Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reproductive Coercion - Dark Side of Partner Abuse

How could something as dark as intimate partner abuse (aka domestic violence) have a dark side?  It does, and when it is given a name, it is something like reproductive coercion, sexual coercion, or contraceptive sabotage.  Turns out that behind a significant number of  unplanned pregnancies, there's a partner who wants to make sure you are in his life forever, like it or not.

The dark side description isn't about the control and deception that defines reproductive coercion.  It refers to the sad fact that, like the dark side of the moon, there's little light on the subject.  Everybody understands a bruise or broken bone can be partner abuse, but a pregnant belly?  Abuse is not the first thing that comes to mind.

Lynn Harris, writing for AlterNet in 2009, brings reproductive coercion out into the light of day, with women's stories and interviews with experts like Jill Murray:
Jill Murray, Ph.D., a leading author and expert on teen dating violence, does counseling in high school teen-mother programs. Of one recent group, she says, "every single one of the girls was in an abusive relationship, of which the pregnancy or the child was a product."
The problem is so widespread, in fact, that public-health advocates are working to cast teen pregnancy in a whole new light: not as a measure of "promiscuity," or a failure of cluefulness, but rather as a canary in the coal mine of partner violence.
"We have to treat pregnancy itself as a warning sign," says Murray. "I always tell other counselors that I'm training, 'When you see a pregnant teen girl, always, always assess for an abusive relationship, because 99 percent of the time, that will be the case.'   
Harris also describes in the article the first study of coercion in adolescent health literature, conducted by Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in pediatrics at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine.

Dr. Miller has continued her research with results of a crisis line questionnaire, included in the just-released report from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which confirms that "1 in 4 women who agreed to answer questions after calling the hot line said a partner had pressured them to become pregnant, told them not to use contraceptives, or forced them to have unprotected sex."

Dr. Miller is interviewed about her study and the implications in this New York Times article.

WNL comments:  At long last the pressure, threats, coercion, and sabotage around getting pregnant and having, or not having, the baby is coming out of the closet.  The disappointing part is that it's all about adolescents.  Not that young women and girls don't desperately need support to have their own voices heard when it comes to the baby question, but the pressure doesn't let up as women get older.

The dark side, the private side, of intimate relationships - the sex part - is where a lot of abuse takes place, and the more light on the subject the better.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Let "Small Voices" Keep You Company All Day Long

To see more "Small Voices" cartoons and objects inspired by them, visit my Red Bubble Store where you can design your own cards and stuff with my images.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Baby-Making 21st Century Style

The battle lines regarding who can marry who, and right to life versus right to choose fill our media headlines here in the west, but the landscape of baby making and baby parenting is paying no attention.  Market forces, social forces, and advances in medical technology have flowed under and around the controversies to create "The Global Baby", a tiny human not so much conceived as assembled.

Tamara Audi and Arlene Chang explain in this eye-opening article for The Wall Street Journal.
In a hospital room on the Greek island of Crete with views of a sapphire sea lapping at ancient fortress walls, a Bulgarian woman plans to deliver a baby whose biological mother is an anonymous European egg donor, whose father is Italian, and whose birth is being orchestrated from Los Angeles. She won't be keeping the child. The parents-to-be—an infertile Italian woman and her husband (who provided the sperm)—will take custody of the baby this summer, on the day of birth.
That's the opening paragraph, and it gets stranger the further you go into the wild, wild west of medicine as one medical ethicist put it, the world of overseas surrogacy.  Money is exchanged, women donate eggs or act as surrogates, babies move across borders.  Why adopt when you can make your own?

Back in the United States, family lawyer Liz Mandarano asks the next big question, "In the age of alternative reproduction, who are a child's parents?"  Turns out that each and every state has a different laws regarding all the conceivable variations in parentage, and different laws for every situation - think visitation, inheritance, child support.  Furthermore, states may or may not honor the law in the state you were married in, or used to live in.

In her article at Huffington Post, Mandarano concentrates on parentage to illustrate how confusing things are, giving some recent rulings from around the country.  Something called the Uniform Parentage Act, model legislation addressing some of the inconsistencies, has been adopted by only 9 states so far.

WNL wonders what combinations of all the possibilities are going to show up in your child's play group.  Having two mommies or two daddies will be pretty tame stuff before we know it.