Legal abortion is widely thought to be a woman’s right and a woman’s choice. But forced and coerced abortion remains a reality for too many women, both worldwide and in North America.
→ Prosecutors in Kansas have charged a man with adding an abortion-causing drug to his girlfriend’s pancakes, resulting in the death of their child. Read story.
→ Glenda Dowis was charged with multiple felonies after attempting to force her daughter to have an abortion at gunpoint. Read story.
→ Edward Babbs was unable to convince his girlfriend, Stephanie Rasbett, to get an abortion. A month before the baby was supposed to be born, he shot Stephanie in the stomach and head, killing her and his unborn son, Jayden. He was convicted of their murders. Read story.
→ A mother has sued Planned Parenthood for failing to follow state laws mandating reporting of an underage girl’s sexual contact with an older man. The lawsuit claims the girl’s stepfather, who pled guilty to two felony counts of sexual abuse, brought her for an abortion after she became pregnant as a result of his abuse. Read story.
→ A madame admitted to trafficking women into the United States and forcing them to perform sex acts. If the women became pregnant, she made sure they got an abortion. Read story.
→ A D.C. Emergency Medical Services supervisor was accused of telling subordinates they could be terminated if they became pregnant during their first year on the job. Read story.
Forced abortion occurs when a woman aborts because of violence or the threat of violence. Abortion coercion happens when a woman ends her pregnancy because of pressure from someone in a position of power or authority over her. Such pressure may involve threats about what could happen to her if she does not abort.
Pregnant women, including women considering abortion, may be at increased risk of experiencing violence from an intimate partner, according to several studies (read here and here). Partner violence and / or coercion can affect the outcome of a woman’s pregnancy.
Pregnancy center personnel work directly with clients who are high risk for being pressured into an unwanted abortion. Centers should ask clients in a sensitive and direct way about their relationships with people who might influence their decision. Care should be taken to screen women for intimate partner violence. Women who are at risk for abortion coercion and / or intimate partner violence should be offered appropriate community referrals and assistance consistent with the services provided at the pregnancy center.
Questions for screening women for abortion coercion:
- How do you think your parents (partner) would react if you told them (him) you were pregnant?
- What did your partner (parents) say or do when you told him (them) you were pregnant?
- Has anyone told you that you risk losing your job, living situation, or an important relationship if you choose to continue your pregnancy?
Questions for screening women for intimate partner violence:
- Have you been hit, kicked, punched, or otherwise hurt by someone in the past year? If so, by whom?
- Do you feel safe in your current relationship?
- Is there a partner from a previous relationship who is making you feel unsafe now?
According to the Allen Parker, Esq., the most common situations where abortion coercion occurs are parent to daughter, partner to wife or girlfriend, and pimp or madame to sex worker. No matter who is attempting to force or coerce an abortion, there is help available.
Pregnancy centers should be prepared to advocate for women who are experiencing workplace pregnancy discrimination or abortion coercion and connect them with experienced legal assistance, available from the Center Against Forced Abortions. In some situations, law enforcement or social services may need to be involved to protect a minor against abuse or neglect, or if there is a threat of imminent violence.
Adapted from Best Practice Insights, a publication of Care Net. To access Best Practice Insights archives, become a Care Net affiliate. This information is generic and provided for educational purposes only. For guidance and advice on specific situations, contact a local attorney.