Eugenics & Contraception, part 34 (FINAL)

Contraception can be an asset, a tool, a path to freedom. Having control over one’s own fertility can be empowering. Hormonal birth control can reduce symptoms of menstruation, or even to stop menstruation altogether. In the United States over 90% of women have used some form of birth control (including barriers like condoms and cervical caps), including Catholic women. 

 A 2011 survey of callers to the National Domestic Violence Hotline found that one in four victims of domestic violence was subjected to birth control sabotage. Birth control sabotage is when one partner interferes with the other’s ability to use effective contraception. This can look like hiding or tampering with pills, refusing to wear a condom, or forbidding their victimized partner from using contraception. 

While the common trope of this depicts a woman puncturing a condom to ensnare a man, the reality is the opposite. Most victims of birth control sabotage are women and most perpetrators are men. Abusive men know that pregnancy and children together are highly effective means of keeping their targets financially or otherwise reliant on them, and therefore less able to leave. That’s why domestic violence victims have unplanned pregnancies and abortions at higher than average rates. 

There is a cultural stereotype of a woman who has had multiple abortions: she’s foolish and slutty, possibly insane, most likely on drugs, and should probably be sterilized for her own good. This doesn’t reflect the truth, that clinic staff are trained to spot multiple abortions in a short timeframe and recognize that as a red flag; that most patients who have three or more terminations are being deprived the right to prevent pregnancy, and that forced sterilization is eugenics. 

Birth control itself is not eugenics. Abortion itself is not eugenics. Eugenics comes when cognitively disabled people are sterilized against their will, when generations of Native children are stolen, when Puerto Rican women are used for experimental drug trials without their knowledge or consent. The racism, ableism, and classism underpinning eugenics socially and financially coerce poor, disabled, single, young, and women of color to control their births more than they would like. That is the real eugenics. 

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