MYTH: Forcing Someone To Stay Pregnant Isn’t a Form of Torture

FACT: Forcing Someone To Stay Pregnant IS a Form of Torture

The concept of torture usually elicits thoughts of water-boarding and bamboo shoots shoved under fingernails and other forms of horrific bodily harm. These actions are frequently represented on television as quintessential forms of torture, and while that fact is undeniable, the likelihood of these circumstances occurring in reality are few and very far between. There are forms of torture however that take place every day, all over the world, without most people ever even realizing it. Abortion bans, contraceptive restrictions, and other forms of forced pregnancy are all acts of torture. 

Categorizing abortion bans or contraceptive bans this way might seem extreme, but torture is actually the most apt description for these policies. Torture is defined as inflicting severe mental or physical pain or suffering on somebody else for a specific purpose. Most of us get caught up in the physical pain and suffering, but solely inflicting mental pain on someone for a specific reason also falls under the category of torture. Forcing someone to get pregnant or stay pregnant against their will, which is what happens when contraception or abortion is banned, inflicts both forms of suffering on a person. 

Mental Health

In terms of mental health pain, not having autonomy over one’s body, one’s choices, or one’s future can result in a myriad of mental health consequences, including but not limited to: depression, anxiety, panic, insecurity, fear, distrust, paranoia, mood swings, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

Physical Effects

With regard to physical suffering, sex in which one of the partners is not given the right to take contraception is actually rape. And pregnancy that is not desired by the pregnant person means 9+ months of nausea, tender breasts, bloating, fatigue, swollen feet, constipation/diarrhea, bleeding, cramping, abdominal pain, frequent urination, headaches, acne, dizzy spells, stuffy nose, leg cramps, sensitive gums, back aches, heartburn, dry eyes, trouble sleeping, shortness of breath, hemorrhoids, and of course contractions, labor, breastfeeding, and postpartum depression. When someone wants to get pregnant and remain pregnant, enduring these symptoms are part of the experience, they are part of the choice they willingly made. When someone doesn’t want to get pregnant or remain pregnant, enduring these ailments is forced suffering, which is torture.

Intent vs Impact

The other aspect that defines torture is the specific purpose behind why the suffering is inflicted. In movies, torture is usually resorted to as a means of obtaining important information from a “bad guy’” to protect national security — pretty cut and dry. Reality is never so simple. For example, some of the people and organizations who want to enact abortion or contraception bans do not intend to inflict suffering as their primary objective. For some of these people, banning abortion and contraception is what they believe to be right and moral — that is their specific purpose, their primary objective for forcing pregnancy upon people. However, regardless of whether pain is the primary objective or an unfortunate side effect when forcing people into pregnancy, it occurs nonetheless. Facts are facts, and the fact is: forcing someone to stay pregnant is a form of torture.


Written by our awesome intern, Tiernan Hebron.