Editor’s Note: For brevity’s sake, we’re using the word “women” to describe people who get pregnant and “men” to describe those who impregnate them. But people of all genders can get pregnant and get people pregnant, and this guide is intended to be a useful resource for them as well.
Though about a quarter of American men have “had” an abortion, very few of them get the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings about it. As the New York Times recently pointed out, the last time we officially considered men in the abortion conversation was in 1992, when the Supreme Court correctly overturned a Pennsylvania law requiring women seeking an abortion to get their husband’s permission. Since then, little attention has been given to men’s involvement in the abortion process, and even less to their emotions around it. Save for a few Jesus-flavored, pro-life propaganda campaigns that attempt to convince men that abortion gives them debilitating PTSD, the male experience of abortion has been, as one Swedish study put it, “largely invisible.”
There’s good reason for that: Starting in the mid-19th century, men led a decades long campaign to criminalize abortion with great affect, resulting in the necessity of Roe v. Wade, which codified that abortion was a woman’s right, and therefore, a “women’s issue.” Men have been encouraged — and rightfully so — to allow women the space to have the “right to choose” without bogging them down with male feelings, opinions or desires. As men are still the ones who legislate our bodies, it only seems fair that they would shut up when it comes to us exercising the little autonomy we have left — or so the thinking goes. As such, men often find themselves in a tricky situation where, as one man who recently went through an abortion puts it: “My input wasn’t needed, but my awareness and support were required.”
Following abortion bans in Alabama, Georgia and Missouri that passed in May, women were encouraged to share their abortion stories, most notably under the hashtag #YouKnowMe. In a similar vein to #MeToo, the idea was that normalizing abortion as something that happens to — and saves the lives of — women we all know and love, would encourage pro-choice thinking and legislation. But as many pointed out, it’s troubling that the onus always falls on women to publicly trot our personal stories and trauma for the betterment of us all. In this case, as men impregnate women, the injustice was magnified. They benefit from abortion in the same way women do — so why weren’t they speaking up, too?
What are those experiences, emotions and feelings we’re not hearing about? And what can we learn from them in the hopes of normalizing abortion and helping men support the women in their lives who have them?
For the past month, the MEL features desk has attempted to find out. We interviewed dozens of pro-choice men across the country about their experiences with abortion, under the assumption that these stories would help other men show up not just for the women in their lives — but themselves (and each other). We asked them not just what happened, but how they felt, what they wish they’d done (or not) and how the experience could have been better for everyone involved. Some of us even shared our own stories.
What emerges is a complex emotional landscape filled with feelings that are barely covered in research let alone the media. Helplessness is one. Guilt, anxiety, shame and depression are others. More common are positive emotions like relief, empathy, forgiveness and increased understanding, but above all else, it appears many men just want to help. Even when they don’t agree with their partner’s decision, the primary concern for the men we spoke to seems to be supporting their partner through the process and “being there” in whatever way they can.
According to abortion doula, clinic escort and one-time National Abortion Federation hotline counselor Bianca Laureano, the lack of education around abortion support and the continued stigma that surrounds it means men don’t always know how to show up in the way they want to. “Especially if they’ve never experienced an abortion before, it can be hard for men to know what kind of support both they and their partners need,” she explains. In most cases, this means they avoid talking about it and getting involved.
Not only does the lack of knowledge about how to care for oneself and others during an abortion make men less able to help their partners out, it cuts them off from their own emotions. And as we know, that doesn’t always work out so well: The more men repress their emotions around difficult topics and experiences, the more likely they are to suffer from physical and mental conditions like depression, high blood pressure, a lowered immune system and sexual dysfunction (amongst about a bajillion other things).
Since silence and emotional repression never did anyone any favors and everyone needs a little help navigating a fraught topic sometimes, here’s how you — presumably a man or someone who knows one — can support both your partner and yourself before, during and after an abortion.
Part I: Supporting Her
React to Her Decision With Poise. Among the earliest ways to show your support is to react to her aboriton decision with empathy, understanding and affirmation. To do so, Laureano recommends thanking her for telling you and letting her know you both trust her and support her choice. Even if you disagree with what she wants on a personal, political or ethical level, it’s still her right to choose, so if you want to be Support Guy™, be on her side.
This is something 29-year-old Colorado bartender Colton had to confront during the second abortion he went through. “I’ve always wanted to be a father, so when she told me she was having her second abortion, I was pretty devastated. However, I was raised by strong women who taught me it’s always a woman’s choice, so I trusted her decision. I’m grateful she made that choice now — no matter how badly I want kids, I still want to have them with someone who wants to have them, too.”
Once you’ve affirmed her choice, let her know you’re there to offer your support, if she wants it. Some women may want to go through the process alone or with support figures other than you, so make sure to give her the option to include you (or not). Colton experienced the latter during his first experience with abortion. When the time came for his girlfriend to take the abortion pill, she told him she wanted to be alone at her mom’s house, and that she’d call him the next day. “I wanted to be there with her, but I had to respect that she wanted to be alone,” he says.
Don’t take it personally if this is the case. For many people, abortion is an extremely personal and fragile thing, and some do better when they don’t have to worry about someone else’s feelings and can focus on their own.
However, other women really appreciate involvement from their partners early on. When his wife Kamer accidentally got pregnant in 2017, Londoner Rehman Choudri talked about it with her immediately, but in a way that gave them space to consider multiple outcomes and figure out the best one. “I’m a logical person, so I wanted to talk about what was happening,” he says. “I realized I just had to be there for her and calm her down. I was saying to her, ‘You know, I’d be fine if you wanted to keep it. Maybe we can discuss that if you want.’ But in the end, she was pretty dead-set on aborting it. Not that I didn’t want that, but I was trying to have a dialogue about the topic.”
If she does want your help, ask her a few key questions about what kind of role she’d like you to play before, during and after the procedure. That way, you can make sure you’re meeting her needs at each point in the process. Questions such as:
- “Would you like me to accompany you to appointments?”
- “Do you want me to be in the room with you when it happens?”
- “How much money may I offer for the procedure and/or food, transportation, medication, etc.?”
- “What can I have set up at the house for you when you get home?”
She might not know the answers to these questions right off the bat, so give her some time to respond and trust that she’ll get back to you when she’s ready.
Help With Resources, Finances and Rallying the Troops. When someone decides to have an abortion, they tend to have a lot of questions about the procedure — how it’s going to feel, what “normal” feelings about it are and what it’ll do to their bodies. One way to support your partner during this time is to help her find answers to these questions in whatever way you can. Fifty-year-old Dallas resident Juan Agorilla, for one, stopped by Planned Parenthood while his partner was at work so he could “find out how [he] could be there for her.” He was glad he did. “I’ve never been treated with more respect, understanding, care and concern than at Planned Parenthood,” he says. “It’s ridiculously compassionate.”
Finding unbiased and fact-checked articles, educational materials and abortion resources for her is also good step, but don’t thrust them all onto her at once. Instead, let her know you did some research, tell her one or two useful things you learned and ask if she’d like to see what you found. She may have already looked into these things herself or might not want to go into information overload, so let her decide how much of what you found out she wants to know. Either way, putting in the work to find these things can take some stress off her and let her know you care.
Finance-wise, abortions can be pretty expensive (though this varies by state). Depending on where you are, what insurance you’re on and the type of abortion you’re having, it can run you anywhere from nothing to $3,275. To give you a ballpark estimate of where in that spectrum you might land, Juan’s was $750, but you can find a more detailed breakdown of average costs here. Because it’s not cheap, it’s good etiquette to pay for all of it if you can: though your genetic material is only half of the equation here, what she has to go through is, typically, far worse than what you do by fronting the funds. If abortion is illegal or tightly regulated in your state or if your partner wants to keep the procedure private, it’s also a good idea for the paper trail to be linked to you, not her. If you can’t pay for all of it, pay for at least half, and expect to pay more in states that are hostile to abortion like Georgia or Ohio.
Lastly, you may want to consider bringing along a good friend or an abortion doula (i.e., someone who provides counseling and education throughout the process, accompanies women or couples to their appointments and helps out with aftercare). Twenty-nine-year-old New Yorker Dan and his girlfriend brought along a good friend who was highly knowledgeable about abortion and reproductive rights, an addition they found immensely useful. “She demystified the whole process for us and helped us work through some of the stigma, which helped put us both at ease and made us feel like this was a normal, okay thing to be doing,” he says. It doesn’t have to be someone experienced with abortion, though; any trustworthy, nonjudgmental friend who can offer support will do, so long everyone’s comfortable with them being around.
Be the Limo (and Possibly More). Most states require women to go to multiple appointments with a gynecologist or abortion provider before they can get the actual procedure or take the pill, which probably means your partner is going need a couple of rides. Offer to drive her to her appointments and go with her, especially to the procedure itself — she won’t be able to drive afterward, so she’ll definitely need a ride then. If she’s got other plans and doesn’t need your wheels, that’s okay too, but still put your offer out there.
In some states like Missouri, you might need to drive far to get to a clinic where your partner can get a surgical abortion if it’s too late for the pill — or you might even have to cross state lines — so research where the nearest abortion provider is and be prepared to spend some time on the road.
However, depending on where you live and what the abortion climate is like there, it’s also the case that being her driver might require you to be her escort as well. When Juan drove his partner to Planned Parenthood for her procedure, they were met by an angry mob of anti-abortion protestors who screamed things like “Murderer!” at them as they tried to get out of the car. “It was like a bad after-school special,” he says. “She was so filled with shame that she threw up her hoodie over her head and jumped under the dashboard. I pulled up to the door and said, ‘You get out here and I’ll park.’” He then walked her to the door, guiding her through the mob, an experience he describes as among the “most traumatic” of his life. If this is the case in your state, going with an abortion doula or another friend — as mentioned above — might not be a bad idea.
Of course, it’s also entirely possible you could just park and walk in like any other doctor’s office. Dan had what might be the easiest, most seamless abortion experience possible, saying all his girlfriend had to do was get out of the cab they were in and walk into the clinic.
Either way, sometimes a ride can be more than just a ride.
Don’t Try to “Fix” Things. According to Erica Smith, who worked as an abortion educator, counselor and assistant at the Philadelphia Women’s Center, many men approach their partner’s abortion by wanting to “fix” the situation. And while they’re usually well-intentioned, abortion isn’t necessarily something that can be “fixed” in the same way a creaky door can. Rather, it’s a complex, ever-evolving process that can involve a spectrum of personal histories, emotions, opinions, needs and relationships, all of which tend to be much better suited to in-the-moment support and empathy than attempts at practical solves.
Case in point: Twenty-seven-year-old Londoner Ivan’s girlfriend (we’ll call her Claire). Coming from a Catholic family with a history of disowning girls who terminated their unwanted pregnancies, Claire was already dealing with deep-seated reluctance, guilt, grief, anger and regret about abortion, even before she went to the clinic for her first appointment. “I remember waking up in the middle of the night and seeing her on the computer, looking at pro-life websites, reading articles about embryos having sentience and self-awareness,” Ivan says. “She’d be looking at things that were patently false, but still, she’d be in bed, weeping, and feeling like she didn’t know whether the choice we had to make was the right one. It took a lot of gentle conversation, listening and making her feel as safe as possible for her to know it was right, after all.”
Obviously, it’s difficult to jump in to any particular part of a situation like that with a “fix” or some kind of practical solution (if only it were that easy to cure Catholic guilt). Instead, says Smith, it’s more helpful to focus on communication and compassion, not repairing the unrepairable. You can do this by listening to her actively and giving her space to feel the feelings she has. The most common of these feelings is actually relief, but abortion can bring up a lot of other complicated, less-than-pleasant ones like depression, anxiety and guilt, too. Affirming and validating these feelings — as well as the choice she made — can help her process what she’s going through and create some emotional intimacy between the two of you.
This may involve some more active participation on your part than just being “around” and asking if she’s okay, which is something that took 27-year-old Wain Tan a few years after his partner’s abortion in Georgia to realize. “I was going through our letters and stumbled upon an envelope that contained a sonogram,” he remembers. “It conjured so many memories and emotions. I thought to myself, Wow, I was a fucking idiot who didn’t know how to treat another person. One of my greatest regrets in life thus far, is that I wish I was more outwardly empathetic to her. I think that’s all she wanted. She wanted me to say, ‘Hey, I’m here for you. I’m here to support you.’ The way I thought about it is, ‘I’m here with you, and that’s me showing I care.’ But she might not have felt that way, so it’s something I should have understood and conveyed better.”
To be more than just another body in the room, Smith says to ask specific, nuanced questions about how she’s feeling. For instance: Ask her to describe how she’s feeling or what she’s experiencing. This gives her more of an opportunity to process her feelings, and opens up the door for actual conversation. Similarly, try to avoid responding with things like, “I know how you feel — I got my appendix removed in sixth grade,” or even “I understand,” because, well, you don’t. Keep the focus on her feelings and know there will be a time and a place to process your own as well.
It’s also entirely possible that your partner may not want to talk about any of this stuff at all. She may need some time to just “be” after the procedure, so, as is true during a friend’s breakup, a family member’s illness or any other life moment when you’re playing a support role, make your availability known but let the other person come to you when they’re ready to talk.
Be a Pro at Aftercare. Namely: What would she like you to have set up and ready when she comes home? What kind of emotional and physical support would she like from you? Asking her these things before the procedure gives you time to get everything together so her transition back home is as smooth as possible. Depending on how involved she’d like you to be, Laureano recommends taking a day or two off from work to do this, if you can.
Everyone wants and needs different things after an abortion, but Smith points out that most women really appreciate help with practical things such as cooking, cleaning and childcare (if those things are necessary). “Take the load off for your partner and do any household chores she may normally do,” she says. “Cook her a meal. Make her feel cared for.” This is both kind and practical: Most women are instructed not to engage in strenuous activity for a few days after an abortion, so helping out with things like scrubbing the bathtub, sweeping the floors and taking care of the pets is particularly smart and caring.
Stocking the house with high-absorbency pads, ibuprofen, heating pads, hot water bottles and other healing remedies like CBD or lavender can also help with her pain and discomfort. The feeling after an abortion is similar to the world’s worst menstrual cramps, so ask her what typically makes her feel better when she’s on her period to get an idea of what you might need to provide. An HBO password or a Netflix login doesn’t hurt either. Zaron Burnett III, a MEL contributing writer who helped his friend though an abortion, says he stopped to get some comfort food after the procedure — chicken, mashed potatoes, sides — which they ate in front of the anesthetizing glow of a daytime Antiques Roadshow marathon. Though neither the food nor the shitty TV took away the pain, sometimes just having distractions like that can help, even in a small way.
Depending on what your relationship is, you could also do something special for her like getting her flowers, writing her a letter or giving her a small gift. You want to show her you’re still romantically connected even though you’re going through a major event together. Cuddle her, rub her feet, make her laugh — anything that shows you care. When his girlfriend was undergoing her procedure, Ivan booked a hotel room with a spa and picked up some flowers, soothing bath oils and some of her favorite candy. “I wanted her to be as relaxed as possible, and I wanted her to think as little about what had happened as possible,” he says.
Lastly, read the instructions given by the abortion provider. “I can’t stress this enough,” says Laureano. “They will offer a 24/7 number to contact a medical provider if the person having the procedure has concerns. Put that number in your cell phone and save it!”
Be Affectionate, But Not Sexual. In most cases, Laureano says doctors will recommend that someone abstain from penetrative sex for at least two weeks following an abortion because it can lead to infection and further complications. For this reason, your partner will usually have to be cleared by a doctor before she can start having sex again. During that time — or any time, for that matter — it’s important you don’t pressure her into it. She’s probably going through a lot physically and psychologically, and might not be in the mood for a while.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t be physical and affectionate in other ways (if she wants to, obviously). Things like cuddling, massages and making out are calming and connecting, and can help her still feel desirable.
Most importantly, the abortion is an opportunity to reevaluate what you’re using for birth control and how you’re using it. Have a conversation about how you can make sex safer, and be proactive about using things like condoms and birth control when you have sex so you don’t have to go through Abortion 2.0. “All my friends joke about [unprotected sex],” says Wain. “But now, I always tell them, ‘Look, I’ve been through this entire thing. I got a girl pregnant, and it was a 23-week pregnancy.’ This shit isn’t a joke. Wear condoms, even if the girl is on birth control.”
Part II: Supporting Yourself
Acknowledge Your Own Feelings. Abortion affects everyone involved in their own way, and it’s completely normal and valid for you to have your own range of emotions and opinions during this time.
Often, as was the case with Juan, those emotions can be contradictory. “It’s this weird combination of unbelievable relief and horrible guilt — a salad of intense emotions,” he says. “You know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the worst thing you can possibly imagine.” Other times, as Dan experienced, the primary feeling can be empowerment: The fact that they got to make their own choice and felt educated and shame-free along the way made them feel like they had agency over their futures. Either way, Smith says it’s important for men to have space for their feelings before, during and after an abortion, just like women do.
So acknowledge how you’re feeling and give yourself time and space to process what’s happening to you, your partner and your relationship. Write your thoughts down, talk them out and figure out what you can learn from this experience. Does going through this give you a new goal? What about a different outlook on life? How has it affected your relationship with your partner? Do you feel closer after going through this, or more distant? Has it changed your political opinion of abortion? How has it influenced your take on family planning and your readiness to be a parent? What steps can you take to avoid going through this again? What do you need to get back to “normal,” from who, and when? Asking yourself these questions can help dilute the intensity of the feelings you may be having.
“I also think it’s important for men to understand what powerlessness feels like,” Colton says, explaining that that feeling felt new and unfamiliar to him during his first two abortions (he’s had three). “We’re always the ones in control, right? Well, this is one situation in which that’s not the case. It’s a difficult role reversal, but it’s also an important one.”
If you’re looking for some additional help processing your emotions or are interested in hearing other men’s perspectives on what having an abortion was like for them, the Abortion Conversation Project offers useful, empathetic and nonjudgmental responses to some of the common emotional reactions men have to their partner’s abortion. While they’re not necessarily intended to replace an in-person conversation with a friend or mental health professional, it can be affirming to see your own feelings reflected and addressed in a stigma-free online space. There’s a much more exhaustive list of these on their site, but here are a few examples:
- “I feel bad because I’m not a good provider.” Sometimes men feel like a failure because they can’t afford a child (or another child). It may be a goal to get more financially stable so that you can have a child. Or you may feel that if you’re working all the time, you can’t be with her or with your children. Share your thoughts with her and work out some goals.
- “I don’t know what she wants from me. It seems like I can’t do anything right.” It’s a difficult situation for her and for you. The best approach may be to ask, “Can you tell me how it is for you?” and then listen and ask questions until you feel you understand your partner’s experience.
- “I wanted this baby.” It may be hard on you if you wanted to have a baby with her or to get married and she doesn’t. It may even seem that you feel the loss more than she does. People who suffer a loss need to grieve. It’s important that you find someone who can listen to what you’re going through.
It’s also full of educational resources that help demystify the whole process. Go there! If that’s not enough, here are some other hotlines and websites that might be helpful:
- Backline: 1-888-493-0092
- Exhale: 1-866-439–4253
Educate Yourself. Many of the men we spoke with were frustrated that while they wanted to try to understand what their partner was going through, physiologically speaking, they could only comprehend so much. As Colton puts it, “As a cis guy, you can understand pretty much any other kind of pain except for this one, so it feels like your ability to understand them only goes so far.” That, he said, made him feel inadequate.
Though this isn’t necessarily the place to discuss the implications of men needing to feel “adequate” during a procedure their female partner is having, you can get close to understanding what this might be like for her — and learn how to avoid going through it again — by educating yourself about pregnancy and abortion as much as possible (which, as Rehman points out, rarely happens in school).
Review some basics about ovulation, fertilization (the egg actually selects the sperm, not vice versa) and pregnancy, then look into the various options for abortion and the state laws that regulate it. You’ll find there are a couple types a person can have and state-by-state regulations that determine how late into a term a woman can get one. Many states like Georgia and Louisiana have passed bills that say abortion is only legal before the sixth week of pregnancy, most which go into effect sometime in 2020 (keep in mind most women find out they are pregnant around six to eight weeks). Likewise, FDA guidelines state that the abortion pill can only be taken up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, which means, depending on where you live, that may or may not be an option. Other state laws require doctors to provide their abortion patients with conservative-backed misinformation about the negative effects of abortion — like that it’ll give you PTSD — so the more factual, unbiased information you know about it, the better prepared you’ll be to sort fact from fiction.
Talk to the Right Person. Your needs and feelings are absolutely valid and deserving of attention, but you might want to think about who you’re sharing them with and when. While there’s a good chance your partner cares about where you’re at with all this, she’s probably also going through a whirlwind of emotions herself and might not have the emotional capacity to fully be there for you (at least not until she’s recovered).
For many men, holding their emotions back from their partner is difficult, but it also seems necessary. As 39-year-old Aaron from Georgia explains, “Any emotions or feelings of powerlessness I had were not only minor in comparison to what she was going through, but not really the point of the moment. My thoughts were to support her, because she was clearly more emotionally conflicted than I was, and it was her body in question. It was a situation where I knew that my role was to play backup, not make it about me.”
So before you unload your thoughts onto her, ask her if she’s in a place to hear them. If she’s not, that’s understandable, but you should absolutely still reach out for support from your close friends, family, teammates, spiritual leaders and trusted confidantes — basically, anyone you think is a good, nonjudgmental listener. If there’s no one in your life you feel you can talk to about this, Planned Parenthood also welcomes calls from male clients, and there are tons of great hotlines like Exhale where you can discuss how you’re feeling.
If you find yourself thinking about the abortion all the time, are having disruptions in your sleeping or eating habits because of it or are finding it hard to concentrate, you might want to reach out to a private therapist or a mental health clinic as well.
Whoever you end up talking to, though, Laureano recommends they be pro-choice or neutral about abortion, even if you aren’t. “It isn’t helpful to speak to an anti-choice person who will vilify the decision to abort,” she says. “A pro-choice space is more conducive to inclusive and unbiased advice and support. Men need to know they’re not alone and that they can get a peaceful resolution to this experience, in time, with a little help.” Speaking with someone who will condemn you or your partner for having an abortion is — surprise — not a great way to do that.
Take Time For Yourself. For some men, caring for their partners throughout the abortion process is an intimate, loving act they feel some responsibility for, but it’s also important to note that for others, particularly, those who aren’t already in a relationship with their partners, it can feel like a burden, and an awkward one at that. “I was 24/7 focused on her — what can I do, what can I do — but my soul was screaming, ‘I can’t fucking wait to get out of here for my own mental health,” says Juan, whose nebulous relationship with the woman he got pregnant very much complicated their interaction.
In all honesty, caring for someone who’s been through a physical and emotional trauma is hard work, especially if they feel conflicted about it or had a rough experience like Juan’s partner did at the clinic. But at some point, you also have to care for yourself. Know what your limits are and when to take a breather — it’s okay for you to take a break for yourself every now and again. Schedule some alone time — go to the gym, hang out with friends and get out of the house, because your own mental health and wellbeing are important here, too.
That doesn’t mean you’re abandoning her either. Utilize your friends and family and make sure she has someone with her while you’re out, if she wants that. The more grounded and centered you are in yourself, the better care you can provide for your partner, so pay attention to your boundaries and know when you need to recharge.
Be Prepared for Your Relationship to Change (for Better or Worse). For many couples, abortion is a challenge that tests the limits of their relationship. Not only can it be physically and emotionally traumatic for some, it can also force them to consider their futures and mutual goals together in a way they’re not always prepared for. As Colton puts it bluntly, “It can be too intimate too fast.” This can be true at any relationship length or commitment level. Whether you had casual sex with a friend or it’s your wife of 10 years who’s getting the abortion, the extreme intimacy of conception and the big decisions that come with it usually change the dynamic between people in some way. How it does varies wildly, though.
For Colton, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “It kind of set off the chain of events that eventually destroyed our relationship,” he says. “I wanted the kid, but the fact that she didn’t increased the feelings of powerlessness exponentially. I mean, what can you do in that situation? You’re ready and you want to step up and be a good dad, but you’re helpless to the decision of your significant other (which, again, I believe is how it should be, but that doesn’t make it any easier). In a way, I took her not wanting it as an indirect way of saying she didn’t want to be with me.”
Ivan and his girlfriend also separated a few months after the abortion. “It was hard to comfort her during that time,” he says. “How would I be able to truly understand this experience that was so unique to her? How would I understand what it was like to be the person who makes the final decision on the termination? In the end, we felt like we just couldn’t do each other justice as partners.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dan says it actually made his relationship stronger. “It created a new side of our emotional and compassionate relationship that we hadn’t uncovered yet, because we hadn’t gone through something traumatic like that,” he explains. “It was hard, but it was also a good experience that helped us grow closer and understand each other in a different way. We came out of it feeling like if we could go through something like that together and make it out alive, then we could do anything.”
Rehman adds, “The entire process brought [Kamer and him] closer together because we learned we’d probably be well-equipped to handle a delivery once that time comes, and basically, that she can have confidence that I could be able to support her during pregnancy and delivery as well.”
Because there’s no real way to know how it’ll affect your relationship (or if it will at all), it’s important that you have other support systems like the ones mentioned above to process your feelings around the abortion with. Though some relationships can absolutely survive it, it’s also healthy to pawn off some of that energy elsewhere so the abortion doesn’t become the thing that defines you.
Know That Your Views and Lifestyle Might Change. In addition to changes to their relationships with their partners, many men also notice they feel differently about things like sex, family planning and abortion policy than they did beforehand. Certain things may be more apparent in wake of an abortion, and part of supporting yourself through the process is taking some time to reflect on what (if anything) is different about you now.
Kevin, a 32-year-old New Yorker who asked that we change his name for privacy, definitely noticed a change in motivations for sex. “It’s wild to be confronted with the fact that you, yourself, are capable of procreation,” he explains. “I imagine women are more cognizant of that since they bear the brunt of conception, whichever choice they make about it. But guys grow up just shooting their jizz wherever, and then it’s like, ‘Wow, I have to be responsible for where it goes and what it does.’ Fucking of course. This really coincided with my attitude toward casual sex changing. Before it was like, ‘Sure, fuck as many hot people as possible, duh.’ Afterward, I began to have a more sentimental view.”
Andrew, a staff writer at MEL, was particularly struck by the need for better counseling and support for women before an abortion (though men should also have access to this service, too). “The part of the story that sticks with me most is all the anxiety around and leading up to the abortion rather than the abortion itself,” he says. “It seems like the conversation we should be having is how to mitigate a woman’s anxiety leading up to an abortion and helping them deal with the trauma afterward rather than relitigating a woman’s right to choose.”
For his part, Colton was blindsided by how much his actions could affect someone else. Though he knew on some base level that him cumming inside a woman could get her pregnant, his first, second and third abortion underscored how much of a ripple effect a that could have. “It definitely changes the way you interact with people,” he says. “I mean, I’ve been through three abortions, all of which I caused because I didn’t have the foresight to cum intelligently when I could have just thought it out for like, a microsecond longer. I think out my actions a little better now. I’m still impulsive and I still do shit I regret, but I’ve also never been more aware of how deep of an impact I can have on someone. It’s like, one small moment of extra pleasure while cumming for you can equal months and even years of suffering for someone else. It’s scary to think about, but I’m grateful to be more conscious of that now because I’ve also learned how much of an effect a good action — like talking about birth control beforehand and always using condoms — can have.”
He also realized that family planning has the word “planning” in it for a reason. “I’ve always secretly wanted to step up, and you know, be the guy that takes on the dad role,” he says. “I really do want kids. But after going through three abortions, I realized I don’t want kids unless the person giving birth to them wants them, too. I’ve always been pro-choice, but I guess all this really underscored just how valuable having a choice in the matter is. I’m excited to consciously make this choice with someone for once.”
Part III: Supporting Everyone
Get to Know Your State’s Abortion Landscape. While some states like Oregon, California, Vermont and Maryland make it relatively easy to access abortion, plenty of others do everything they can to limit women’s choices and dissuade them from having the procedure in the hopes they’ll go through with the pregnancy.
In order to do this, some states have mandatory waiting periods or gate-keeping rules in place that dictate how many appointments a woman has to have before she can have the procedure. Others like Alabama threaten jail time for doctors who perform abortion (but not the men who impregnate their patients, even in the case of rape or incest). The six-week fetal heartbeat bills being passed all across the country and the widespread shuttering of abortion clinics are other obstacles lawmakers put in place to deter the decision to abort. Being aware of how these things are regulated in your state can empower both you and your partner to plan your abortion tactically, and hopefully without any of the struggle and pain that can come along with trying to punch through the walls of bureaucracy during an already difficult time.
One less common, but hugely impactful barrier you may have to face are clinics that pose as abortion centers, but are actually pro-life organizations. Wain encountered one of these in Georgia, in a suburb outside of Atlanta. “It sold itself as a ‘family planning center’ where they would do the tests and ‘explore the woman’s decision,’ but it wasn’t a Planned Parenthood and they were just trying to persuade us not to have the abortion,” he says. “They’d use specific language to get into her head like asking her what the kid’s name was. And of-fucking-course she’s going to answer, so they’re using his name like, ‘Oh look, this is Eli. This is him at this age. Here’s Eli’s heart.’ The toughest part is in Georgia at the time, you could only get an abortion when you were 18 or above. She was 16. So we had to take her sister’s ID, and she had to pretend to be her sister in order to get the procedure done. Keep in mind, this is the South, so we had to essentially lie through our teeth the whole time.”
Fake clinics like that one are hardly the norm in more abortion-permissive places, but it goes without saying: Taking the time to read up on the biological, legal and logistical factors affecting your partner’s abortion in your state or country can make all the difference in avoid situations like that one. As far as being supportive to your partner and empowering yourself during this process, there are few things more important.
Vote. Someone recently posted something on Twitter that said, “I cannot stand men who are committed to feeling any type of way about abortion (pro life or pro choice) Just stay the fuck out of it.”
Whoa there, we’re gonna have to wholeheartedly disagree with you on that one. Charlotte Shane sums up perfectly the danger of positions like this for Jezebel: “If every cis man decided tomorrow that abortion was an inalienable human right, we’d be freed almost immediately from the hell of the Hyde Amendment and TRAP (Targeted Restriction on Abortion Providers) laws,” she says. “If every cis woman decided tomorrow that she believed the same, we would still have a long, bitter battle ahead.”
If you feel any type of way about abortion, women’s reproductive rights or the long arm of the law extending all the way from the steps of the courthouses into women’s uteri, the most supportive, good-guy thing you could do would be to take your feelings to the voting booth. Cast your votes for candidates who support a woman’s right to choose and give whatever available dollars you have to organizations like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the Yellowhammer Fund. Speak out when legislators pass laws like the ones in Alabama, Missouri and Georgia, and understand what the consequences are — for both you and your partner — when they do.
“If you have any interest in helping your partner or making an incredibly difficult situation less difficult for all involved, this would be the way to do it,” says Brandon, a 32-year-old production coordinator in L.A. After his girlfriend’s abortion in 2017, he started making monthly donations to Planned Parenthood and actively researching political candidate’s stances on abortion and women’s rights in a way he’d never thought to do before. He’s even started voting in local elections in the hopes he can keep people in office that’ll advocate for safe, accessible abortions, something he says made him feel a little more empowered and involved in a situation that he wanted to be engaged in, but knew he couldn’t make the final say on. As he says, “It was the right decision for us and we were grateful to have the choice, so I wanted to do everything I could to give back.”