Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting Knocked Up

I don't know with certainty whether my exhusband intentionally sabotaged my birth control or not. I DO know that his attitude on finding out I was pregnant was smug, a warden's grin. He'd gleefully remind me, while thumping his finger on my rotund tummy, "Gotcha bitch!" And he was right to an extent. The ONLY reason I married him was because I got pregnant. The ONLY reason I took him back after leaving him was because the pregnancy test came up positive. And abusive men know this tactic often works.

In a recent survey of calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in 4 callers reported that her male partner was sabotaging her birth control, or otherwise trying to force or coerce her into pregnancy. Why on earth would a pregnant woman be more likely to stay with an abusive man than a non-pregnant woman? Well, for a lot of us, earning potential pretty much disappears by the second or third trimester. Women with high blood pressure, low fetal weight, or an incomplete cervix (which may open early, causing still-birth or miscarriage) are often prescribed weeks or even months of bed rest, leaving them completely dependent on another for care.

Then there's the fact that most birth mothers have a strong, natural, biochemical desire to be with their children. Women who are mothers have decreased earning potential for their entire lives, compared with women who are childless (and compared with men, who do not face decreased earning potential no matter how many kids they father.)

When I see these "Personhood" bills introduced in states across the US, attempting to give a fetus more right to a woman's body than she has, I can't help but think of birth control sabotage. If a man gets me pregnant, by lying to me, deceiving me, tricking me, or tampering with my birth control, these states are saying that he had more right to impregnate me than I have right to stop it. When states try to make abortion impossible to access, they are hurting women in abusive situations, forcing them to birth children into poverty and/or abuse, and causing them to have greater dependency on men who are essentially rapists.