Pregnant women are more in danger of dying by homicide from intimate partner violence than any other cause of maternal death, including sepsis and haemorrhages

Women in the US are more likely to be murdered during pregnancy or soon after childbirth than to die from the three leading obstetric causes of maternal death, which include high blood pressure disorders, haemorrhage, or sepsis.

Professionals in The BMJ today acknowledge that these pregnancy-associated homicides are ‘entirely preventable’, as they are linked to intimate partner violence and firearms.

The way these homicides could be dealt with is by ending male violence and gun violence, which could save the lives of hundreds of women and their unborn children in the US every year.

The recent dismantling of women’s reproductive rights in the United States brings further urgency to these issues

These homicides are ‘entirely preventable’

Due to gun laws being extremely relaxed in the US, pregnant women everywhere are at a higher risk of dying from partner violence. Unfortunately, the US has a higher prevalence of lifetime, and past-year intimate partner violence than other high-income countries and homicides by an intimate partner in the US are overwhelmingly committed using guns.

One in three women report experiences of violence, including physical, sexual, or psychological abuse by a partner in their lifetime.

Estimates reckon that guns were used in 68% of homicides around pregnancy between 2008 and 2019, with Black women at substantially higher risk of being killed than White or Hispanic women.

Black women are at substantially higher risk of being killed

To worsen statistics, few perpetrators of intimate partner violence are ever convicted.

For instance, reproductive coercion, a common aspect of intimate partner violence, increases the risk of unintended pregnancy, while restricting access to abortion endangers women as unwanted pregnancies potentially amplify risks in abusive relationships.

Additionally, rates of domestic homicides can be linked to state-level rates of gun ownership and firearms legislation – and many loopholes allowing access to firearms remain.

Guns were used in 68% of homicides around pregnancy

One in three women report experiences of abuse

As pregnancy increases women’s interactions with healthcare providers, they may be better presented with opportunities for screening or other approaches to help women experiencing or at risk of violence.

Such interventions may help stop a pattern of abuse that could lead to homicide. However, these efforts must sit alongside urgent work to reduce all forms of violence against women.

“A shocking situation linked to a lethal combination of intimate partner violence and firearms,” say experts, stating that the recent dismantling of women’s reproductive rights after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the US also brings further urgency to women’s issues.


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