Reproductive Coercion: The Hidden Threat

Eleonore Bridier Media

Reproductive Coercion is a hidden form of violence and control that can have life altering consequences.

Reproductive coercion is behaviour that deliberately prevents a person from making decisions about their reproductive health. It includes:

  • contraceptive sabotage including “stealthing”
  • Pressuring another person into pregnancy
  • Forcing a person to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy
  • Forcing a person into sterilisation.

The issue is being brought to light with the release of Hidden Forces: Shining A Light on Reproductive Coercion, a policy White Paper to coincide with International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days of activism being led by the United Nations.

CEO of Marie Stopes Australia, Michelle Thompson said that Reproductive Coercion is a vast issue that is only just coming to light, “Reproductive Coercion is intrinsically linked with Family Violence, Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence. And while there has been a lot of urgent and warranted attention on these issues, Reproductive Coercion has gone largely unmentioned until recently.”

The White Paper contains the definition, existing research and data on Reproductive Coercion, its links with Family Violence, Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence. It also contains recommendations and proposals for how to address the issue as well as commitments that Marie Stopes Australia will undertake in order to combat the issue. These commitments include their new policy of providing all staff with 10 days of paid Family Violence leave each year.

“If we are truly to help Australians take control of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, we need to intimately understand the forces that can interfere with autonomy and rights. We need to do our best to make sure we know how to remove barriers and support people so the decisions they make are theirs and theirs alone. This is the heart of our advocacy work.”

Ms Thompson said the White Paper is the culmination of a 20 month consultation process with key stakeholders from across the health, academic, legal, media and political sectors.

“The White Paper brings together as much of the existing knowledge as we can find on the subject and is a coordinated and cooperative effort from many individuals and organisations who are involved in uncovering the issue,” Ms Thompson said.