Feeling Under Pressure: Forced Abortion

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Can I Be Pressured into Getting an Abortion?

  • "Choice" and "autonomy" are central ideas when considering abortion. However, many abortions occur because a woman feels she has no choice - either because of her circumstances or because she has been coerced by her partner, family, friends, employers, college, or medical professionals.
  • No woman should ever have to endure a termination against her wishes. Forced abortions are disempowering and can lead to significant trauma. It is your body and your choice!

💪🏻 Discover your inner strengths by taking our Strengths Finder Test!

What Is Abortion Coercion?

Abortion coercion means behavior that causes a woman to consent to an abortion that she would otherwise have refused.

Like all abuse, it’s used to gain power and control over you so that you would do something you are confused or unsure about. This type of intimate partner violence can also be practiced by friends or family and is hard to pinpoint because it often uses measures other than physical violence, such as:

  • emotional manipulation or blackmail
  • embarrassment
  • threats of, or actual infidelity
  • causing financial problems
  • harassment
  • restraining, or taking important legal documents
  • isolation from friends or family

Is Forced Abortion Common?

Forced abortion is not discussed much in the media or other high-profile platforms, so it is easy to believe you are on your own. You are not, and it is not your fault!

Many pregnant women are being coerced to abort.

Statistics differ from country to country, but they clearly show that many women feel undersupported in protecting their sexual autonomy. For detailed information, click on your country:

  • According to a BMJ poll in 2019, a quarter of US women report being subject to control or coercion over their pregnancy. This is especially prevalent among young, African American, and racial minority women.

    According to the New York Times (Feb 2018), seventy-five percent of women who call an abortion helpline feel pressured into having an abortion by the man involved.

  • A 2022 BBC poll found that 15% of British women had experienced pressure or coercion to have an abortion that they did not want.

  • Queensland organization Children By Choice reported in 2018 that one in seven women who seek an abortion are coerced to do so.

  • In Cote d’Ivoire, nearly one in five women reported experiencing reproductive coercion in October 2010.

Is Coerced Abortion Legal?

Click on your country for information regarding laws and legal organizations to protect your rights if you are being pressured to have an abortion.

  • Coerced abortions qualify as forced abortions in the United States. Forcing a woman to have an abortion, including a minor, is illegal in all 50 states. Any individual who attempts to use force or coercion could be subject to criminal or civil liability, including child abuse, fetal homicide, or domestic partner violence.

    Federal and state laws make it clear that any woman’s decision (regardless of her age) to have an abortion must be voluntary and non-coerced. Therefore, no one may make this decision for you.

    Ten states have specific bills prohibiting interference in medical care and decision-making regarding abortion: Arizona, California, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, and Wisconsin

    Under Indiana's HEA 1217 bill of 2022, knowingly or intentionally pressuring a woman to have an abortion is now a level 6 felony with prison sentences of six months to 2 1/2 years.

    Receive help from the Justice Foundation’s Center Against Forced Abortions (CAFA) This organization was created to empower women who are being forced, unduly pressured, or coerced into an unwanted abortion.

  • Canada directly addresses forced abortions in its bill C-510: Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort.

    "264.2 (1) Every one who coerces a female person to procure or attempt to procure an abortion for herself is guilty of

    • (a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
    • (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.

    (2) Every one who attempts to coerce a female person to procure an abortion for herself is guilty of

    • (a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
    • (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months."
  • In the UK, legal protection against coercive abortion is founded on common law and the principle of bodily autonomy. These laws were installed to protect women since forcing a woman to have an abortion can be emotionally damaging to her.

    Doctors are cautious to ensure the women are “willingly and freely” consenting to an abortion. They face jail if they provide abortions without the mother’s explicit consent.

    The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act of 2018 recognizes that pressure and coercion can take many forms, be subtle or blatant, and involve emotional, psychological, financial, and even physical threats, so women's freedom of action is restricted. When women report being victims of coerced abortion, they have recourse to a justice system that supports them.

  • It is considered a criminal offense if you were coerced to have an abortion in Ireland after January 1st, 2019.

    Section 39 of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 states:

    1. A person commits an offense where he or she knowingly and persistently engages in behavior that

    • (a) is controlling or coercive
    • (b) has a serious effect on a relevant person, and
    • (c) a reasonable person would consider it likely to impact a relevant person severely.
  • Australia is on the brink of creating laws dealing with coercive control, but there are no laws penalizing coercive abortion yet. Since reproductive coercion is often subtle, many feel less inclined to report or talk about it and perceive it to be less threatening in their minds.

    An NSW parliamentary committee recommended criminalizing coercive control, described as a “silent, hidden and deathly pandemic” of “domestic terrorism.” 

    Still, you cannot receive medical treatment against your will.

  • There are no laws regarding coerced abortion in Aotearoa. New Zealand has only recently created laws broadly permitting abortion; this has also opened the door more widely to abortion coercion since a woman can only be coerced to have an abortion if it is available.

    Still, you cannot receive medical treatment against your will.

  • According to Bhekisisa, Centre for Health Journalism, forcing a woman to terminate her pregnancy is considered an assault with the intent of doing grievous bodily harm. If convicted, perpetrators can expect fines and imprisonment for up to three years.

    Lawyers Against Abuse can provide you with legal advice.

Am I Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence Regarding Abortion?

Reproductive abuse can be subtle and is therefore not easily recognizable.

If any of these apply, you may be experiencing abortion coercion::

  • I feel rushed.
  • I feel more confused and torn after talking with others.
  • I am being told that abortion will solve everything.
  • I am being told that keeping the baby would ruin my life.
  • I feel as though I have zero say; there is no option for me to keep the baby.
  • Others are directing my decision-making.
  • If I did not want an abortion, I could not get anyone to agree.
  • I feel guilty for wanting to keep the baby.
  • My partner said he wanted/needed me to have an abortion.
  • My partner/parent said they would leave me/kick me out if I did not have an abortion.
  • Someone said they would hurt themselves/me if I didn't have an abortion. 

Abortion coercion is an intrusion into your autonomy. This would stifle your ability to make a decision consistent with your core values and convictions.

✅ Go to How Do I Make a Good Decision for tips on determining the path that is right for you.

It would be difficult to withstand that kind of pressure, and it would make sense that you would want it to stop. You may also feel unsure about what you want. This may cause you to wonder whether you should get an abortion. At the same time, you want to stay true to yourself.

He Wants Me to Have an Abortion

When a pregnancy is unexpected, the baby's father sometimes pressures toward termination, e.g., by

  • threatening to withhold support.
  • asking her to prove her love by having an abortion.
  • driving her to the abortion clinic.
  • threatening to end the relationship.
  • threatening to violate her privacy, e.g., using her nude photos against her.
  • threatening to harm himself or her.

👱🏽‍♂️Take the test: He Does Not Want the Baby, to determine which steps to take.

Your partner's demeanor may be very different from your first encounter. It may be hard to imagine right now, but experience shows that, in time, many men usually adjust to the new situation. In retrospect, many men are glad that she kept the course despite his negative reaction.

For more tips on how to respond to this situation, go to:

➡️ How Do I Tell Him that I Want to Keep the Baby?

➡️ Relationship Status: It's Complicated

👊🏼 ⛔️ Is he threatening to harm you? Remove yourself from his presence as soon as possible and call the police. Your safety is of utmost priority!

🏠 Safe House Near Me

My Parents Don't Want Me to Keep the Baby

Are you still a minor and pregnant? Do you feel unsure of what to think and feel right now — but your parents have quickly taken control and want to handle the situation by making you have an abortion?

Maybe things are happening too fast for you, or you would even like to keep the baby. It seems, however, that your wishes and considerations do not count.

You are probably still financially and legally dependent on your parents — which is expected at your age. You may be threatened with withdrawal of support or being kicked out if you don't comply. Especially young women who are dependent on others (e.g., parents, relatives, partners, employers, etc.) will find it tricky to escape this kind of pressure. Emotional manipulation can also be excruciating.

But even as a minor, neither your parents nor any other person may force you to have an abortion. THESE are the laws that apply to your situation ⬆️.

In the eyes of the law, your parents are no exception, nor is the child's father or any other person who may pressure you to have an abortion. They are all liable to prosecution for attempted coercion.

Knowing this will probably not make you file a police report.

Instead, being aware of your rights can help strengthen your resolve.

Do you already have a clear sense of what you want? It would be understandable if you felt unsure, primarily because of your parents' reaction. Therefore, you may wonder whether to have an abortion or not.

🙎‍♀️Pregnant under 18: Do I have an abortion, or should I keep the baby? Take the Test to discern the path you want to take.

Why Do Some Parents Respond That Way?

It is generally safe to assume that your parents are acting out of good intentions. Maybe they are stumped and see abortion as the only solution. Perhaps your gut instinct is telling you to follow a different path...

Take one step at a time to clarify your thoughts and desires and discover a path where heart and mind coincide.

  • ⛑  You may find our First Aid Test helpful in discerning how to proceed.

ℹ️ Note: Parents often need time to warm up to the idea that you are expecting a baby. Their initial reaction need not dictate the final outcome.

Even if your parents do not come around, support is available for you to keep the baby. Teen moms who cannot continue living with their parents have the option of moving into supported living facilities. An abundance of resources is accessible to you.

📗 Our article Teenage Mom — Is This Doable? addresses possible options during pregnancy and after giving birth regarding housing, finances, schooling, and more.

Abortion Coercion — If It Is Happening to You Right Now

Your situation is probably anything but easy as you wrestle with the pressure you are under while trying to make a good decision. Here is what you need to know:

  • Your choice is legally protected. Abortions cannot be performed against your consent.
  • Having someone to support you can help you strengthen your resolve. Can you think of anyone who would walk alongside you while giving you the freedom to discern which path to take?
  • You may find it helpful to get some physical distance from the person pressuring you.
  • Our free digital resources were created with your situation in mind. We want to be there for you as you discover your unique path. Why not give them a try?

💡 Addressing your most significant concern: Take the Solution Finder Test

📝 My situation: Abortion Pros and Cons Test

👥 How does my personality affect my parenting style? Personality Test

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This is intended as general legal information and education, not specific legal advice. Individual situations and regional laws vary. Contact a local attorney of your choice for specific legal advice.

Authors & Sources


Kerstin Dörbecker, MA Linguistics

Maria Nagele, Social Scientist

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