A woman’s legal right to safe abortion has been precedent for nearly 50 years. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld women’s reproductive rights in the landmark Roe v. Wade case. Yet a leaked Supreme Court draft on May 3, 2022, threatens to undo that decision. And while heated opinions continue on both sides, one thing is for certain: denying access to reproductive healthcare will only increase the severity and frequency of domestic violence in America.
The Link Between Domestic Violence and Abortion Rights
A 2014 study conducted by the BMC Medicine Journal followed abused women with unintended pregnancies for two years. The participants who successfully had abortions were less likely to experience continued violence. Those without access to reproductive healthcare, turned away at a clinic, and otherwise forced to carry a pregnancy to term saw increased domestic violence incidents.
The reason, says the study, is that women forced to give birth are tied forever to their abuser. Those who successfully terminated their pregnancies were more likely to escape the abuser and prevent future violence.
It’s important to note that victims of domestic violence are more likely to seek an abortion than those not in abusive relationships. Abuse victims say there are several reasons why they are more likely to seek an abortion:
- Sexual assault resulting in an unwanted pregnancy
- Fear of being permanently tied to the abuser
- Fear of what would happen to a child should the pregnancy continue
- “Reproductive coercion,” a method used by abusers to trick or persuade their partners to get pregnant against their wishes
Without access to safe abortions, domestic violence victims could face increased threats of harm. In fact, going through with a pregnancy can be dangerous for victims of abuse. In many cases, domestic violence only worsens during pregnancy, putting the victim’s life at risk.
A Survivor’s Right to Choose
Many states are passing so-called “trigger laws” that would outlaw abortion effective immediately after a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. In some cases, these laws even restrict or prohibit abortion in cases of rape or incest. For victims of assault, being forced to continue a pregnancy would be unnecessary added trauma to an already horrifying experience.
Furthermore, domestic abuse and sexual violence are more commonplace among marginalized communities. These communities already lack access to healthcare, paid leave, and other necessities that would allow pregnant people to support themselves and a child. Together, these barriers only serve to keep victims with their abusers or struggling to make ends meet on their own.
The right to reproductive choice is essential to a survivor’s mental, emotional, and physical health. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence published an opinion about the leaked Supreme Court decision, stating in part, “being forced to carry a fetus would cause profound harm to victims and survivors of domestic violence both for the duration of the pregnancy and long after.”
Protecting victims of domestic violence means allowing them to take control of their own bodies and their own destinies.
How to Protect Survivors’ Rights
Supporting domestic violence survivors means supporting their rights to bodily autonomy. Without legal, safe access to abortion, victims of intimate partner violence may never escape their abusers.
How can you help? Start by contacting your national and state representatives, encouraging them to pass legislation that would protect the right to choose. Get to the ballot box and vote for pro-choice candidates who will protect victims of domestic violence.Finally, if you or someone you know is in an abusive environment, seek help. It’s never too late. Read here to learn more about leaving an abuser safely and becoming an advocate and ally for survivors.