Abortion as a Weapon in a Custody Battle

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

A reader experienced it with her parents:

I recently started reading your series about abortions, and while I have never had one, I would like to share some things. When my mother and father initially got together, she became pregnant and ended up having an abortion. After my parents married, had us kids, then divorced, my father tried everything he could to gain custody of my sister and me. What did would haunt my sister forever.

She was barely 10 years old when he took her aside to say her mom had killed her brother or sister, and did she really want to live with someone like that? Needless to say, my sister was distraught, didn’t fully understand, and my mother was furious. At the time, my father was in agreement with the abortion and now he was trying to use it against my mother.

It wasn’t until years later that I asked my mom about it. She said the abortion was the hardest thing she had ever done. But she didn’t regret it, because if she had had that baby, she would have realized what kind of man my father was sooner and thus would have left him sooner and wouldn’t have my sister and me.

Because of what my father did, I have always believed in a woman’s choice. I have suffered the lose of two of my own children naturally, but I still believe in a woman’s choice. That surprises people; they seem to think that since I have suffered heartbreaking loss, that I would be against abortion. But if my mom had not had one, I would not be here, nor would my son.

And it goes back to a conversation I had with my mom as a teen, that mothers never forget no matter what they show the world. It is not a decision done lightly, and they are doing what they believe is the hardest but best choice. And with loss can also come great joy.