It Shouldn’t Matter Why Someone Wants An Abortion
People seek abortion for financial, emotional, and personal reasons — but experiencing trauma should not be a prerequisite, and it’s not your place to ask.
“I had an abortion. I’m not going to tell you how old I was or what my circumstances were at the time. I won’t mention whether birth control was used or whether it wasn’t. I’m not going to tell you whether the guy is or is not still a part of my life, whether it was a one-night stand or a long-term relationship. I’m not going to discuss the health of either party involved in the consensual or non-consensual sex, nor the viability of the embryo. None of those details are pertinent. I got pregnant. I didn’t want to be pregnant. I had a medical procedure to remedy the situation. Full stop.
The details are for me and me alone. They are not relevant. Knowing them should have absolutely no impact on the validity of my choice. My choice. Mine.”
Most pro-choice abortion stories circulating online right now are raw, emotional, and courageous pieces that benefit both writers and readers tremendously. However, as Elly Lonon writes in her article excerpted above, not every procedure comes with such a story, nor should it.
There’s an increasing body of research showing that people obtain abortions for a variety of important reasons, but it’s not up to anyone else to decide whether they are “important enough.”
In the United States, 89% of survey respondents reported more than one reason for having an abortion, and more than half had at least four reasons. “The most frequently cited reasons were lack of financial preparedness (56%), partner-related (55%), and interference with future opportunities (54%),” according to a global study. More specifically, respondents in a similar study said that “a baby would dramatically change their lives, that they could not afford a baby now, that they did not want to be a single mother or had problems with their relationship, and that they were not ready for a child or another child.” Whether or not you think you understand these situations, and whether or not you think you would have an abortion in that instance, you do not have the right to question another person’s decision or circumstance.
To demand that abortion patients reveal these feelings, desires, and potential insecurities is to perpetuate the notion that women and AFAB (assigned female at birth) people owe the world their stories, must put their autonomy up for debate, and should continue to bear the emotional labor that comes with passionately telling our stories to an often-unreceptive audience. And again, asking for a reason so you can justify someone else’s choice to terminate just shows the level of distrust we collectively harbor towards AFAB people — the deep-rooted patriarchal belief that we are incapable of making our own decisions. Research shows that many women have internalized this lack of self-trust, as evidenced by the size of the pro-life movement.
Further, abortion patients report that terminating a pregnancy has helped them achieve personal life goals that they might not have been able to balance with financial, emotional, and physical toll of having and raising a child. The most common goals include education (21.3%), employment (18.9%), unspecified or other (16.3%), and change in residence (10.4%). Regardless, “most goals (80%) were aspirational, defined as a positive plan for the next year.”
This means that when people are permitted to access abortion, they are more likely to advance themselves and achieve personal goals. Some pro-life advocates would call that selfish, but requiring someone to carry an unwanted child to term is far more so. The impacts of forced birth are real and painful. Those “who were denied an abortion were less likely to have aspirational one-year plans than those who obtained an abortion. Those who were denied an abortion were more likely to have neutral or negative expectations for their future” due to an inability to achieve their goals. Outlook on life and hope for the future drop, while rates of anxiety and depression increase. For many who cited partner-related concerns, inability to access an abortion left them feeling disempowered to escape or break up with their partner.
These outcomes hold true across the globe. On the other hand, happier and more educated people contribute more positively to their communities and raise happier, healthier families should they choose to parent. Imagine that.
Regardless of outcome, forcing people to justify their decisions and autonomy to you is an affront to our rights to choice, privacy, and self-advocacy. Do you really believe it is your — or the government’s — place to ask questions about these intimately personal life experiences?
For more stories of interest, follow Fourth Wave.