With the reversal of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, we have been hearing the phrase “my body, my choice” much more loudly and much more frequently. I agree that a woman should have autonomy over her body. But, you see, when she’s pregnant with a baby—no matter which stage that baby is in—it is no longer just her body. From the time the sperm fertilized her egg, a new human being is in existence. With the creation of this baby, the woman now has a new moniker. She is a mother.
So many women feel outraged over the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision allowing laws about abortion to be made by the states rather than federally. They have spewed anger, hatred, and vitriol via social media, on TV shows, during protests, and through violent attacks on pregnancy resource centers.
Many of these women feel that abortion is an acceptable backup when birth control fails. They worry what will happen if they don’t have this “choice.” In fact, they feel like a choice has now been taken from them and that they no longer have control over their “own” bodies.
This all fails to acknowledge the fact that a child resides and is growing in the woman’s body. And it fails to acknowledge the fact that a child dies during every abortion.
Yet, for a large subset of women, having an abortion seems to be the only “choice” they feel that they have. And this isn’t really a choice at all.
Pressure to Abort Is Common
Coerced abortion happens when a woman feels physically or emotionally threatened to abort her baby. Though it could be by friends or family, she is usually coerced by her husband or boyfriend.
A 2016 Lozier Institute article states:
The best estimates indicate that somewhere between 30 to over 60 percent of women seeking abortions in the United States do so under pressure—from the father of her child, her parents, her family members, friends, or employer. One study shows that up to 64 percent of women who had undergone an abortion reported that they were pressured to do so.
When a couple faces an unexpected pregnancy, they encounter myriad emotions—from fear to shock to confusion to anxiety and more.
A baby is always a blessing, even if the couple feels unprepared. But for many women, a nightmare of different sorts has begun. These women want their babies, but their husbands or boyfriends do not. The men use tactics that range in severity to coerce the woman to abort the baby. This could be verbal threats, such as threatening to hurt her. It could be psychological threats or manipulation, such as him saying he will leave if she keeps the baby. Or it could be physical threats, where he pushes, hits, or kicks her—sometimes in an attempt to actually kill the baby.
Regardless of how the coercion is applied, the woman now feels that she has no choice. Though she may want her baby or may feel that abortion is wrong, she feels compelled to do as her partner wishes.
And after she has done so, she feels the anguish and regret.
Experiences of Post-Abortive American Women
Sadly, a quick Internet search finds an endless list of sites dedicated to the stories of women who felt pressured to abort and who did not want to. Sometimes she feels the emotional pain and guilt immediately after the abortion. And sometimes it takes 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years to manifest.
But post-abortion pain and regret are real. And the psychological effects cannot be ignored. Discussing a study that used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent to Adult Health, Michael New wrote: “Any abortion increased the risk of depression, anxiety, or suicidality, but the risk was much higher following an abortion of one or more wanted pregnancies.”
In 2014, the Elliot Institute released a report entitled Forced Abortion in America. The report found that “64% of women reported feeling pressured to abort” and that “most [women] felt rushed or uncertain, yet 67% weren’t counseled.” It went on to say that a whopping 79% of the women were not told about resources that could help them through the pregnancy. It further found that clinics rarely screen for coercion and that 65% of women suffer symptoms of trauma after an abortion.
The website Abortion Testimonials offers pages upon pages of women sharing their regrets after abortion. As one reads through these stories, it’s easy to find stories of those women who felt pressured into it. Many knew abortion was wrong but did it anyway. These women wanted their babies, but they felt helpless. They felt scared. They felt alone. They felt powerless. They did not know how to convince their husband or boyfriend of the value of the baby.
For instance, one woman wrote:
He apologized for forcing me into it and said he knew he was coercing me, but if I didn’t have the abortion he would never see me again or marry me. I told him I was afraid of going to hell and that we had the financial means and there was really no excuse but that made no difference to him. It was do this or lose him and I was young and dumb enough to think he was more important.
Another woman said that the Dobbs case brought back the pain of a past abortion. Her husband at the time told her she had to abort. She wrote:
I was married, realized I was pregnant, and never expected the reaction I got from my husband. He wasn’t happy, said we couldn’t afford a baby and that I would have to get rid of it. I was heartbroken but I remember feeling I didn’t want the baby if he didn’t want it. I was only 22 years old, what should have been an exciting joyous occasion turned into a nightmare. I scheduled the appointment at 9 weeks pregnancy, my husband came with me. I was numb, very quiet…. The experience was horrific as they used suction attached to a tube to drag everything out of my uterus and into the utility sink. All I saw was blood everywhere…. I quickly drowned myself into drugs for years afterwards. It was like I lost my soul.
Another woman wrote:
I remember telling my then partner that I was pregnant. I thought after already having 2 kids he would have been comforting and tell me what a blessing to have a third baby, I was wrong. Instead I was told how could I do this to him and we were not financially good to take on another baby. I thought we would have been fine but he stated otherwise. I kept telling myself he would come around and change his mind about the constant, “You need to make a damn appointment!” and things would get better. It was always a threat and physical pain when I told him I couldn’t make an appointment in hopes that he would change his mind. I even went as far as finding out the gender thinking maybe he’ll see it’s an actual blessing for another sweet baby to come in our lives. This only caused more pain for myself because he made promise to me that if the baby or an appointment was not made by the end of the month, it would be forced out of me by his own hands. I made my appointment and dreaded it each day. The day came and I even begged him that morning to not make me do it, he just pushed me out of bed and stated I had no choice.
The heartbreaking stories go on and on. And that is just on this one site.
Coercion happens more than we can imagine. Women desperately want their babies. Yet they feel that they have no choice. They feel trapped in relationships built on selfishness rather than selflessness, in relationships built on the man’s power rather than on mutual love.
It’s interesting to note that none of these couples stayed together for long after the abortion. The relationship simply couldn’t weather the death of their babies.
Surprise pregnancies can be incredibly difficult. Having a baby is a huge, life-changing event for anyone. But when you don’t feel ready, or when a man is pressuring a woman to abort, it’s even scarier.
However, women in this situation need to know that there is hope. They need to know that they aren’t alone and that there are people who can help.
Get Help at Crisis Pregnancy Centers
There are literally thousands of crisis pregnancy centers throughout the United States. These are places staffed by compassionate and loving people who truly care about both the mom and her baby.
At these centers, the woman can receive services that range from ultrasounds to adoption information. She can receive free pregnancy supplies such as diapers and clothing for her baby. Many will offer assistance with groceries and bills. In addition, these places can refer women to maternity homes where she and her baby can stay if they have nowhere else to go. These homes are indispensable for women who have been kicked out of a shared home or who do not have the resources to pay the bills.
These centers also offer counseling. Counseling is vital, especially for married couples who are facing a surprise pregnancy. Oftentimes, a husband pressuring his wife to abort is acting out of fear rather than a deep-seated desire to “get rid of” the baby. Seeking counseling services, talking to a priest, or having open discussions about the humanity of the preborn baby are vital for the relationship and can go a long way to saving the life of the baby and saving the marriage.
Yet many women have no idea that these services are available to them. They feel alone and scared. They feel that they have nowhere to turn. But these places exist because people really do want to help.
For pro-life people, it is our job to support these resources with our time and with our treasures. And we must also spread the word about them so moms in crisis pregnancies know where to go for help, as many don’t even know that help is available.
Abortion Doesn’t Save Relationships
We know that abortion affects relationships. And we know that, when a husband or boyfriend coerces a woman into having an abortion, something is fundamentally wrong with that relationship. Statistics show that many relationships do not last after a man has coerced his wife or girlfriend into having an abortion. Yet, one of the reasons that women agree to have an abortion is to “save” the relationship. They somehow think that things will go back to normal if they “get rid” of the “problem.”
However, for many couples, abortion only introduces a new set of problems.
In 2015, the Linacre Quarterly published a study entitled “The Influence of Contraception, Abortion, and Natural Family Planning on Divorce Rates as Found in the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth.” The study found that “contraceptive use, sterilization, and abortion seem to have a destructive effect on the marital bond.” Though this study lumped abortion in with other “family planning” services, it still found that “abortion, sterilization, and methods of contraception increase the likelihood of divorce compared to ever married women who have never used these methods of family planning from one to two times the risk of divorce.”
Another study reports on Russian and American women who had abortions and what that abortion did to the relationship. According to the study, many women claim abortion damaged their relationships; 6.8% of Russian women and 26.7% of American women had post-abortion relationship problems. Furthermore, 7.8% of Russians and 19.8% of Americans blamed abortion for ending their relationships.
A 2009 study in Public Health found:
Among females, experience of an abortion within a current relationship was associated with increased risk for various forms of sexual dysfunction (122-182%), increased risk of arguments about money (75%), increased risk of conflict about the partner’s relatives (80%), and increased risk of arguing about the respondent’s relatives (99%).
After an abortion, the rate of marital breakups and relationship dissolution is anywhere from 40 to 75 per cent, often related to the breakdown of intimacy and trust. In addition, many women experience depression, guilt, and anger related to feelings of having been let down by their partner which, in turn, lead to communication problems and, frequently, sexual dysfunction. If their partners have manipulated or coerced them into having an abortion, women tend to feel angry and betrayed, and men, typically, feel a loss of control and pride especially if they were not consulted.
It is very difficult to move past feeling coerced into an abortion. This is why counseling is so important.
Final Thoughts: You Do Have a Choice
If you are pregnant and feel coerced into having an abortion, know that the law is on your side. According to the Justice Foundation, “Forcing a woman to have an abortion, including a minor, is illegal in all 50 states of the United States of America.”
The Justice Foundation offers a wealth of information on its site, including informational letters to pregnant moms, to a young girl’s parents, to employers, and more explaining that it is illegal to coerce someone to have an abortion. These letters also list websites and phone numbers to places that will help the woman through her crisis pregnancy.
If your partner wants you to abort, it is important that you speak up for you and your baby. Talk to your partner about the humanity of the baby. Explain that this is a unique human being you both created. Seek counseling from a priest or a Christian therapist. You should never feel pressured to take the life of your child.
And if your partner adamantly refuses to remain a father, you do have a choice. You are strong and capable and can do this on your own. There are so many places that will offer assistance. Organizations like True Care Women’s Center, Heartbeat International, Save the Storks, Care Net, and many, many more are just a phone call away.
Your baby’s life has value. You have value. And no woman should ever be coerced into killing her baby.