Ana's story

Ana* has a one year old daughter who was conceived during an abusive relationship. This included physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and coercive and controlling behaviour. She described how this abuse negatively affected her freedom to make reproductive choices:

‘He was very emotionally abusive. He told me that he couldn’t have children, and then I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t want to continue with the pregnancy as I already had two children from a previous relationship. But he threatened to kill himself if I didn’t give him this chance to be a dad. He then told my other children and my friends that I was pregnant, he posted about it on social media, and he wouldn’t let me contact the clinic about a termination. I went to my GP in floods of tears but he didn’t see the signs that something was wrong in the relationship, and referred me to mental health. I was put under ridiculous pressure to continue with the pregnancy. Of course now that I have my daughter I’m glad that I have her, but at the time it was not something that I wanted.’

Ana escaped the relationship last year, but has continued to experience post-separation abuse. She has not received any financial support from her daughter’s father, and while she receives tax credits for her other two children, for her third child she only receives child benefit.

Ana contacted an advocate working in her local Women’s Aid service in England, who advised her that, due to the coercive and controlling behaviour she experienced from her ex-partner, she could meet the criteria for the two-child limit non-consensual conception exception, and said she would support her to make an application. However, Ana found it very difficult to speak to the advocate about the situation:

‘I couldn’t bring myself to speak to her in person, I had to put it all in an email. It sounds stupid, but I thought that me saying all this stuff about my child means I don’t love her. I didn’t want people to think that because of this process that I’ve got to take my child through, that it means I feel less about her than my other children. It was a really difficult decision to make about whether I want to go through with the application or not.’

Ana tried to find out more about the exception but wasn’t able to find any clarity or reassurance:

‘I don’t understand the process. On the website it says if you need any advice, call the tax credits hotline and ask to be put through to the specialist exceptions department. I tried to do this, but the person refused. He said he couldn’t put me through without me disclosing what I wanted to discuss or without a referral, but I didn’t feel able to tell him, so I put the phone down. It was very insensitive. I don’t know how confidential the process is and I’m worried now – it’s gone through my mind, will my ex find out that I’ve made the application? There’s just not a lot of information out there.’

* All names have been changed.


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