We've all heard horror stories about someone hiding or destroying contraceptives, or poking holes in a condom. There's a term for that: birth control sabotage. But is it illegal?
The major concern: Contraceptive sabotage forces one partner into having unprotected sex. That could result in reproductive coercion -- a.k.a. a baby that someone thought he or she took steps to prevent. Or even more dangerously, it could lead to a sexually transmitted disease.
Part of the problem is that sexual and reproductive coercion are not common terms. But even if more people understood and reported it, would it be a crime?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists seems to think it is, or at least they're grouping it in the category of violence against women, reports U.S. News and World Report. In an upcoming medical journal, they assert that birth control sabotage is an under-recognized problem.
Their definition of this kind of violence also goes further than just poking holes in condoms. They include instances where a young woman is forced to have unprotected sex or otherwise coerced in relation to reproductive choices.
While what the organization is doing is certainly admirable, their idea of "reproductive coercion" doesn't necessarily fit well into the law. Why? The professions use different definitions.
According to these medical professionals, sabotaging methods of birth control is "violence," what the law might call an assault. So does coercing someone to have sex. And so does exposing someone to an STD.
But the law sees things differently.
Coercing someone to have sex obviously falls under rape laws. There are specific personal injury claims you can make against someone who exposes you to an STD. And sabotaging birth control isn't something that's commonly charged as a crime, although it might fall under fraud.
The legal and medical communities talk about things differently, which means the term "violence against women" can encompass different things.
But the law certainly protects victims of violence. Both state and federal laws criminalize sexual violence and physical violence, against both women and men. There are also civil claims a victim can make to receive compensation. To provide help and guidance, there are attorneys who focus on helping victims.
Birth control sabotage and reproductive coercion may not become legal terms, as parts of those acts are already encompassed in various statutes. But victims can still seek recourse and protection under the law.
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