Australian Women With Violent Partners Are Twice As Likely To Terminate A Pregnancy

    By their mid-thirties, around 16% of Australian women reported having had an abortion, the study found.

    Sophie Keramidopoulos says the relationship between unplanned pregnancy and partner violence is well established.

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    "However, the nature of this relationship is complex and requires context," Keramidopoulos, the counselling manager for national not-for-profit sexual and reproductive health service provider Marie Stopes Australia told BuzzFeed News.

    Australian women with violent partners are more than twice as likely to terminate unplanned pregnancies than those in non-violent relationships, a study published today has found.

    The research, which used data from five surveys of more than 9,000 Australian women, was led by La Trobe University and published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

    Every patient at Marie Stopes Australia is offered counselling.

    "We ask if they are experiencing pressure to terminate and we talk about their pregnancy history, because this is where we can gain an understanding of any current or previous violence or pressure that may be impacting on their decision, and how they have approached their decision-making," Keramidopoulos said.

    "A history of terminations can be an indication that there may have been pressure in the past, so it is important that her current decision is hers and hers alone and that she feels empowered in that decision."

    If patients disclose that the decision to terminate a pregnancy isn't theirs, or if they are unsure about their decision to have an abortion, Marie Stopes Australia won't proceed with the termination.

    "If a patient has children and is in a relationship where violence is present, the decision can often be out of protection for her current children, or she may not want to bring children into a violent environment," Keramidopoulos said.

    This was the case with some women who had accessed the organisation's Choice Fund, which assists women in financial distress to access contraception and termination services.

    "Our understanding of intimate partner violence and reproductive coercion, as a community, is constantly increasing," she said.

    The relationship between unplanned pregnancy and partner violence was explored in Marie Stopes Australia's recently released white paper on reproductive coercion.

    "Healthcare providers have a responsibility to continually improve how we support patients who are under pressure or are experiencing violence," she said.

    "Ultimately our goal is to ensure every person we see has control of their fertility."

    The study's lead author, professor Angela Taft, said as well as the correlation between intimate partner violence and terminations, the research showed links between illicit drug use and abortions.

    "We found if you have used illicit drugs in the last 12 months you are three times more likely to have a termination," Taft told BuzzFeed News. "That is definitely a take home message for drug and alcohol workers."

    She said the data showed 16% of women surveyed had terminated a pregnancy.

    "This research is helpful for abortion service providers to know what to look out for and what should they be trained in so we can reduce the number of abortions," she said.

    The Australian Institute of Family Studies says women are at an increased risk of experiencing violence from an intimate partner during pregnancy, and if domestic and family violence already exists, it is likely to increase in severity during pregnancy.

    If you or someone you know is experiencing violence and need help or support, there are national and state-based agencies that can assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

    Gina Rushton is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Gina Rushton at gina.rushton@buzzfeed.com.

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