According to new research by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, millions of American women may have been victimized by domestic partners sabotaging their contraception. Typical forms of contraceptive sabotage by men include switching out birth control pills for inactive pills, hiding hormonal contraceptives, or even poking holes in condoms.
While contraceptive sabotage, which is regarded as a form of reproductive coercion, can happen to any age group, the National Institutes of Health say that some groups of girls and women are particularly vulnerable. One study found that teenagers who were using government assistance (welfare) to survive and who were bring abused by a partner were being subjected to reproductive coercion nearly 70 percent of the time.
The most common forms of contraceptive sabotage reported by these young women and girls included men poking holes in condoms or discarding condoms in the middle of intercourse, without the knowledge or consent of their partner.
In order to help women fight reproductive coercion, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends that all gynecologists ask about reproductive coercion during the course of routine exams. Many gynecologists already screen for several forms of abuse during patient visits, and incorporating questions about reproductive coercion and contraception sabotage can help educate patients about these issues.
Reproductive coercion has become an even more important issue in recent years, as new restrictions on abortion providers have made it substantially more difficult for women who are reproductively coerced to obtain a safe and legal abortion. This makes it even more essential for healthcare providers to discuss reproductive coercion with patients before they become pregnant or have an opportunity for their birth control to be sabotaged.
Healthcare providers have developed several innovative ways to help women who are being subjected to reproductive coercion but who are unable or unwilling to leave an abusive partner. For example, if a woman wants to control her fertility and her boyfriend or husband is hostile to the idea of birth control, a gynecologist may be willing to insert an IUD (intrauterine device) with the strings cut short enough that they cannot be felt.
According to the NIH and ACOG, obstetricians and gynecologists should help patients understand that reproductive coercion is a form of abuse, as well as giving them information about the forms reproductive coercion and contraceptive sabotage can take. This information can be given during visits for Pap smears and other routine preventative care. Because of provisions in the new healthcare laws passed by President Obama, most preventative care, including birth control, is free from co-pays on most insurance plans.