Last week, Kaylee C., a college student from Utah, was asked out via Bumble, a popular dating app. In response, she hit her match with a very pointed, very 2019 follow-up question: What’s your stance on abortion?
“We did not go on that date,” said Kaylee, who, like other women in this piece, asked to have her last name withheld to protect her privacy. “I told him why I’m pro-choice. In response, he said it wasn’t ‘his fight to get into’ and then mansplained about how the government works.”
Hey, at least they got all of that out of the way before dinner and a movie. Just as right-wing politicians are dominating the national conversation with policy proposals meant to chip away at Roe v. Wade, women across the country are demanding to talk about it on dates.
“In this climate, it’s absolutely a deal-breaker for many women,” said Deborah Duley, a psychotherapist and founder of Empowered Connections, a counseling practice that focuses on women, girls and the LGBTQ+ community.
“To date someone in this current time who spouts such rhetoric is scary and aggressive.”
“To these women I talk to, being anti-choice sends a message that women are second-class citizens, that we are ‘less than’ and that women’s autonomy is less important than our religious association or cultural affiliation,” she told HuffPost. “To date someone in this current time who spouts such rhetoric is scary and aggressive.”
Of course, women have always had to deal with men with problematic views on a woman’s right to choose. Remember when Elaine on “Seinfeld” dumped a perfect-on-paper guy because of his stance on abortion? Elaine asks her date point-blank, but these conversations can also happen organically.
That was the case for Chloe G., a college student in New Mexico who, earlier this year, ended things with her significant other due to his off-putting views on abortion. She had her suspicions based on political posts on his Facebook page, but didn’t want to ask outright. The couple had only been together two months. Broaching the conversation so early on seemed unnecessary, she said, and a tinge presumptuous.
“I was having a conversation with him over an unexpected pregnancy of someone we both knew and he just had the strongest disgust for being pro-choice and women’s rights,” she recalled. “He thought abortion was unnecessary and that it was the ‘woman’s fault, which equals her responsibility.’”
“I ended it shortly after that,” Chloe said. “Pregnancy is not a small step, and we should be able to take that step if and when we are comfortable with it.”
Of course, this isn’t a struggle exclusive to heterosexual women. LGBTQ women and pro-abortion transgender men are affected, too.
Mary M., an 18-year-old queer actress and model, recalled an early date with a friend she’d started to see in a new, more romantic light. That light quickly dimmed when they waded into the abortion conversation.
“I told her that banning them won’t stop women from getting abortions, the only difference will be they’ll do it in a very unsafe way and it could be fatal,” Mary told HuffPost in an email. “She ended up expressing her hate for people who even considered ‘killing their baby.’ She thought it was a sin and a horrible thing to do.”
“That is why I always directly ask dates what they think about it,” she added. “You don’t have to like abortions but you need to see that legal abortions are necessary.”
These days, compromising on a guy (or woman) who’s iffy on a woman’s right to bodily autonomy seems like a waste of time and energy for both parties. And women like Kaylee, Chloe and Mary are putting their feminism at the forefront while dating. For them, a pro-choice view is nonnegotiable. Given the limited access to reproductive care across the country and the unsettling trend of reproductive coercion in relationships, the stakes are too high to let it slide.
It’s not just daters who are struggling. Some women end up leaving long-term relationships once they’ve had “the talk.”
Nicole S. had invested two years in a relationship before she realized she and her boyfriend were at odds on abortion. On the surface, he checked all the right boxes. Sure, they disagreed here and there on economic issues, but otherwise, they were into the same nerdy things, had similar lifestyles, and seemed totally aligned on personal goals for the future.
Then, one night, the couple and a friend started talking about “the big three.”
“Politics, abortion and sports,” Nicole, a 28-year-old accountant from Philadelphia, joked. The conversation was going fine, but she noticed her boyfriend tensed up a bit when they brought up the right to abortion.
Nicole is child-free by choice. She has a chronic illness that can be passed from mother to child, and says she doesn’t want to run that risk.
“Becoming a parent the biological way is out of the question for me,” she told HuffPost. “Plus, I don’t really like kids. I know with every fiber of my being that I’m not meant to be a mother.”
Nicole’s boyfriend heard her out when she explained all of that, but he suggested they revisit it when they got closer to 30. Nicole was open to doing that. After all, she thought, people are capable of changing their minds on big personal issues over time.
Later that night, though, she got it out of her boyfriend that he was very much anti-abortion.
“He wasn’t just anti-choice. I’d even go as far as to say he’s pro-forced birth,” she said. “After revealing this, he said that if I ever got pregnant he’d raise the child alone.”
When he mentioned that, Nicole said, it was like a switch was flipped.
“I couldn’t look at him, I didn’t want him to touch me. In one sentence he showed me that he didn’t understand my core values,” she said. “I tried to explain to him how physically and psychologically straining a pregnancy is and he just didn’t care.”
Shortly after, they broke up.
How to bring it up before it becomes an issue
We get it: Having a discussion on fetal viability isn’t anyone’s idea of a great first-date topic. But if you’re nervous about bringing it up, it’s worth noting that poll after poll has shown the same national reaction to Alabama’s near-total ban on abortion: Most Americans don’t support it. That could be a way to start your conversation from a point of shared agreement, even if it turns out you don’t see eye-to-eye on abortion more generally.
Fortunately, some dating apps do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. In 2017, OKCupid introduced an “#IStandWithPP” badge that users could display on their profiles to show their support of Planned Parenthood. The site also allows users to filter out folks based on their abortion stance, along with other political views. (Sure, a profile pin or a selected preference might just be a show of performative allyship ― it’s on you if you want to dig deeper and find out whether he donated to the Yellowhammer Fund ― but at least it’s a way to narrow down the field.)
This deal-breaker cuts both ways, of course. If your date has strong, unshakable anti-abortion beliefs and you have firm beliefs in the other direction, chances are he’s not going to be super eager to date you.
Couples often have differing political views, but this isn’t merely disagreeing on tax cuts for the rich or the need for campaign finance reform. This is your body. With abortion, the political is emphatically the personal. Even if you haven’t had a pregnancy scare in the past, you might in the future. Do you really want to find out where your S.O. stands on the issue when you’re potentially dealing with one?
“If you’re having sex with someone, especially if you see them frequently, you should confirm that you’ll be on the same page if something goes awry.”
It’s 2019. We need to forget about staid etiquette rules that say it’s impolite to talk about politics and religion with someone we’re just getting to know, said Myisha Battle, a dating coach in San Francisco.
After the Me Too movement took off two years ago, Battle said, she saw far too many women left disappointed by their would-be boyfriends’ responses to stories of workplace harassment. Abortion is likewise a topic you can’t let slide, she said.
And it’s equally important to discuss with casual hookup buddies. If you’re having sex with someone, especially if you see them frequently, you should confirm that you’ll be on the same page if something goes awry.
Sure, that’s a deeply unsexy conversation to have right before you two get naked. But it’s a lot less uncomfortable than the tougher, more high-stakes talk you’d have in the event of a surprise pregnancy.
“I know it’s not easy, but it could be a casual conversation like ‘I know we’re using condoms (or another type of birth control) now, but if something happens, I want you to know that I would likely have an abortion or have the child,’” Battle said. “How your partner reacts to that information is very telling.”
Ideally, though, aim to talk about it beforehand. On a date, use what’s happening now as a jumping-off point, then get specific: Ask your date what they think about late-term abortion, and discuss the topic if your date doesn’t know they’re often a lifesaving procedure.
If you’re getting serious with someone, don’t stop once you’ve explained your stance. Bring up hypotheticals to see if you’re truly on the same page logistically, said Aida Manduley, a sexuality educator and therapist in Boston.
“I would ask them if they’d be willing to access emergency contraception with you, whether that’s splitting the cost or going to get it,” they said. “A red flag is when people mistake emergency contraceptives like Ella or Plan B for ‘abortion pills’ and freak out about it. Even if they’re just misinformed, their reaction to that question can let you know where else to prod or what their attitudes toward abortion might be.”
There’s nothing easy or fun about these conversations. But the reality is, you both have a stake in this, and if your worry is entirely one-sided, it’s not fair.
So on that next date, order that burrata, then talk about Alabama.