Reproductive Justice and Intimate Partner Violence

If you really care about
Intimate Partner Violence
Then you should care about
Reproductive Justice
Jill C. Morrison
National Women’s Law Center
202-588-5180 ◊ [email protected] ◊
If you really care about
Intimate Partner Violence
Then you should care about
Reproductive Justice
Jill C. Morrison
National Women’s Law Center
202-588-5180 ◊ [email protected] ◊
About this series
Developed to address intersection between
Reproductive Justice and other progressive
Introduces Reproductive Justice to new
communities that may only know of reproductive
rights advocacy that focuses on abortion and
Educates on RJ’s three components in a context
with which other progressives are familiar.
So far includes…
Intimate Partner Violence (today)
Race Discrimination (October 13th)
Education (October 20th)
Environmental Justice (October 27th)
Please let us know
if there are other issues you’d like to see
explored through an RJ lens!
What is Reproductive Justice?
What distinguishes it from the traditional
reproductive rights movement?
What are its components?
How does it relate to social justice
movements generally?
What distinguishes RJ from the traditional
reproductive rights movement?
The traditional reproductive rights frame focuses
on liberty, autonomy and equality, while the
Reproductive Justice (RJ) movement places
reproductive health and rights within a social
justice framework.
RJ acknowledges that each person’s ability to
effectuate their rights is uniquely shaped by
social injustices including: poverty, racism,
sexism and gender identity discrimination,
heterosexism, language discrimination and
What are the components of
Reproductive Justice?
The right of individuals to:
 have the children they want
 raise the children they have, and
 plan their families through safe, legal
access to abortion and contraception
How does Reproductive Justice relate to
social justice movements generally?
Reproductive Justice requires that all people
have the resources, as well as the economic,
social, and political power to make healthy
decisions about their bodies, sexuality, and
The goal is not governmental non-interference in
reproductive decision-making. To the contrary,
the government plays a key role in remedying
social inequalities that contribute to reproductive
Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), includes sexual,
physical, emotional and economic abuse.
Seen in every demographic, but women of
different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds
experience different rates of violence.
Historic inequities in access to education and
economic opportunity result in socioeconomic
disparities. Poverty, stress, unemployment and
substance use are all predictors of IPV.
If you care about Intimate Partner
Violence, you should care about
Reproductive Justice because a
woman’s reproductive capacity can be
used by her abuser to assert further
control as a component of all possible
forms of abuse—sexual, physical,
emotional and economic.
Social inequality contributes to both IPV
and Reproductive Oppression
Both are rooted in gender roles and reflects belief that
women are inferior; serve limited roles in society.
Poverty, stress, unemployment and substance use are all
predictors of IPV and unintended pregnancy.
Racial and socioeconomic disparities are seen in rates of
IPV and indicators of reproductive oppression such as
unplanned pregnancy, maternal and infant morbidity and
mortality, and foster care placement/termination of
parental rights.
Limited English proficiency and immigration status
isolate victims and prevent access to available resources.
Relationship between IPV and
childbearing/child rearing
One study found that a woman’s odds of
experiencing IPV rose by 10% with each
IPV may contribute to higher rates of
unintended pregnancy due to women’s lack of
power in negotiating contraceptive use.
Unintended pregnancy is a risk factor for IPV.
Restrictions on access to
contraception can further IPV
A woman experiencing IPV has greater
difficulties negotiating contraceptive use with
her partner.
It is especially important that women in abusive
relationships have access to, and insurance
coverage of, methods that are not dependent on
a partner’s cooperation, and that can be used
without her partner’s knowledge.
An abuser may seek to impregnate
his victim against her will
An abuser may try to get a woman pregnant in order to
keep her economically dependent and physically
Health professionals report seeing cases of young men
who use various techniques to control women’s
reproductive lives, including demanding unprotected sex,
lying about “pulling out,” poking holes in condoms,
removing contraceptive rings or patches, and flushing
pills down the toilet.
Intimate partner rape with the specific goal of
impregnating the victim.
Abortion restrictions can further IPV
Waiting periods may force a woman to account for her absence to
her abuser, either allowing him to find out she had or plans to have
an abortion.
Difficulty scheduling an abortion due to the limited availability of
providers may allow an abuser time to become aware of the
Funding restrictions, both public and private, may require a woman
to seek outside financial assistance for an abortion and require her
to disclose her plan. This increases the chances of her abuser
finding out her intentions.
A woman who is unable to have an abortion due to costs, other
access issues or because she is prevented from getting one by her
abuser may carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
IPV during pregnancy
Pregnancy may result in an abuse-free “honeymoon”
period which leads a woman to believe that her abuser
has changed.
Pregnancy may cause additional pressure from family
members and friends to “work things out.”
Abuse may escalate during pregnancy; murder by an
intimate partner is a leading cause of death for pregnant
Pregnancy limits a woman’s ability to leave her abuser,
furthers her financial dependence on him and emotional
ties to him.
Policies that fail to support parents
further IPV
Punitive measures aimed at limiting childbearing
by low-income single mothers (family caps, work
requirements) limit women’s ability to separate
from their abusers.
Unpaid family leave may require a woman to
remain in an abusive relationship for economic
support until she is able to return to work.
States’ failure to enforce child support orders,
unaffordable child care and lack of universal
health insurance all hinder women’s ability to
escape abusive relationships.
IPV and childrearing with an
abusive co-parent
Contact with children used as a pretext to identify
whereabouts of victim, find out details about her
personal life and fuel further threats.
An abuser may also force a woman to stay by
threatening to seek sole custody of her child.
Judges, unaware of the dynamics of abuse, may actually
penalize a woman who is in an abusive relationship by
removing her children from her, instead of invoking the
power of the state to protect her from abuse.
Non-compliance with custody orders, resulting from fear
of interacting with an abuser, may be punished by the
How You Can Combat Intimate Partner Violence and
Support Reproductive Justice
Advocate for access to comprehensive reproductive health care, which
should include provider screenings for Intimate Partner Violence.
Oppose restrictions on abortion access, which are especially burdensome to
women who are experiencing violence.
Support expanded access to contraceptives, including emergency
contraception, so women are not dependent on their partners’ cooperation
in preventing unintended pregnancies.
Support laws and policies that improve economic conditions for low-income
women, so women have the basic financial support to leave abusive
Oppose punitive measures intended to limit childbearing by low-income
women, which present barriers to escaping violent relationships.
Advocate for laws and policies that provide economic support for families,
including child care, health insurance, and support women’s efforts to
become financially independent from their abusers.

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