November is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we need to discuss the dark connection that domestic violence has to abortion. The Government of Canada notes that pregnancy is a risk factor for intimate partner violence. The Turnaway Study describes how 1 in 20 women reported having been hit, pushed, slapped, kicked, choked, or otherwise physically assaulted by their partner in the 6 months preceding their abortion. This escalated risk of abuse harms both the pregnant woman and her child. It also puts the pre-born child in a situation where they are more at risk of having their life cut short by abortion.
Kiara illustrates this in her story told in the Turnaway Study about why she chose abortion: “I was dating this guy who was a horrible guy in every sense of the word. The relationship was physically abusive, mentally abusive. He stalked me. I was already in the process of breaking up with this boyfriend, and then I found out that I was pregnant.”
The abortion and domestic violence connection
A study done at a Quebec family planning clinic found that women seeking abortion “were at significantly greater risk of having been victims of most types of abuse measured, including lifetime abuse, and of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse in the past year, and they were also more likely to express fear” than women seeking to continue their pregnancy.
This correlation between abortion and domestic violence increases when looking at women who have had more than one abortion. One study out of southwestern Ontario found that women undergoing a repeat abortion “were more likely than those seeking a first abortion to report having been physically abused by a male partner, having experienced sexual abuse or sexual violence…and have experienced substantial conflict with the man involved in their current pregnancy.” Similarly, a study out of British Columbia found that pregnant abused women “were more likely to have had induced abortions before this pregnancy, and particularly more likely to have had multiple (3 or more) induced abortions.”
We want better for women
Being in a relationship with an abusive man is a terrible ordeal for any woman. Finding yourself pregnant in that situation must be terrifying. It’s no wonder that many women in that position seek out abortion as an apparent solution to their problems. But abortion doesn’t actually fix their problems. An abortion doesn’t get a woman out of an abusive situation. It just ends the life of her child while keeping her there.
Frederica Mathewes-Green discusses the influence of hard circumstances surrounding an unintended pregnancy in her book Real Choices. She points out that the appeal of abortion is like that of an eraser: “Denial is an attractive response to many difficult situations in life, and abortion serves denial better than adoption or childrearing would.”
When faced with difficult choices, our natural tendency can tend to toward ignoring the problem and trying to make life return to what it was. The problem with pregnancy is that there is no rewind button. Abortion is not an eraser. You don’t become unpregnant, you just end the life of your child. Meanwhile, the abuse doesn’t go away, nor does it make it easier to leave that relationship.
The pro-life movement doesn’t want to erase or deny women’s real problems. We don’t want to allow abusive relationships to continue, or leave women unsupported and alone. We want to come alongside each woman and help her realize her potential. She might think she can never finish school and have a child, or never have a career and have a child, or a whole host of barriers. But the pro-life message is that women can succeed, can leave abusive relationships, can thrive, without erasing their children.
This November let’s celebrate women’s resiliency, especially those who chose to protect the lives of their child despite facing abuse. And let’s speak empowering words to those stuck in bad relationships that there is help and real solutions are available. Women, deserve so much better than abuse, and so much better than abortion.