In December of 2011, a man in Nova Scotia was convicted as a sex offender. His crime wasn’t that he forced himself on someone, but that he poked holes in a condom in order to “salvage his relationship” with his girlfriend by getting her pregnant. Currently, he is appealing his conviction for the second time. What makes his actions illegal is that, in Canada, the definition of consent can include the stipulation that birth control be used.
America has no such definition of consent. Last September, a Florida man pleaded guilty after his girlfriend unknowingly took a pill that terminates pregnancies (as a side effect) after he switched it out with her antibiotics. This is unquestionably illegal; however there is no legal protection for those who find themselves “tricked” into an unwanted pregnancy.
The narrative of women who lie about birth control in order to ensnare a wealthy man with pregnancy is, according to The Daily Beast, “so pervasive that it is an official topic of discussion during the NBA’s weeklong orientation program for rookie players.” However men are more likely to sabotage their partner’s birth control than women, according to research done by Dr. Lindsay Clark in 2010. Similar research has shown that women who are victims of “reproductive coercion” are often victims of domestic violence as well.
Another study from 2010, this one conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Miller chief of adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, found that 35 percent of women who reported intimate partner violence were also victims of birth-control sabotage.
Yet, according to U.S. law, courts are less likely to convict perpetrators of reproductive coercion if the sex was consensual, regardless of whether or not that consent was predicated on the agreement to use birth control. Advocates for these victims suggest that reproductive coercion and birth-control tampering are akin to rape, because it is a clear case of a woman’s partner trying to control her body.