A Community of Hope

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A Community of Hope
Unwanted pregnancies can prolong domestic abuse

By Joan LeMole, New Hope Midcoast Development Director

Conversations around recent court decisions regarding Roe v. Wade often focus on political agendas. But the effects of these decisions also have enormous economic and social justice impact. For victims of domestic abuse, empowerment plays a key role in moving toward safety and self-sufficiency. The overturn of Roe v. Wade impacts freedom of choice and the consequent ability of domestic abuse survivors to lead full and productive lives.

Violence and pregnancy go hand-in-hand. A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that homicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S. during both pregnancy and postpartum, two of the most vulnerable periods in a woman’s life. One in six victims of domestic abuse state that they were first abused during pregnancy. The trauma continues when a woman is forced to carry to term a child that was conceived through abuse.

Unwanted pregnancies are often a result of sexual coercion. Abusers may prevent their victims from using birth control or sabotage their attempts to use it. They may force their victim to obtain an abortion or prevent them from obtaining one. Those who do carry to term are 37% more likely to experience obstetric concerns. Children born in these circumstances start far behind those born of wanted relationships that are free from abuse. Social, emotional and educational delays are only some of the disadvantages. Many develop mental health and physical concerns. Abusers may use children as pawns to monitor their victim.

Individuals with the fewest resources and less access to resources stand to bear the brunt of the consequences of recent decisions regarding Roe V. Wade. Marginalized individuals, including those in BIPOC, transgender, LGBTQIA+ and immigrant communities, feel most deeply the cascading, downward spiral that forced pregnancy can incite and the devastating impact of a pregnancy that results from abuse. Efforts to improve their lives, while already challenging, may now be nearly impossible.

Some survivors of domestic abuse rely on abortion to protect themselves. New Hope Midcoast offers a full spectrum of options to support survivors. Our empathic, trained advocates can connect individuals to Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (SAFE) who care for victims of sexual assault/abuse, provide expert, trauma-informed care, and collect forensic evidence that may be used in court. We work closely with area hospitals and healthcare centers in Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo Counties and provide emotional support at the hospital if desired. Our collaborative approach includes working in partnership with law enforcement to help ensure that victims and survivors are protected.

Domestic abuse is rooted in the belief that one person can control and dominate another. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the precedent set in Roe v. Wade undermines the importance of giving control back to the victim, impedes their ability to move forward, keeps victims tethered to their abusers, and cements the fact that unwanted children – many with high needs and without the resources to meet them - will be born. Freedom to choose is what determines our destinies. New Hope Midcoast stands firmly with the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence: oppressive conditions such as forced pregnancy do not pair with the diversity and dignity we seek to achieve and celebrate.