Hidden forces: shining a light on reproductive coercion

Found in: Resources on violence against women and girls

Hidden forces: shining a light on reproductive coercion

Reproductive Coercion typically takes three different forms:

  1. Pregnancy coercion, where a woman is forced or manipulated into becoming pregnant
  2. Birth-control sabotage, where a woman is prevented from using contraception, or her contraception is tampered with
  3. Control of pregnancy outcomes, where a woman is forced to continue or terminate a pregnancy.

Reproductive Coercion overlaps with intimate partner violence and sexual violence. It mostly remains a hidden issue. We don’t know how common it is, and it’s very likely (as with most forms of violence against women) it’s very under-reported. The US National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey suggested around 8% of respondents had experienced reproductive coercion in their lifetimes, although the survey only asked about a limited range of behaviours. In Australia, we don’t have any reliable prevalence data. But Queensland organisation Children By Choice reported they’re seeing it in around one in seven women presenting for abortions.

This White Paper is part of a broader effort to address Reproductive Coercion in Australia. In March 2017, Marie Stopes Australia began a process to explore and raise the profile of the largely hidden issue of RC. During 2017 and 2018, stakeholder engagement and consultation sought to define RC and examine approaches to addressing RC through research, policy and practice. The result is this White Paper, which aims to provide a comprehensive reference resource for those working to address RC in Australia and offers recommendations on addressing RC collaboratively and across multiple sectors.

Themes and Issues

Drawing on the submissions and following an extensive literature review, the following themes and issues have been identified and explored in the White Paper:

  • The importance of a clear, targeted definition of RC.
  • The need to explore how RC intersects with FV, IPV and SV.
  • The need to simultaneously address gender inequality and RC.
  • The importance of contextualising RC across multiple communities: adolescents, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people living with a disability.
  • The health impacts of RC, including mental health, sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health and homicide.
  • The role of healthcare professionals in addressing RC, including current support structures and tools, international practices and examples of best practice.
  • The structural drivers of RC, including social, cultural, political and economic.
  • The law as it currently relates to RC.


In order to address RC on a national level the following recommendations are proposed based on the submissions received and available literature:

  • Recommendation 1: Develop a qualitative research base to understand diverse lived experiences of RC.
  • Recommendation 2: Include RC questions as part of the ABS Personal Safety Survey to gain an understanding of prevalence.
  • Recommendation 3: Develop a national data set for induced abortions through review of the WHO’s ICD coding.
  • Recommendation 4: Explore the concept of RC as an early warning indicator of escalation of IPV.
  • Recommendation 5: Embed RC in existing and new policies and plans responding to FV, IPV and SV.
  • Recommendation 6: Develop a national Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Strategy that addresses interpersonal and structural drivers of RC.
  • Recommendation 7: Develop a national healthcare professional training program to address RC in varied healthcare settings.

Hidden forces: shining a light on reproductive coercion: white paper