What Abusers and “Pro-Family” Conservatives Have in Common

Birth control sabotage has been revealed to be a common form of partner abuse. In a report released earlier this week by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 25 percent of women callers to the hot line, who voluntarily answered questions about birth control and pressure to get pregnant in their relationships, reported some form of reproductive coercion.

The callers said their partners hid birth control pills or flushed them down the toilet. Some refused to wear condoms or poked holes in them. One woman’s partner became furious when she recently got her period.

The study’s authors state firmly that reproductive coercion is a form of abuse. Family Violence Prevention Fund president Esta Soler says, “While there is a cultural assumption that some women use pregnancy as a way to trap their partner in a relationship, this survey shows that men who are abusive will sabotage their partner’s birth control and pressure them to become pregnant as a way to trap or control their partner.”

And physical and emotional abuse go hand-in-hand with birth control sabotage: Another study on reproductive coercion found that one-third of women using reproductive health clinics (of five studied), whose partners were physically abusive, also said their partners had pressured or forced them into pregnancy, often hiding or destroying contraception.

This tactic should alarm feminists and anti-domestic-violence workers. It also suggests a revealing political analogy.

It seems these ostensibly “pro-family” men, who are busily destroying contraception in pursuit of children, have a lot in common with the “pro-family” (read: anti-reproductive rights) political agenda.

So why aren’t we willing to call the anti-choice agenda abusive, too?

The conservative political agenda is anti-women working outside the home, anti-abortion, anti-birth control, and once upon a time, anti-battered women’s shelters (the better to keep women inside the home and attached to intact nuclear families). Each of these stances, in some way, disempowers women.

It’s easy to see how restricting shelters keeps women under the thumb of abusive men: It’s a no brainer. If there’s no safe place to go, you’re trapped.

The same holds for denying women access to birth control or abortion. If you’re pregnant with this man’s child, you’re attached–you’re trapped, again, by an unwanted pregnancy.

And women who don’t work outside the home tend to have less say within it. Not to mention that a lack of income makes it hard to leave an abusive partner.

The “pro-family” political agenda may claim to uphold “traditional” American values, but for for many young men claiming to want “normal” nuclear families, pregnancy coercion is a form of abuse and control. What kind of “family values” are those?

Photo via Flickr user nateOne under Creative Commons 3.0.


  1. It breaks my heart when I think of the women I know who are in relationships like these. Most of them don't know how to get out of their situation. Unfortunately, it seems as though some western countries are embracing this direction. It's impossible for me to see why the thought of embracing women as equals still frightens so many men and women???

  2. If men can poke holes in their condoms then I think women should be able to poke holes in their penises.

  3. Does Ms. Magazine have a special section for logical fallacies, or are these pretty much spread evenly throughout the mag?

    Lemmee see if I've got this straight:

    A) Some abusive men deny birth control to women.
    B) Pro-family conservatives may wish to deny birth control to women
    Therefore: C) Pro-family conservatives are the same as abusive men.

    Which is logically no different than:

    A) Hitler liked blonde women
    B) Hugh Hefner also likes blonde women
    Therefore: C) Hugh Hefner is a Nazi

    Serously, if this is the cutting edge of feminist philosophy, no wonder more and more young women don't want to be associated with the word "feminism"

    • The argument is more accurately described as:

      A) Some abusive men deny reproductive autonomy to women in an effort to control them.
      B) Some pro-family conservatives may wish to legislatively deny reporductive autonomy to women
      Therefore C) Pro-family conservative policies that would deny women reproductive autonomy are controlling and thus abusive.

      You're welcome,

    • The article is titled "What Abusers and “Pro-Family” Conservatives Have in Common"

      "Have in common" is different that "are the same."

      In your logical construct, your conclusion follows your premises as night follows the day.

      But your premises are false, and for a logical conclusion to be true, the premises must also be true.

      All dogs have 6 legs
      This animal is a dog
      Therefore, this animal has 6 legs.


    • see my reply earlier – abuse is abuse ia abuse….ad nauseum!

  4. I would love to see this spotlight on a dark underside of “family values” reach many readers in the U.S. and in other cultures as well.

  5. “The conservative political agenda is anti-women working outside the home, anti-abortion, anti-birth control, and once upon a time, anti-battered women’s shelters (the better to keep women inside the home and attached to intact nuclear families).”

    Wow, you have a grave misunderstanding about what the conservative political agenda is. Rape, battery, and abuse, or any disfranchisement toward women is not pro-family, nor is it a part of the conservative agenda. Please don’t making sweeping generalizations for an entire political group that represent more than half of the country based on a small idiotic faction.

    • >>Wow, you have a grave misunderstanding about what the conservative political agenda is. Rape, battery, and abuse, or any disfranchisement toward women is not pro-family, nor is it a part of the conservative agenda.

      It seems to me that if you look at what conservatives do, and weigh that against what they say, you might come to a different conclusion.

      A question: Many conservatives like to deride Democratic Party goals and values, saying they are creating a "mommy state." At the same time, many conservatives like to proclaim they are the guardians and promoters of "tradition family values."

      How can they deride the core family value of mothering?

      And, given the fierce protectiveness mothers are known for, how can they use "mommy-ism" as a perjorative?

      I don't understand these conflicting attitudes….

  6. STUMBLE UPON thought I'd be interested in this article.

    Readers might be also interested to search "Family Violence Prevention Fund" on my site. There is major government funding behind stating what women already know — abusers try to control many aspects of life, including reproduction.

    I'm a domestic violence survivor, family court veteran, and became a noncustodial mother OVERNIGHT because federal funding programs — direct to the courts — which are being used, as best we understand, for payoffs TO court professionals or "paraprofessionals" to simply switch custody from fit mothers to various forms of "perps," especially if there is some family wealth to be drained in the process.

    I also am quite aware of the role of the churches / conservatives in this matter; I'm a Christian AND a feminist, and no longer attend church. Readers should check out the California NOW Family Law page (CANOW.org) especially the RIGHT side of lines, to get a scope of how the family courts themselves, in origin, are founded on something between a perpetual business plan for "mental health professionals" alongside attorneys (etc.) AND tax fraud, i.e., the primary organization in the courts, AFCC (and associated "CRC" Children's Rights Council), didn't basically incorporate til its slush fund was caught by an irate grandparent. … This is taxpayer fraud, affecting all of us.

    Much as I'm not a "fundie," and understand (probably better than whoever wrote this article) that the White House office of Faith-Based Initiatives is not good news for women, I also live in the FVPF area, have attended one of their conferences, and tracked their literature. Taking substantial federal funding from (and collaborating with) "Fatherhood" grants (CFDA 93.086, Promoting Healthy Marriage/responsible Fatherhood) and from very conservative foundations (such as Annie E. Casey, et. al) that re pro-father, and clearly conservative — and then quoting this is hypocritical, and a betrayal of women — and men, for that matter.

    I've had 10 years of abuse (just about) til I filed to get out, and since then 10 years in the "Family Court Services" etc. scenario — and can testify that conservatives are not the only ones with a dark underbelly. My children were removed from me at the incitement of a paranoid brother in law and my sister, who'd had two abortions, then apparently decided that she wanted kids — MINE — but not full responsibility for them. Add to that the existing anti-woman family law scenario, and it's bad news for all, especially the children. When I saw these behaviors, I altered my position (not to 100% fundie, obviously, or Catholic) on abortion. The sister who aborted for convenience and so she could do her profession without taking full responsibility for day to day parenting, seems to have decided that she was missing something in her life, and it was OK to destroy several other people's lives in the process of getting it back in from me — rather than through legal means that would require screening, such as adoption, or being a foster parent. The degree of dishonesty, bribery, virtual extortion, and deceit that is involved in these systems — AND in the Domestic Violence Prevention agencies who don't address it — is a thing to be hold.

    Dr. Phyllis Chesler, long-time feminist, is currently sounding the alert on honor killings v. traditional "domestic violence" (murders, which happens), shari'a law, and the Middle East Situation. I have been attempting to alert her to how religious groups in the US are thinking a modified form of shari'a is not a bad thing for the country. This dialogue comes in the form of "fatherhood" promotion — at public expense, cancelled out by "DV" funding which refuses to address the family law fiasco. As so many women are mothers, doing so is a travesty.

    Visit my site, and just google FVPF, and stick around for a while. Especially Jan 2011 posts, and a certain one in October 31, 2010 (I think), "DV awareness month," which I pegged "DV INDUSTRY awareness month."

    Most issues are more about the money than the ideology. Stop focusing on batterer personality and start analyzing business organizations, and you'll get much closer to the underlying truth. Yeah, religion is part of it, but the primary religion is greed. We have women being stalked and terrorized for speaking about this, and feel the safest thing we can do, in response, is to publicize. Learn how to handle more than sound bytes, OK? Thanks.

  7. I've seen plenty of men misled about birth control. I haven't seen proof of a lot of this sort of activity. However, its possible men don't talk about it. In three years they will probably be in family court complaining about paying child support, however the pregnancy happened.

    Having a child in a society like the US is a deadly serious matter. I've been an attorney for 25 years and I continue to be astonished at how little many people think about it. That is clearly changing however. The fertility rate for college educated men and women in America is plummeting.

    If conservatives want those lovely traditional families, they had better make sure they're equipped with a decent job, access to good schools and health care, at least for the kids. Attempting to force or trap people into reproduction in a modern industrial society will be a disaster.

    My wife and I would have liked to have had a house full of kids, but we couldn't see how we could pull off all the homework, college funding and attention that required. My grandmother had five children. My mother had three. My wife and I had one.

  8. kudos.

  9. Abusers demand sex where all of him touches her – then he beats her up when she turns up pregnant – he will go so far as to destroy her birth control method. when she refuses sex without protection she will also get beat her up. its a no win situation with an abusive partner – my first hand experience working almost 18 years in domestic violence.

  10. In other words, conservative men will do anything to prevent their partner from having other men’s kids. It’s no wonder domestic violence is high among conservative couples/families versus liberal ones. Liberal men, on the other had, will just divorce, separate, or even forgive their wife for cheating and getting pregnant with their manstresses’ (male mistress) children.

  11. So are you seriously claiming that more men try to trick women into pregnancy than women do men?


  12. It happened to me. 1.5 years into marrage I was accused of adultery with college teacher. I was getting fed up with obstruction & contemplating divorce when I became pregnant with our first child. When I went to refit diaphragm it had a hole, larger after drying out.

    This is no sure thing.

    I went back to school & this time I was ruthlessly beaten. I hesitated leaving. The first time we tried to have sex, I got up for the diaphragm, but was pushed down on my face so he could “finish.” I think assault qualifies as coercion.

  13. Most of these men don’t want their women to cheat on them, wind up pregnant with their manstress’s baby, male mistress, and leave their families so they trap their women into having their children only. It’s called paternity uncertainty.

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