingers, whether men or women on the right, are obsessed with controlling women. They both want to limit abortion-rights and contraception access. And that makes women more dependent on men, and harder to leave their partners.

    • Right wingers are trying to use this law to limit a woman’s right to an abortion, and hopefully contraception, too. But what they are really trying to do is limit women’s rights and make them more dependent on men. Because the more children a woman has, the more difficult it is for her to be independent.

      But these right-wingers don’t really care about life. The same states that vote against abortion rights and against contraception rights also vote against food stamps for children, the elderly, the working poor and disabled. All of them are more likely to die without food. They are also more likely to vote against Obamacare and Medicaid which also means more people will die because they won’t get medical care. They are also against prenatal care for poor women. And they are against birth-control, which is the most effective way to prevent abortion. If they really thought that abortion was murder would they really want to stop women from accessing the main thing that will keep them from getting an abortion?

      Meanwhile, they try to pass laws against so-called fetal murder in an attempt to make a fetus equal to a human being. But they are really trying to give a fetus more rights than an actual woman has. They try to pass laws that force women to get surgery for a fetus, even though they are against laws that would provide surgery for poor people, to keep them alive. That’s because they are obsessed with controlling women – the real motive.

      If they care so much about life, tell them to start voting for food stamps, higher minimum wage laws, a living wage, Medicaid, Obamacare, prenatal care and contraception.

  10. This line sums it up: “This tactic should alarm feminists and anti-domestic-violence workers. It also suggests a revealing political analogy.”

  11. Yes, I have heard such incidents but, on rare basis! If women have contraception then things can change.

    • And right now in the US people on the far right I’m trying to get rid of birth control! (Even though they also hate abortion, and birth-control is the most effective way at lowering the abortion rate.)

  12. this is critical, important, a wake up call – powerful!!

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