Supporters fear that new barriers to reproductive health could affect survivors of domestic and sexual violence
Supporters fear that new barriers to reproductive health could affect survivors of domestic and sexual violence

Supporters fear that new barriers to reproductive health could affect survivors of domestic and sexual violence

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In June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and Missouri banned all abortions, except where the pregnant woman’s life is in danger—with no exceptions in the case of rape or incest.

This concerns many lawyers, particularly those concerned with preventing domestic and sexual violence.

I sat down with Matthew Hoffman of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to discuss the implications of this latest decision for survivors in Missouri.

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Submitted by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

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Matthew Hoffman: So, for all the survivors of sexual assault in Missouri, you know, I think two things come to mind right now.

One is that we know that restricting or removing survivors’ privacy and autonomy increases rape and abuse survivors’ trauma because it robs them of their ability to make their own decisions.

“An unplanned pregnancy can increase the risk of partner violence, and conversely, partner violence increases the risk of an unplanned pregnancy.”

Matthew Hoffman

And so I think it can come as a shock to a lot of people right now to think about this loss of control, but it can be very scary and very isolating right now to know that this is a necessary care option right now. Hard to get to if you need it.

Rebecca Smith: Yes, and then for survivors or those dealing with domestic violence – how might this affect them?

Hoffman: So something we do know is that unplanned pregnancies can increase the risk of partner violence, and conversely, partner violence increases the risk of unplanned pregnancies.

Because we know that pregnancy can increase one’s vulnerability to abuse. We know that people who abuse and cause harm can often exercise reproductive coercion and control over their partners.

We also know that survivors of intimate partner violence who experience reproductive coercion are less likely to make elaborate family planning decisions for themselves due to the power and control dynamics present in that abusive relationship.

Smith: What do you hear from your community partners across the state about their concerns, both for themselves and for health care providers, who, you know, not about abortions per se, but about care, resources, and education?

If you need someone who just cares to have a safe, confidential conversation, and if you’re someone who is truly traumatized or aroused — we have caring advocates across the state ready to help.”

Matthew Hoffman

Hoffman: So the job of a lawyer has been and always has been to provide options for survivors.

So Dobbs’ ruling limits the ability of advocates to do their jobs, and creates additional barriers for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and incest — to access the necessary health care options they need.

So I think it unfortunately puts the defenders in a really difficult situation where the options for survivors are hard to come by.

However, if you need someone who just cares to have a safe and confidential conversation, or if you are someone who is actually traumatized or aroused, and if you are someone who is currently being abused – yes, we have some really hard news as we are still dealing with and we have a lot of uncertainty about What lies ahead – but we also have advocates who are interested in the state and ready to help.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. For the Deaf Crisis Line videophone, call 321-800-3323 or text HAND to 839863.

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