Pregnant lesbian and bisexual women who seek abortions are more likely than are their heterosexual counterparts to be the victims of violence by the men who impregnated them, a new study finds.
Rachel K. Jones, PhD, of the Guttmacher Institute, New York, and her associates also found that these sexual minority women, plus a group of individuals who described their sexual orientation as “something else,” were much more likely to report exposure to sexual and physical violence.
“No patient should be presumed to be heterosexual for any reason, including a pregnancy history. All pregnancies – like all patients – should be treated as unique and operating within the dynamic and interconnected circumstances of peoples’ lives, which may encompass differences in sexual orientation and exposure to violence,” the researchers wrote. Their report is in.
Previous research has suggested that nonheterosexual women are more likely than are straight women to become pregnant unintentionally. There also are signs suggesting that they have more abortions, too, although the findings are iffy, the study authors wrote.
For this study, Dr. Jones and her associates examined questionnaire answers of 8,380 women who responded to the Guttmacher Institute’s 2014 Abortion Patient Survey. All were undergoing abortions at 87 U.S. nonhospital facilities that performed 30 or more abortions each per year.
Of the sample, about 9% declined to describe their sexual orientation. Of the rest, 94% described themselves as heterosexual; of those, 41% were white, 28% were black, and 22% were Hispanic. Most were in their 20s, 47% were never married, and 48% had incomes below the federal poverty level.
Women also described themselves as bisexual (4%), “something else” (1%), and lesbian (0.4%). All these groups were more likely than were heterosexuals to be below the federal poverty level; more than half of the lesbian and bisexual respondents said they had previously given birth.
Fifteen percent of lesbians said their current pregnancy was caused by forced sex, compared with 1% of heterosexuals and 3% of bisexuals. (P less than .001).
Bisexuals (9%) and lesbians (33%) were more likely than were heterosexuals (4%) to say the men who impregnated them had physically abused them. The same was true for sexual abuse, which was reported by 7% of bisexuals, 35% of lesbians, and 2% of heterosexuals. After the researchers controlled for various factors including age and race, lesbians remained much more likely to report physical abuse, sexual abuse, and forced sex at the hands of the men who impregnated them (odds ratios = 15, 25, and 10, respectively, P less than .001).
“Exposure to physical and sexual violence was substantially higher among each of the sexual minority groups compared with their heterosexual counterparts, sometimes by a factor of 15 or more,” the study authors wrote. “We found that lesbian respondents had the highest levels of exposure to violence, perhaps because this population was more likely to have had sex with a man only in the context of forced sex.”
The researchers noted that their study has various limitations, such as low numbers of sexual minority women and the 4-year gap since the data were collected.