'Abortion Is Not Solely a Woman's Story,' Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Kirsten Campbell praises a fellow Atlantic reader, Peter Noris:

I really enjoyed your male reader’s perspective on abortion. It’s too common to just see it as a “women’s issue.” We need more men standing up so their voices can be heard along with the women pleading and demanding for access to safe abortions. When more men are proud to stand up and be counted, then true change can happen. It’s sad but true.

So thank you for examining both sides. I would love to see more men’s stories published in this section of The Atlantic.

The address for submissions is hello@theatlantic.com. Here’s the latest story, from a guy who prefers to stay anonymous:

We were married in our twenties, lived in San Francisco, and I worked as a merchant seaman. I was also a drunk.

I wasn’t an alcoholic when we fell in love, and I still loved her very much, but the booze got a hold of me and was destroying our lives. We had sex infrequently because of my drinking. I remember noticing how her skin changed to my touch. I don’t know how to describe it; she felt different.

When I shipped out to sea, it was a low point for us. I knew there was something going on, but we could not talk about it because everything was colored by my drinking. We needed to be together, but I couldn’t just quit my job, since we needed the money.

When I was back in port visiting, I called to meet her at a joint in town. When I got there I waited, and waited, and waited. I finally packed it in and took a cab back to the dock. She did arrive at the joint and saw my cab pull away and tried to follow, but she gave up and went home.

I called later that night and knew something had happened, but she didn’t say what. Whatever it was, I could tell in my calls home for the rest of the voyage that things had been resolved. I had a hunch she had been pregnant and had an abortion.

When I finally got home, her skin and her touch was back to normal, and it was then that I knew. I think I was the one who asked, and she said yes. We didn't talk about it much. We both hurt badly, but my drinking just fucked up everything. I wasn’t angry; I understood. I felt very sad for both of us. At that point in our marriage, it was pretty bad.

I did quit drinking about a year later, doing the AA thing, and I’ve done so for 34 years now. I’d like to say things all worked out, but that’s not what happened. We divorced a few years after I quit drinking. The patterns of behavior between us could not change even with me sober, even with marriage counseling.

Turned out she got endometriosis and became barren. She would have been a great mother. Me, I just went to sea, made bad choices in women, and never did have kids. Now I’m a retired old man and live alone. She is remarried and happy. Life is good for both of us, and we’re still friends. I still love her very much.

I often wonder what would’ve happened if we had had the child, but it was the wrong time, and to have brought a child into that mess would have been disaster. I believe she made the right choice for the time, but it still fills me with sadness, that I couldn’t be there for her, that the booze had driven my life.

P.S. I don’t know why I wrote this. I have only told this to my first AA sponsor, and he is dead.