Bullied Into an Abortion

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

Two readers open up about their abusive relationships. The first:

I was 18 years old and had broke up with my boyfriend. I had not been with anyone else, so to be rebellious, I took up with a man 17 years older than myself. Within six months I was pregnant and devastated. I was young, on birth control, not financially stable, and definitely not ready to be a mother. I told him and he was supportive but suggested abortion. I did not want children and agreed.

It was such an emotional roller coaster at the time. I couldn’t bring myself to make the appointment for three weeks. When I finally did, they made me wait. The initial appointment led us to discover that I was further along than we first thought, and too far along to have an abortion in the state I reside. I was told to jump on a plane to have one in a different state. I was lost and didn’t have the guidance or family support that was needed.

I decided to keep her. We had our daughter and I do not regret my decision. What I regret is the man I chose to have her with.

Within a matter of months of her birth, he changed and drank. I was left home with a newborn all night while he partied. His drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and cheating escalated, taking a toll on my mental health.

I did my best and I tried. Through family pressure, I married him when our daughter was nine months old. I locked myself in the bathroom on my wedding day and cried while everyone begged me to continue and told me it was right for my daughter. I downed some expensive champagne and walked down the aisle. I regretted every moment.

I knew our marriage was a bomb; I just didn’t know when it would explode. The destructive behaviors escalated. I left him many times, but like abusers do, he dragged me back with sweet talk and promises. Those promises were empty, and many scary drunken nights followed.

During a period of time that I left (a few weeks), his father passed away. We rekindled, grieved, and became pregnant again. This time he was having a fully committed secret relationship with another woman, using a large amount of steroids, and had full control of every part of my life. He and his mother forced me to have an abortion through mental and verbal abuse, and guilt.

At the age 20, I had an abortion that I was not ready for and I did not want. It was devastating. I AM pro-choice, but this was not my choice.

The other reader has a similarly tragic tale:

Your series has been very enlightening. I am a married woman in my 50s. I had an abortion when I was 19. Had I been given a safe alternative, I would have had and kept that child.

I lived with what I thought would be my future husband. My mistake was in thinking he ever wanted more than a housemate. I found out I was pregnant and immediately disclosed it, even though I was terrified. He was already abusive. It was MY fault—not his; he didn’t make it happen, and seemingly it was immaculate conception.

He had refused to let me take birth control, which cost money he was unwilling to provide. This was also a man who refused to let me use my own paycheck to buy new bras or underwear.

I was told if I had the child, he would kill us both, and he made no qualms about showing me what a good beating would cost us both. I made the choice.

That said, I also left him, as soon as I was able to get to my own feet and finances. He took everything I had and made sure I couldn’t leave. I got lucky, later. I was fortunate that we were in California and this was in the late ‘70s. An abortion and birth control clinic was nearby and reasonably priced. I was 13 weeks when I finally found my way there.

It broke my heart. It still breaks my heart. While I knew it was for the best, and for the safety of myself and my child, I also knew I would pay for it personally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. And I did. It was horrible. I became terrified of needles and anything related to doctors.

He made fun of me, as I cried over the whole thing. I spent weeks in pain afterwards.  My heart never healed. To this day, I still think of what that precious soul would be like today, then I wonder if He/She would even be alive, or have been murdered at the hands of its “Father.”

That man, who was brother to one of my then-closest friend, came over after my first child was born. He had the balls to look at me, smile, and say “that could have been ours, if you would’ve kept it.” May Satan enjoy HIS soul for that!

I did get past the abortion, and over it—as much as possible, I suppose. I married a couple years later to a man who is still my husband. We have three beautiful children, after MANY miscarriages and losses due to that one abortion. While the clinic did a good job, I suppose, I can’t say that our losses weren’t due to that. I just don’t know.

I have spent the remaining years of my life trying desperately to have healthy children and give them everything that I would have given to that precious child I was unable to keep.