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Unplanned Pregnancies: It's Not Just About Irresponsibility

It’s not news that young American women and teens are getting pregnant unintentionally in pretty significant numbers. In fact, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that as many of half of all pregnancies are unintended. And while we often assume this is the consequence of everything from irresponsibility, to abstinence education, our terrible health care system, and even that special brand of religious thinking which allows for sex but not contraception, a recent study has found that there is another contributor as well: abuse.

The study, "Pregnancy Coercion, Intimate Partner Violence and Unintended Pregnancy," which was published online in the January issue of the journal Contraception verifies what a lot of young women could have told you: there is a pretty serious relationship between intimate partner violence and unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.

The study looked at 1,300 English- and Spanish-speaking 16- to 29-year-old women and found that among their sample, one in five young women said they experienced pregnancy coercion. Additionally, “Over half the respondents -- 53 percent -- said they had experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. More than a third of the women who reported partner violence -- 35 percent -- also reported either pregnancy coercion or birth control sabotage.”

So what’s in it for the guy? A lot actually. Forcing a young woman into pregnancy can prove a guy’s masculinity. It is also a pretty good way for him to create a bond with his partner that will be hard for her to break. Plus, in a lot of these cases, it’s not as if the guy had to change his life a whole lot.

When it comes to unplanned pregnancies, it is pretty easy to simply put all the blame on casual sex, or the failures of birth control. But it seems that if we really want to address this issue, we are going to have to tackle some of the even more complicated relationship issues facing young women today.