When abortion is the man’s choice
[Today’s guest post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind ClinicQuotes.com.]
Abortion is touted as a woman’s choice, but according to one study, 64% of women feel pressured into abortion by their partners. Men may pressure their partners into having abortions because they do not want a child and do not want to pay child support.
A common way that men influence women to have abortions is by threatening to leave them. Sometimes a woman is so emotionally dependent on her partner that she is willing to sacrifice her baby in order to keep his “love.” Other times, the threat of physical violence or financial dependence is a factor. But, unsurprisingly, these efforts to keep the relationship intact often fail. Many times, the man will leave the woman anyway, or resentment and regret about the abortion will drive the couple apart.
Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote a book compiling testimonies of post-abortive women. One testimony was that of a woman named Eunice. Eunice was influenced by her husband to have an abortion, but even at the last moment, she wanted him to come charging in, like the stereotypical white knight, and halt the procedure:
“When I was at the clinic waiting for the abortion, I kept hoping my husband would show up. I kept hoping he would come in and say, ‘Don’t do this! I changed my mind!’”
Several months later, the couple divorced – the emotions related to the abortion were just too much for them to deal with.
Another story in Mathews-Green’s book is that of Kate, whose husband was experiencing health problems when she got pregnant:
“Nobody asked me, ‘Is this really what you want?’… I was hoping and praying that someone, my husband, would come in and stop it from happening. But he was totally opposed to what I wanted to do. I felt like I was just being selfish, wanting the child; it was too much of a burden on his health.”
I asked how her husband’s health is now; she responds that he’s fine, but he isn’t her husband anymore. He left her a few years ago.
A study done in 1985 found that 70% of relationships broke up after an abortion. [Vincent M. Rue, “Abortion in Relationship Context,” International Review of Natural Family Planning, Summer 1985, p 105.] This is an old study, but it shows that guilt and resentment can tear apart a relationship in the wake of an abortion. Perhaps this would be a good area for further research. A more contemporary study could verify the 1985 study’s conclusions.
I remember one of my friends from high school, and how she sobbed into the phone 20 years after her abortion. She had been a 16-year-old impressionable teenager when she slept with her boyfriend and got pregnant. Her boyfriend, who was several years older than her, insisted she get an abortion. His mother also put pressure on the girl, telling her that he would definitely leave her if she didn’t have the abortion. According to my friend, this woman sat her down and convinced her that her boyfriend would resent her forever if she had his unwanted child. She aborted. Within a week of the abortion, he left her. She became suicidal and depressed and spent time in a mental hospital. All the while, she kept her pregnancy and abortion a secret, even from me. Years later, she would tell people that she had suffered a miscarriage. It took her 20 years to even express what happened to her, and she still deals daily with the trauma of the abortion. She misses her child, whom she has named.
The sad truth is that a man who will pressure a woman to have an abortion against her will is not the type to stick around anyway. As hard as it is, women need to fight the coercion that they sometimes face from their partners. Crisis pregnancy centers and other pro-life groups need to be sensitive to the problem and be there to help and support the women find the courage to resist.
This is really, really important to talk about. It's really hard for me to respond to this, because I was once that sixteen-year-old girl; that could have happened to me had things been different.
Honestly, I don't even know what we can do about this except to be aware, sensitive, and supportive, and to support the overall empowerment of women. It should be absolutely imperative for abortion clinics to screen for domestic abuse and demand informed, voluntary consent, but we know they're not going to do that.
I thought it'd be helpful to link to this piece: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2011/07/why-does-she-stay-with-that-jerk.html (warning: the rest of that blog can be very NSFW) to maybe understand some of the reasons why people tolerate abuse. Yes, coercing one's partner into an abortion is abuse–domestic abuse and child abuse–and should be treated as such.