COERCION

Approximately 95% of all abortions are undertaken for psychosocial reasons, which generally mean a lack of resources to continue a pregnancy, whether these are practical, economic, relational or supportive. When this is combined with subtle or overt coercion by other people, and by a dominant discourse that offers abortion as a solution for these social inequities, it seems very obvious that coercion toward abortion must be significant.

Coercion also exists in the absence of information and support.

The lack of proposed regulation in Tammy Franks Bill, does not assist the reality of this coercion.

The fact that women are citing coercion as a factor in terminations they have undertaken is a sign that effective and expected screening and informed consent for pregnancy termination is falling short of an effective and protective standard.

Key Recommendations

1. It is essential that coercion to terminate be seen as a phenomena in its own right, not packaged and hidden in euphemisms such as ‘pregnancy outcome control’. The consequences of coercion to terminate are hugely significant on the lives of women and add considerably to the burden of mental health and other emotional issues that they experience.
2. Research on, and education about, coercion to terminate should be a priority at a time when the discourse is rapidly working to further reduce access to necessary supports for women, through legislation and ongoing censorship.
3. Access to independent (not provided by abortion providers) information about, and access to supportive services for women to continue a pregnancy needs to be strengthened and such services need to be more effectively resourced.

WOMEN DESERVE REAL SUPPORT

On 12th September [2018] Dr Carol Portman, one of Queensland’s only later term abortion providers spoke at a Committee Hearing for the Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

When asked if she had ever experienced a woman attending for termination who may be experiencing coercion, her response revealed all that typifies abortion discourse. A discourse that upholds the concept of ‘abortion rights’ above all else, even a woman’s right to be free from coercion, to be entitled to the highest standards of ethical medical care and the right to say ‘no’.
Portman says:
“Sometimes even in the best of circumstances, we understand that a person is to a degree being coerced but feel they still need to go ahead.. because it’s their only choice because otherwise, this person will leave them, and their 4 kids (for example). it’s very hard to know what to do in those circs so you go ahead with what their choice is even though to a degree they are being coerced.”
*Note that not one of the politicians in this hearing committee questioned this doctor about why she would perform an abortion on a knowingly coerced woman.
Let’s try this approach in other settings:
• A woman attends to undergo a breast enlargement saying her boyfriend is going to leave her if she doesn’t have it so she feels like she has to.
• A woman requests a tubal ligation saying her husband is going to leave her if she doesn’t have it done, even though she isn’t really sure.
• A woman says she is having sex every night with her husband or one of his friends, even though she doesn’t really want to, but feels she has to because he will leave her otherwise.
In each case, the woman says this is her ‘choice’ while also talking about ‘not really wanting to’.
I wonder how many doctors would proceed with a cosmetic surgery procedure or a tubal ligation when a woman is clearly expressing doubt or clearly expressing that her partner is pressuring her and she is consenting under coercion?
How many people would accept that a woman having unwanted sex with any person because she is fearful of abandonment or threats of violence is okay?
For more than a decade we have been talking about both direct and indirect forms of coercion toward abortion, and abortion advocates and providers have denied coercion exists or simply stated that if they identified that a woman was coerced an abortion wouldn’t be performed.
It’s not that big a leap from ‘my husband will leave me or hit me’ to ‘I don’t have enough money’ or ‘I will lose my job’ or ‘my school will kick me out’. Yet these types of situations would make up the bulk of those experienced by women seeking abortion and we still dress them up as ‘choice’.

Relevant section of hearing available here: