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Upholding Reproductive and Sexual Health Options for Victims and Survivors of Domestic Violence

June 22, 2022

PCADV believes in every person’s right to bodily autonomy and to make decisions about what’s best for their lives. Since 1976, our Coalition has worked to support victims of domestic violence in escaping abuse and rebuilding safe and autonomous lives—access to reproductive and sexual healthcare is fundamental to achieving this mission. 

Domestic violence affects nearly one-third of women in the United States, and perpetrators of domestic violence maintain power within their relationships by undermining their partners’ economic security, health, safety, and autonomy to make reproductive and sexual health decisions.

Coercive control and reproductive coercion are tactics used regularly in domestic violence situations. Abusers use tactics such as contraceptive sabotage, knowingly exposing the victim to an STI, forcing sexual contact, inflicting harm with the intent of causing miscarriage, and forcing a pregnant person to abort a pregnancy or carry it to term. Victims risk being trapped in violent relationships if they cannot access safe abortion care. This entrapment can lead to heightened abuse during pregnancy or the abuser killing the victim.

The ability to make decisions about emergency contraception and pregnancy termination after domestic violence victimization is often a critical component of finding safety and healing for victims. These options are necessary for survivors to live independent lives free of abuse. 

The consequences of coercive control on reproductive and sexual health can be prevented if people are allowed to access safe and legal pregnancy termination measures. We oppose any actions—legislatively or otherwise—that limit a person’s right to access sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including safe abortion care.

Privacy is fundamental for survivors seeking safety; they rely on this protection to feel safe seeking help and accessing services. With the Supreme Court overturn of Roe, the constitutional right to privacy has been compromised, putting survivors at risk of additional harm.

Black women and other people of color bear a disproportionate burden of the lack of access to reproductive healthcare options and therefore have been leaders of the movement for decades. In 1994, the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice coined the term reproductive justice to include a comprehensive approach to the right to have or not have children, raise them in a safe environment, and have equitable access to healthcare.

Building on these basic tenants of personal liberty, we support actions and policies that prevent domestic violence and invest in the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians. To us, advocating for broad access to safe abortion includes advocating for strengthening the systems that support individuals and families so that all Pennsylvanians can lead healthy and stable lives free from violence.