Married People Open Up About What Abortion Was Like For Them

How abortions affected their relationships, in their own words.
Women and men share why they terminated their pregnancy and how it impacts them today.
Nick Dolding via Getty Images
Women and men share why they terminated their pregnancy and how it impacts them today.

Women on social media have rightfully had a lot to say about abortion, using hashtags from #youknowme to #ShoutYourAbortion. But as anti-abortion legislation moves forward in several states, men who’ve supported a partner through the abortion process are speaking up too.

Read through the tweet replies to #youknowme, for example, and you’ll find plenty of men opening up about their experiences with abortion.

Some of the men’s significant others had the procedure early on in the relationship, before the couple was financially or emotionally ready for a baby. Others say their wives’ health was at risk.

Couples often come into clinics for the procedure together and deal with the sometimes emotional aftermath of the abortion together too.

The onus shouldn’t just fall on women to trot out their deeply personal stories and trauma every time anti-abortion legislation is proposed or passed. Men who support abortion rights have a story to tell too.

We asked women and men in relationships to share why they terminated a pregnancy, what things were like immediately afterward, and how it impacts their families today. Here’s what they had to say.

Antonio B., 56

“My wife, who was then my girlfriend, and I chose to get an abortion in 1986. We had been in a relationship for three years at that time. I had just left college and she was in her final year of college. When we found out she was pregnant, she told me she didn’t feel we could provide a stable environment for a child and that she wanted to pursue her degree. We both agreed that getting an abortion was the right choice at that point in our relationship. My wife was raised Catholic and had struggles with the decision on a religious basis but ultimately decided that it was best, given our inability to provide financially and the impact a baby would have on her educational pursuits.

“My belief is, having a child has a bigger impact women ― it affects their career choices and all aspects of their lives ― so men need to support women choosing when to have a child. And the truth is, the decision to have an abortion really didn’t affect our relationship. We continued our relationship and ultimately married and had three children. We celebrated our 28th anniversary this past April.”

Jake J., 34

“My wife and I had been talking about kids from very early in our relationship, and raising children together was a driving factor in us getting married when we did. And then, just like that, we were pregnant. Like, right away! And we were ecstatic. But then we found out the fetus had birth defects of the brain. We tried to bring up abortion with our obstetrician, but the hospital was funded by a state-funded university and he wasn’t allowed to even allude to it.

“We went to another state for the procedure. There were people outside protesting. It was... traumatic. After that, we had a sad stage in our relationship. We avoided each other, we dove into work, we partied a little too hard, but then slowly over time it got better, and we got better. We currently have a 5-year-old daughter; she’s probably the coolest person I know.”

“My husband and I made the decision to terminate the pregnancy after being married for four years and having two children together. The pregnancy came at a time when I knew I would not be able to care for three young children. I knew my limitations as a mother and made the decision, along with my husband, with this in mind. He was working long days and I had made the decision to leave my full-time employment for a freelance career. We could not afford day care for two children and could not rely on family to help out ― both our parents were working full time. I wanted to be the best mother possible for my children at home and valued my own mental health. I knew having another baby at that time in our lives would have destroyed our marriage. We eventually had another child, but when we were ready.

“In the proceeding months, we talked little about the abortion. I wanted to forget the experience and tried hard to remind myself I should not feel guilty. But I did think about it often, although did not tell my husband. At times I felt angry. At times, sad. He would later learn more about how I really felt when I shared my story online. Writing my story was cathartic, but so was the experience that followed. My husband and I spoke about it again, this time more deeply. Reliving the experience in a public space online was frightening, but my husband was a good support system. And I have heard from hundreds of women throughout Canada and the U.S. who have reached out to me saying my story has comforted them, given them strength and made them feel less alone.”

“We avoided each other, we dove into work, we partied a little too hard, but then slowly over time it got better, and we got better.”

- Jake J., 30

Tula, 31

“We had an abortion in 2012, after three years of marriage. I was feeling really energized and thought it was a good time to try for a second baby. I got pregnant right away, but as with my first pregnancy, I had pain with it. My partner was in the military and my primary care manager (PCM) said my care was out of their hands. I had to wait to see the OB-GYN to consult about an abortion, but that was a three-month wait. My PCM thought it was just anxiety since my first pregnancy went terribly ― I had preeclampsia. I was scared about that. I was very cognizant of timelines and windows for abortion, but my pain was so bad, I didn’t want to wait that long. It only took me a week to decide to get one, and my partner was mostly up for whatever I wanted.

“Believe it or not, the abortion didn’t affect us as a couple, at least compared to the issues leading up to it, which I guess says a lot about how relatively ‘small’ of an issue it is for us. My partner was already really frustrated about my pain, and other things around work, and also thought it was just anxiety. But he was there, and really sensitive to my needs about the baby. He didn’t try to pretend he understood or anything. We both commiserated over how much we wanted the kid, but we still had our first daughter.

“Today, we’re alright. We’ve been together 12 years this December and have two kids. About nine or 10 months after my abortion, I had surgery to remove my gallbladder, which made me feel vindicated. I got pregnant with third child, purposefully, a couple weeks after my surgery stitches dissolved. She’s five now and super awesome. My only issue is that I did want my other kid. I think that weighed on me more than my spouse. But we’re all OK.”

Patrick, 31 (Tula’s husband)

“My wife had preeclampsia with our first child, so pregnancy was kind of dangerous. We wanted another child, but it was just at a time when everything was up in the air. And I’d rather have an abortion than my partner die. I mean, live to reproduce another day, you know? It was better that we waited until I was closer to being out of the Army, because I wasn’t in a good headspace and it would have been hard with her health struggles.

“I’m of the mindset that life does not begin at conception; I just simply don’t see life there. It’s sad that we’ll never know that kid, but we have another one and it’s great. It affected us. I had to provide emotional support for something I didn’t have emotions about. Our relationship now is fine. I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t go back and redo it. Whatever happened, the end result is, we’re happy. At the end of the day, I think the life of my partner is more important than a pregnancy.”

Scott R., 47

“It was 2009. We’d been married 13 years and been together for 19. We had our third child in 2008. I had offered to get a vasectomy earlier, but I had testicular cancer that I beat when I was 20. My wife didn’t want me getting ‘fixed.’ Though we were careful, things happen. Our third child was not a sleeper and took a toll on us. We weren’t ready for another emotionally and financially. We both agreed quickly but I left it all up to my wife and I supported the decision. We went to a local clinic and they sent us home for a week as it was too soon to properly detect. That was hard. It was a chemical abortion. It was painful. All this talk and new laws hurts.

“Ours might have been seen as a more ‘selfish’ reason, but the choice must be available. There are so many cases where it would be truly devastating to a person or family.”

The decision to get an abortion isn't one that couples take lightly.
Hero Images via Getty Images
The decision to get an abortion isn't one that couples take lightly.

Jeanette O., 45

“I already had two children. After a failure of birth control, I got pregnant a third time at age 38. At that point, I couldn’t physically carry children after back surgery and a disc disease. My husband and I were looking at a nurse who was telling us it’s our choice but it really wasn’t. I’m not young, I have a jacked back. All my doctors said, ‘You can’t physically carry a child.’ My husband and I debated me going on bed rest for the pregnancy, but at the time, we had a young son who needed us. I was in a wheelchair and he needed as much of me as I could give. We would have loved to have welcomed another amazing human into the world, we just couldn’t. We didn’t want to take from the children we had. So we decided to terminate the pregnancy. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pain-free and it wasn’t birth control. It was life and it happens. I was told you never have any more children than you can spirituality, physically, emotionally or financially care for. That seems reasonable to me.

“Today, all our children know the choices we made. Our 30-year-old daughter believes we did what was right for us all and our 16-year-old son believes in a woman’s right over her own body. We have always been open about sex education, birth control and how to use it. We’re still waiting for grandchildren, but we’re all good.”

Chris, 35

“The IUD failed eight months after the birth of our second. My wife was in physical therapy from giving birth and had badly damaged kidneys. We didn’t have room for three. That was a year ago. We still mourn for what happened. I wish it had never happened. But we have no regrets. We are still both pro-choice, now more than ever.

“Back then I kind of naively classified abortion under, ‘uncomfortable and unfortunate medical procedures,’ so when it started bringing up a lot of huge emotions for me, I kind of just froze like I was trapped and helpless. When I began reading the #youknowme hashtag I would see all these people sharing their abortion stories with other people, sometimes for the first time ever. I know how alone I felt, and how alone I still feel, and I really wanted to be at least the one person who could say, ‘You are not alone,’ even if I tweet anonymously. My dream is to find a way for people who are experiencing these feelings to connect safely with other real people who are on the same journey because what I read online all sounds so familiar. Unfortunately, we feel very far away from that point as a culture.”

John O., 52

“We had recently had our second child, late in life (40+). There was six years between our kids and a couple of miscarriages on our path to the second pregnancy. Our beloved second child had arrived with all the joy, exuberance and sleep deprivation and stress that comes from having a second baby. Somewhere in the first year or so, our safe-sex practices lapsed ― we can’t recall how ― and lo and behold, a period was late and a pregnancy test was positive. There was no way we’d add another kid in the mix at that point. We arranged for an abortion. Not me nor my wife has ever looked back at that with any regret. Perhaps slight embarrassment for being sloppy and causing an inconvenience, but we’ve never felt like we ‘murdered’ anybody, not in the slightest. We’re a happy family of four, plus a puppy. We do good in the world, are healthy and are productive members of society.”

Some responses have been edited for style and clarity. Some sources requested to use first names only to protect their privacy.