How the Roe reversal could impact domestic violence survivors

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also visit: https://nnedv.org/

The Supreme Court's reversal on Roe is setting off ripple effects as states implement abortion bans. Among them, rising concern for women abused by those close to them. Natalie Nanasi, a professor at SMU Law School, and Lori Gonzalez from Domestic Violence Intervention Services, a nonprofit in Tulsa, Oklahoma, joins Lisa Desjardins to discuss.

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  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The role reversal isn't enough ripple effects as states implement abortion bans, among them rising concern for women abused by those close to them. Here to discuss this new landscape for those facing domestic violence are two advocates, Natalie Nanasi. She's a Professor at SMU Law School. She joins us from Dallas. And Lori Gonzalez from Domestic Violence Intervention Services, a nonprofit in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    Natalie, I want to start with you and help us with some very basic, big picture understanding here. Where does the pregnancy and choices surrounding pregnancy fit in with abuse?

    Natalie Nanasi, Southern Methodist University School of Law: Well, at baseline, what's really important to remember is that domestic violence is not about anger. It's not about the relationship between the two people, it's really about power and control. And so reproductive rights have a big part to play in that because forcing somebody to get pregnant and then to carry that pregnancy is a way that somebody who is abusing their significant other to continue to perpetuate that power and control over that person.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Lori, your center sees hundreds of people, women facing domestic violence every year in Oklahoma now has one of the strictest abortion bans in the nation. Can you help bring us into the conversations that you're hearing from the women and others you serve? And what questions they're having? What's going on right now in your world?

  • Lori Gonzalez, Tulsa Domestic Violence Intervention Services:

    So the difficulty is, is we have people coming in, and they are afraid of what their future is going to look like. Plus, we have to worry about how pregnancy can escalate the situation, it's actually a danger factor, and can really escalate and cause further harm. Plus, we have staff that are worried that they will do something wrong, and be prosecuted for aiding and abetting somebody who is seeking an abortion.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Help me understand what that means and in terms of counseling, in terms of offering options, even just talking to these women, is that what you mean?

  • Lori Gonzalez:

    Some of the laws in Oklahoma are conflicting. And one of the things my understanding is, is there's the option of, if we are helping a person to get that service, then somebody that's helping could potentially be prosecuted. And I don't know if that's going to come to fruition. I don't know if that's accurate. But there is some concerns that in our desire to help somebody, the advocate could get in trouble as well.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Natalie, from where you sit, is it more clear a legal view of what domestic violence advocates can do or not do right now?

  • Natalie Nanasi:

    No, unfortunately, it's really not. And I think I've been seeing the same thing on the ground here in Texas, where a number of the agencies here that are working with survivors of both domestic violence and sexual assault, are really concerned about this possibility of being sued, of being prosecuted for doing their jobs for just offering options and advice to the people that they serve. And it's that climate of fear that's really existed here in Texas since SB8 was passed several months ago, that has caused people to change the way that they're offering services to these really vulnerable populations.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's amazing, because obviously, domestic violence is happens in a climate of fear, often in a home as well. And I had read that murder, homicide is actually one of the leading causes of death for pregnant women. Natalie, I want to ask you, are you concerned about perhaps an increase in violence?

  • Natalie Nanasi:

    Oh, absolutely. I'm concerned about an increase in violence. And I think you're exactly right, that and as we've already heard that pregnancy is a huge risk factor that can exacerbate existing violence partially again, going back to that concept of power and control that I discussed before, that sometimes an abuser can see a pregnancy as something that is taking that survivor away from the perpetrator, right that hears the pregnancy causes her to care about something more than she might care about him and it's a time that we see abusers really lashing out and committing violence up to and including murder.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Lori, Oklahoma and Tulsa, I don't have to tell you have seen very high levels of domestic violence recently, I'm wondering what your concern is there. And if you're already seeing any change in people who come to you with need after this decision.

  • Lori Gonzalez:

    Unfortunately, people are very concerned that they could get pregnant during the situation, and then they would have even more barriers to escaping than they were in the past. And so there's that part, there's the safety part. And we know that that Oklahoma right now is eighth in the nation for women murdered by men. Last year, we were third in the nation. And so I am very concerned that this is going to make a bad situation even worse.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It's something people don't always talk about, but we really appreciate your time and we're going to want to keep in touch with both of you and see what happens. Thank you so much. Natalie Nanasi and Lori Gonzalez.

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