Refuge, a charity that supports victims of domestic abuse, said restricting a woman from having control of her body amounted to a form of abuse, while other groups said it infringes on her fundamental human rights.
Earlier this week, the Free Britney movement gained new momentum after the pop star spoke in court for the first time about her controversial conservatorship.
In her statement, Britney claimed that she is unable to make major personal or financial decisions without the approval of her father, Jamie Spears, who is her permanent, sole conservator. The claims included having to take medication against her will, being denied access to her finances and being forced to perform.
A court granted Jamie permanent conservatorship over Britney in 2008 after concerns were raised about her mental health following her divorce from Kevin Federline in 2007.
Earlier this year, a lawyer for the singer requested a hearing where Britney could address the court directly after she lost an appeal to have Jamie removed as her sole conservator in November 2020.
Detailing the conservatorship’s effect on her life and wellbeing, Britney told the court she wants to have a baby but has not been allowed to have her IUD, a form of contraception, taken out. Also known as a coil, an IUD is a small T-shaped device made from plastic and copper, that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
“I want to be able to get married and have a baby,” she said. “I have an IUD inside of myself right now, so I don’t get pregnant. I wanted to take the [IUD] out so I could start trying to have another baby.
“But this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have children – any more children,” she continued.
Britney’s father responded to her claims, telling the court “he is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain”. “Mr Spears loves his daughter very much,” the statement added.
Refuge said, if true, Britney is being subjected to “reproductive coercion”. “Restricting a woman from having control over her body and her reproductive health is a form of abuse,” Lisa King OBE, director of the charity’s communications said.
“Reproductive coercion can take many forms – from male partners refusing to wear condoms, to stealthing, to forcing women to have abortions, or making enforced contraceptive demands.”
She said it is important for women to know that they alone should have control over their sex lives and bodies.
“It is unacceptable for any woman to be forced to continue with a contraceptive against their will,” King added.
One study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2018, found that one in four women report reproductive coercion at a sexual health clinic at some point in their lives.
The reports covered a wide range of behaviours, including not being allowed to make decisions about becoming pregnant, forceful control over when contraception is used and stealthing, the act of removing a condom without consent.
The Women’s Equality Party, which campaigns for gender equality, said it is horrifying that Britney is being prevented from making decisions about her own body.
“Women’s reproductive rights, especially disabled women’s, around the world are being attacked and policed – whether that is with barriers to safe, free and legal abortions, access to contraception, or the right to remove contraception and choose to have children,” a spokesperson said.
“Bodily autonomy is a human right and fundamental to women’s equality – until you have one, you cannot have the other.”
In its guidance for ensuring humans rights are respected in the provision of contraceptive services, the World Health Organization states that “people should be able to choose contraception but also to refuse it”.
“Forcing any individual to continue to use a method of contraception against their wishes raises significant human rights concerns,” the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) told The Independent.
The group‘s own research, published earlier this month, found that Black women and women of colour, and those with physical or mental health issues, felt more pressured to accept contraceptive methods.
“Long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (like the IUD) can be a brilliant method that gives women the most effective protection against unwanted pregnancy,” a BPAS spokesperson said.
“But like all technologies, it can be used to control as well as liberate. No woman should feel pressured into using any method of contraception based on judgments about her sexuality or suitability for pregnancy and parenthood.”
Anyone who requires help or support can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline which is open 24/7 365 days per year on 0808 2000 247 or via their website www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.
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