|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Men who abuse women physically and emotionally may also sabotage their partners’ birth control, pressuring them to become pregnant against their will, new reports suggest.
Several small studies have described this kind of coercion among low-income teenagers and young adults with a history of violence by intimate partners. Now, a report being released Tuesday by the federally financed National Domestic Violence Hotline says 1 in 4 women who agreed to answer questions after calling the hot line said a partner had pressured them to become pregnant, told them not to use contraceptives, or forced them to have unprotected sex.
The report was based on answers from more than 3,000 women, but it was not a research study, those involved said.
“It was very eye-opening,” said Lisa James, director of health at the Family Violence Prevention Fund in San Francisco, which worked with the hot line on the report. “There were stories about men refusing to wear a condom, forcing sex without a condom, poking holes in condoms, flushing birth control pills down the toilet.
“There were lots of stories about hiding the birth control pills — that she kept ‘losing’ her birth control pills, until she realized that he was hiding them,” Ms. James added.
One respondent described having to hide in the bathroom to take her pill. Another said that when she got her period recently, her partner was “furious.”
The hot line’s report did not include a comparison group and did not gather information about the participants, who were questioned anonymously; nor was it published in a peer-reviewed journal. It was based on answers to four questions posed to 3,169 women around the country who contacted the domestic violence hot line between Aug. 16 and Sept. 26, 2010, who were not in immediate danger and who agreed to participate. About 6,800 callers refused to answer the questions.
Of those who did respond, about a quarter said yes to one or more of these three questions: “Has your partner or ex ever told you not to use any birth control?” “Has your partner or ex-partner ever tried to force or pressure you to become pregnant?” “Has your partner or ex ever made you have sex without a condom so that you would get pregnant?”
One in six answered yes to the question “Has your partner or ex-partner ever taken off the condom during sex so that you would get pregnant?”
The questions were devised by Dr. Elizabeth Miller, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Davis, whose earlier papers on reproductive coercion prompted interest in the subject.
“It’s really important to recognize reproductive coercion as another mechanism for control in an unhealthy relationship,” Dr. Miller said. At the same time, she added, younger women and girls dating older men may be confused by the pressure to become pregnant.
“If you can put yourself in the shoes of a 15-year-old dating an 18- or 19-year-old man, which is not an unusual scenario, and he says to her, ‘We’re going to make beautiful babies together,’ that’s pretty seductive.”
Republicans are looking to wipe out funding for Title X, a 40-year-old family planning program.
The cut would be a hard hit against Planned Parenthood, which received $16.9 million of Title X funding in 2009. By law, the funds must be spent on health care such as contraceptives, pelvic exams, and safer-sex counseling, and cannot be spent on abortion services.
The cuts are part of the continuing resolution, a Republican spending proposal released Wednesday.
Started in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, Title X is the only source of federal funds dedicated solely to family planning and reproductive health. Some 5 million women and men received services through 4,500 community-based clinics in 2008, according to the Department of Health & Human Services.
The House Appropriations Committee said in a Wednesday press release that it would cut $327 million from the family planning program. That would effectively wipe out the program’s budget: for fiscal 2011, Title X was authorized at $327 million and appropriated $317 million.
Republicans were already eyeing the Title X program as ripe for attacks. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has introduced separate legislation that would strip Planned Parenthood of its Title X funding.
But while his legislation bar abortion providers from participating in Title X, the Republicans’ continuing resolution would wipe it out entirely.