Ethical Issues in Providing and Promoting Contraception to Women with Opioid Use Disorder

Journal of Clinical Ethics 33 (2):112-123 (2022)
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Women with opioid use disorder (OUD) face unique challenges meeting their reproductive goals. Because the rate of unintended pregnancy in this population is almost 80 percent, there has been a push to increase the use of contraceptives among reproductive-aged women with OUD.1 The patient-level ethical issues of such initiatives, however, are often overlooked. This review discusses the ethical issues in two realms: obtaining contraception when it is desired and avoiding contraceptive coercion when contraception is not desired. It is important that access to reproductive education and care be improved to ensure autonomous decision making by women with OUD. It is also necessary to be mindful of the history of oppressive and coercive contraception and sterilization policies in the United States. These policies have left a legacy of mistrust and continue to be manifested in the form of more subtly oppressive policies in contemporary medical practice. Such policies point to the ongoing stigmatization of, and implicit biases held against, women with OUD. Based on these ethical issues, solutions are suggested at the clinical, systemic, and societal levels.



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