Abortion and Violence Against Pregnant Women
by Martha Shuping, M.D.
This is based on a handout Dr. Shuping made for widespread use; she sent it to us and we adapted it with her approval. Martha Shuping is a psychiatrist, and wrote several chapters of the book Peace Psychology Perspectives on Abortion, edited by Rachel MacNair.
Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) occurs so frequently during pregnancy that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends screening for violence “at the first prenatal visit, at least once per trimester, and at the postpartum checkup.”
IPV and seeking abortion: “The prevalence of IPV was nearly three times greater for women seeking an abortion compared with women who were continuing their pregnancies.”
Reproductive coercion is a form of IPV in which the male partner uses threats and coercion to enforce his decision regarding the pregnancy outcome (see this article). This can include “forcing a female partner to terminate a pregnancy when she does not want to, or injuring a female partner in a way that may cause a miscarriage” (says ACOG).
An example of reproductive coercion: Valarie Luckenbihl was repeatedly beaten by her partner, Timothy Kindle, who admitted he was trying to terminate the pregnancy. The unborn child died at 22-24 weeks gestation. Kindle was charged with felony assault (see an account here).
A systematic review of 74 studies from all over the world confirmed that intimate partner violence is associated with abortion, and even more strongly associated with repeat abortion. “Women seeking a third abortion were more than 2.5 times as likely to have a history of . . . violence than women having their first abortion.” The editors stated: “Overall, the researchers’ findings support the concept that violence can lead to pregnancy and to subsequent termination of pregnancy, and that there may be a repetitive cycle of abuse and pregnancy.”
Though some women are pressured to abort, others have abortions without telling their partner. But since repeat abortions are even more highly associated with IPV, the abortion doesn’t solve the problem, but perpetuates it. In the U.S., about half of all abortions are repeat abortions; this is similar in many countries.
Screening for violence and coercion during pregnancy and offering resources helps women stop the violence without feeling that she must end of the pregnancy. The study of 74 studies stated that women are rarely screened for violence during pregnancy, but that women say they would welcome this.
Intimate Partner Homicide
Homicide is a leading cause of death during pregnancy. (See articles listed below). In the majority of cases, the murderer is the woman’s intimate partner.
One example is Niasha Delain, who was stabbed to death on Oct. 25, 2008, the day her son Aidan was due to be born. The child’s father, Derrick Redd, was convicted of the murder. He told police he was angry with Delain because she refused to have an abortion. (see stories on the arrest and conviction).
Another example is Tiffany Gillespie, who was killed, along with her unborn child, by Aaron Fitzpatrick. He killed her because of the pregnancy and was convicted of first-degree murder of Gillespie, and third-degree murder of the unborn child (see stories on the arrest and conviction).
Full articles of interest:
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Committee on Underserved Women. (2013). ACOG committee opinion: Reproductive and sexual coercion. Committee Opinion (Number 554). Washington, DC: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Bourassa, D., & Berube, J. (2007). The prevalence of intimate partner violence among women and teenagers seeking abortion compared with those continuing pregnancy. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Canada, 29, 415–23.
Chang, J., Berg, C.J., Saltzman, L.E., & Herndon, J. (2005). Homicide: A leading cause of injury deaths among pregnant and postpartum women in the United States, 1991-1999. American Journal of Public Health, 95(3), 471-477.
Cheng, D., & Horon, I.L. (2010). Intimate-partner homicide among pregnant and post-partum women. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 115(6), 1181-1186.
Coyle, C. (2016). Intimate partner violence. In R. MacNair (Ed.), Peace Psychology Perspectives on Abortion (pp. 9-15). Kansas City, MO: Feminism and Nonviolence Studies Association.
Hall, M., Chappell, L.C., Parnell, B.L., Seed, P.T., Bewley, S. (2014). Associations between Intimate Partner Violence and termination of pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS Medicine.
Horon I.L. (2005). Underreporting of maternal deaths on death certificates and the magnitude of the problem of maternal mortality. American Journal of Public Health, 95(3), 478–482.
Horon, I.L., & Cheng, D. (2005). Underreporting of pregnancy associated deaths. American Journal of Public Health, 95(11), 1879.
Horon, I.L., & Cheng, D. (2011). Effectiveness of pregnancy check boxes on death certificates in identifying pregnancy-associated mortality. Public Health Reports, 126(2), 195-200.
For more from the book, Peace Psychology Perspectives on Abortion, see:
On a similar topic, see: