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Violence and Reproductive Health

The overall prevalence of violence against women in Canada is 8%.[2] While intimate partner violence may occur at any time in a woman’s life, pregnancy is often considered a critical time during which abuse may be initiated or escalate.[2] The risk of abuse is even greater if the pregnancy is unintended or unwanted.[2][3] In addition, the likelihood of ever having been abused is greater in women seeking elective termination of a pregnancy than the population average.[4][7]

Consider the following statements made by women in a focus group study by Campbell et al.[8] The women were residents of two shelters for women who had been victims of intimate partner violence.

Pan American Health Organization
"I wasn’t allowed to drive a car. If I worked, I worked close to home so I could walk there and walk back. I never had money. He controlled all the money that came into the house"

"They own you when you have a child by him...part of the purpose in having a baby is to control you"

"You can’t always make decisions because all of your decision-making powers have been stripped away from you"

"At one time I had three diaphragms. If he found one and threw it away, that was fine, I could go to my briefcase and get another one"

"He never wanted any of the children, but did not want me to use birth control"

Questions for Consideration:


How have their partners attempted to exert control over these women?


What impact does this control have on the economic status of these women and their ability to make choices about reproduction?


2. Cherniack, D, Grant, L, Mason, R, Moore, B, Pellizarri, R. Intimate partner violence consensus statement. JOGC 2005;27:365-88.

3. Goodwin, MM, Gazmararian, JA, Johnson, CH, Colley Gilbert, B, Saltzman, LE and the PRAMS Working Group. Pregnancy intendedness and physical abuse around the time of pregnancy: Findings from the pregnancy risk assessment monitoring system, 1996-1997. Maternal and Child Health Journal 2000;4:85-92.

4. Leung, TW, Leung, WC, Chan, PL, Ho, PC. A comparison in the prevalence of domestic violence between patients seeking termination or pregnancy and other general gynecology patients. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 2002;77:47-54.

7. Evins, G, Chescheir, N. Prevalence of domestic violence among women seeking abortion services. Women’s Health Issues 1996;6:204-209.

8. Campbell, JC, Pugh, LC, Campbell, D, Visscher, M. The influence of abuse on pregnancy intention. Women’s Health Issues 1995;5:214-223.

All references for this section