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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Advocates worry new barriers to reproductive health may impact survivors of domestic and sexual violence

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©Travis Duncan Photo
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In June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Missouri outlawed all abortions except in cases where the pregnant person’s life is at risk – with no exceptions for rape or incest.

This has many advocates worried – especially those working in domestic and sexual violence prevention.

I sat down with Matthew Huffman with the Missouri Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence to talk about how this recent decision could impact survivors in Missouri.

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Provided by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
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Matthew Huffman: So, for any survivors of sexual violence in Missouri, you know, I think that there are two things that come to mind at the moment.

One is, we know that limiting or removing survivors’ privacy and autonomy – further traumatizes survivors of rape and abuse because it removes their ability to make choices for themselves.

"Unplanned pregnancies can increase the risk of intimate partner violence, and reversely intimate partner violence increases the risk of unplanned pregnancies."
Matthew Huffman

And so, I think for many people, right now, it could be retraumatizing to think about that loss of control, but it can also just be really scary and really isolating at the moment to know that this is now a necessary health care option that is going to be even more difficult to access should you need it.

Rebecca Smith: Yeah, and then for those who are survivors or dealing with domestic violence – how could this impact them?

Huffman: So, something that we know is unplanned pregnancies can increase the risk of intimate partner violence, and reversely intimate partner violence increases the risk of unplanned pregnancies.

Because we know that pregnancy can increase a person's vulnerability to abuse. We know that people who are abusive and cause harm can often exercise reproductive coercion and control over their partners.

And we also know that survivors of intimate partner violence who experience reproductive coercion are less likely to be able to make comprehensive family planning decisions for themselves because of the dynamics of power and control present in that abusive relationship.

Smith: What are you hearing from your community partners throughout the state about their concerns, both for themselves as providers, you know, not necessarily of abortions – but of care and resources and education?

If you need a caring individual to just have a safe and confidential conversation, if you are someone who is feeling really traumatized or triggered – we have caring advocates around the state who are ready and there to help."
Matthew Huffman

Huffman: So, an advocates’ job is and has always been to provide options to survivors.

So, the Dobbs ruling really limits advocates ability to do their job, and it creates additional barriers for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and incest – from accessing the necessary health care options that they need.

So, I think, unfortunately, it puts advocates in a really tough spot where the options for survivors are even more difficult to access.

That being said, if you need a caring individual to just have a safe and confidential conversation, if you are someone who is feeling really traumatized or triggered, if you're someone who is currently experiencing abuse – yes, we have some very heavy news that we're still dealing with and we have a lot of uncertainty in what's ahead of us – but we also have caring advocates around the state who are ready and there to help.

If you or anyone you know needs help, please 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.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.