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11 men share their experience of abortion after Roe v Wade is overturned

Photo credit: Marina Petti - Getty Images
Photo credit: Marina Petti - Getty Images

Five years ago, aged 23, I sat in a doctor’s office and said, “Hello. I’m pregnant. And I don’t want to be.” As the words left my mouth, I’d never been so certain. Quite simply, I did not want to be a parent yet. I’d done everything ‘right’, starting the pill as a teenager, but as I'd been taking it continuously without any breaks over summer, I didn’t realise I was pregnant for three months. After feeling unwell during a hiking trip, I took a just-in-case test, convinced there was no way it would be positive – but it was.

I was in a long-term relationship at the time, and besides my then-boyfriend, I only told one other person. Sobbing on a park bench outside work, I explained that I felt ashamed for wanting an abortion. But, it turned out, my friend had been through the exact same situation and emotions. I wasn’t alone. Everything would be okay.

Her presence was so valuable that I now make sure I openly talk about my experience in case someone else needs support – because this story isn’t uncommon. And yet abortion is still a taboo subject. Throughout life it’s drummed into us that we, the women, must do our best not to get accidentally pregnant. It’s us who have to contend with putting additional hormones into our bodies via pills and coils, it’s us who spend days navigating period and fertility trackers. The message is never ‘men, don’t accidentally impregnate’.

And should our precautions fail – it’s women who must put their bodies through a gruelling abortion (and in many cases, without support from the man who impregnated her in the first place).

In light of the Supreme Court of Justice overturning Roe v Wade, this past week has seen my social media feeds (rightly) flooded with anger, horror and outrage... but mostly from women. As these events unfold across the pond, it can be easy for us to shrug the issue off as ‘not our problem’ but the fact is, emboldening anti-choice campaigners in such a big way will have huge consequences around the world. Already, we’ve seen our government refuse to add abortion into the forthcoming ‘British Bill of Rights’, seen Conservative peers like Lord Moylan declare the ruling ‘a great victory for US democracy’ and Tory MP Danny Kruger state in parliament that he doesn’t agree ‘women have an absolute right to bodily autonomy’. It’s also been reported that US donors are helping to fund anti-choice groups on UK soil too, many of which protest outside of clinics.

Given that it always requires sperm for a pregnancy to occur in the first place, I was left questioning: why aren't we seeing men speak out about their abortion stories too? Where is their outrage? Why can’t I feel their anger alongside mine?

So, I (along with Cosmopolitan's Features Editor, Jennifer Savin) asked them. Below, you’ll read 11 stories from men (amongst them are my boyfriend, brother and father) discussing the benefits of everyone having autonomy over their reproductive rights and why overturning of Roe vs Wade is disastrous for everyone.

When initially asked about why they hadn’t shared anything, many said they didn’t know what or whether their voice would add to the conversation. Many people will argue that just because someone isn’t posting something on social media or attending a protests, it doesn’t mean they don’t care. And while this is true, it's also true that we now live in a world where social media and protesting are our biggest sources of influence.

Instagram, TikTok and Twitter are where many of us receive our news, engage with politics and form opinions. So, when women are sharing their stories, urging you to donate to valuable organisations (if you can), creating or signposting to resources and doing the work to educate – it's important that all genders engage. Using your voice to amplify others is one of the most valuable things you can do and it’s no secret that men still hold greater power in this world in so many ways. It’s time they use that privilege.

Photo credit: Marina Petti - Getty Images
Photo credit: Marina Petti - Getty Images

"Having the conversation was awful"

My experience of abortion was unpleasant. When my partner said she was pregnant, my initial response was one of shock. We’d just secured our house (a renovation project), stress was high – and we’d run out of money. I've always wanted children; my partner will be an amazing mother and I would love being a dad. Having the conversation about whether to abort was awful. On the one hand, I wanted to become a dad more than anything, on the other I was so worried about bringing a child into a world where I was struggling with my finances that I actually felt ill.

Going through the process was a horrible experience. My partner had to visit medical appointments alone (due to the pandemic). The medication she took made her extremely ill and she was bed bound for several days afterwards. At one point, I was genuinely concerned for her life. I can't express it any clearer. I was scared that my partner was going to die and it was horrifying.

My personal thoughts are this: women considering a termination face such a difficult choice. The morality involved with what you’re doing is tough, as are the conversations you have with yourself and others. Seeing my partner in that much pain is also not something I want to witness ever again. Children are expensive and they need love and time, some 'parents' haven't got that to give and the fallback system to support those children is entirely broken. As some signs during recent protests pointed out: an American woman has less rights than the gun that could take her child’s life away in a school shooting. I completely understand why anyone would not want to bring a child into this world. – Pete

"We were in pieces as we were referred to the hospital"

We fell pregnant in January 2022 and were over the moon – after miscarrying the previous year, it felt like another chance. We had an early private scan at 6 weeks for peace of mind, and there was a heartbeat. But at another private 10 week scan, our world crumbled; they could no longer detect a heartbeat. The doctor concluded that it had stopped beating around three to four weeks previously. We were in pieces as we were referred to the hospital, where my fiancée was given the option of medical or surgical removal of the miscarriage (the same process as an abortion). She opted for the medical approach and was administered pills. Without the procedure, who knows what could have happened to her body, womb or reproductive system.

While I’ve never been anti-abortion, prior to our experience I only really thought of it as a way to ‘get rid of accidents’ or for rape survivors. Now I see it’s also vital for people who have medical trouble during pregnancy, which is sadly far too common. Without an abortion who knows what would have happened to my partner. – Jason

"Unwanted pregnancies are a fact of life"

I can’t understand the attitude that abortion isn’t a ‘man’s subject to weigh in on’. Just because we aren’t the ones physically getting pregnant, I don’t believe that means men should excuse themselves from voicing support for a woman’s right to choose. Unwanted pregnancies are a fact of life and parenthood should never be dictated. My girlfriend had an abortion three months into our relationship. We’d put our trust in a menstrual cycle monitoring app as a method of contraception, which was probably naive, but really, simply not wanting (or being able to care for) a child should be enough of a justification for not having one. There are enough people in the world that aren’t taken care of as it is.

Immediately, she was clear that she didn't want a child at that time in her life. I assured her I’d step up - in whatever way needed - but felt it was her choice. Having the abortion reaffirmed my own desire to put off having children for some time and not going ahead with the pregnancy allowed us to better get to know each other too; we solidified our relationship without the strain of a life-changing commitment. The abortion was difficult to witness (it physically hit her very hard), but I’ve never felt any guilt, remorse, loss or shame. – Ben

"My daughter’s choice displayed strength and courage"

I’ve always supported a woman’s right to choose but, as with many issues, this was easy to say whilst it remained a concept removed from my personal experience. Knowing that my daughter had an abortion in her twenties has not changed my moral position on this but it has reinforced it. My daughter’s choice displayed strength and courage and was taken with care and consideration. It is right that she had the legally protected autonomy to make this choice and had access to proper medical facilities and support. I am proud of her in this, as I am in everything.

What’s happening in America should give us pause for thought; it is an assault on women’s reproductive rights. It is also an assault on the hopes that fathers like me have: that our society protect our daughters’ rights at all costs. Anything less will be a retrograde step back into a past which was less tolerant, less accepting and far too male. – Mark, Emily's dad

Photo credit: Marina Petti - Getty Images
Photo credit: Marina Petti - Getty Images

"This decision will quite literally kill people"

The experience my partner and I had with abortion highlighted to me just how lucky we are in the UK – knowing we had access to the care we needed. A luxury not everyone now has. If we had had to consider an illegal termination it would've completely turned our lives upside down. The impact of having that choice taken away would've had profound consequences, raising another child could easily have caused mental health problems, family issues and even financial hardship.

With the case of Roe vs Wade, I doubt the male decision makers had any comprehension of what the abortion process involves, nor do they realise that their actions will – quite literally – kill people. It was a troubling and sad day when that right was taken away. I only hope it doesn't point towards a wider shift with those in power, whose actions will damage people's lives in more catastrophic ways. – Tom

"Cutting an embryo’s potential short is not killing a baby"

When my partner switched contraception, during the break between she fell pregnant. Straight away she knew she wanted a termination – I didn’t really get involved as I didn’t think the decision was mine to make. She had no urge to have a kid, so my role was just supporting her through the process. Besides the admin and the uncomfortable physical side effects she went through, the process was smooth. Neither of us have any moral qualms about it now, eight years on.

In my opinion, us cutting an embryo’s potential short cannot be compared to killing a baby. It was simply prioritising the wants and needs of an already living person, over something that had the potential to be a person – which in some parts of America now, weirdly, has more rights than an actual living, breathing member of society. What’s happening with Roe v Wade being overturned is surreal, we grew up thinking there would be a natural movement over time towards greater equality and rights, yet so many things are being erased now. – Angus

"I've benefitted from my girlfriend's decision"

Emily and I were just friends when she told me she'd gone through this experience. I could clearly see the toll it took on her physically and emotionally. After work drinks, she cried her eyes out as she told me how ashamed she was and how alone she felt. An abortion should never be a woman’s ordeal to go through alone, and I’d like to think her partner at the time went through it with her as a team. Had Em gone through with the pregnancy, there’d now be a child in the picture for us. Obviously, this wouldn't change the way I feel about her but I appreciate that we can now decide if, or when, to start a family when the time is right.

This Roe vs Wade ruling is something that affects everyone, hugely, something I maybe didn’t fully appreciate initially. But this is why it’s important for men to reflect on the impact it has on them too and to speak up. The idea of this choice being taken away from Em - or any woman - is heartbreaking. Whether you agree or disagree with the moral arguments, the fact that the choice of whether or not to bring life into the world has been effectively removed for so many is beyond sad – and completely unforgivable in the cases of rape. Women’s voices shouldn’t be the only ones raising this point going forward. – Jonny, Emily's boyfriend

"As a man, I could've easily walked away"

My girlfriend and I connected on many different levels when we met – one being a shared desire not to have children. But when she accidentally fell pregnant, the hormones really kicked in and I was a bit surprised when it seemed as though she was wrestling with a sort of biological instinct and wasn’t immediately sure of her decision. I said I’d, of course, support her in whatever she chose, but reminded her about all we’d discussed previously with regards to kids. In the end, her logic won out and she arranged to have a pills by post abortion.

While supporting her through the actual abortion and seeing her in physical pain, I was just thinking, ‘Fucking hell, this is as bad as it gets for me as a bloke. Really I’m a bystander in it all and if I wanted to, I could just walk away’. I wouldn’t have, but the point is I could have (and many guys do). I just thought ‘This is so fucking unfair, nothing I could ever go through can match this, both in the physical and hormonal sense’. Seeing everything in America last week made me so angry because the only way you can even start to redress this imbalance in equality is to give women the choice about whether or not to reproduce and even then, it’s still never going to be a level playing field. If you personally think an embryo is already a ‘life’ due to your religious beliefs, fine. But don’t put that view on someone else. – James*

"Abortion is the hardest thing a woman can put her body through, second only to birth"

It was an unplanned pregnancy but from the get-go, I never assumed that what happened next would be my choice to make. I fully supported my then-girlfriend and if that meant we were going to have a baby, then so be it. It’s something I’d have dealt with. Ultimately, she decided to prioritise her career and other future plans.

The medical staff at the clinic were really vigilant and I remember them ensuring she hadn’t made the decision under any duress – that it was her choice. The process itself was brutal, I could see it was the most painful thing she’d ever gone through physically. I still remember sitting on the cold bathroom tiles with her for hours as she nearly passed out. That was quite traumatic for both of us, but what I went through was in no way comparable. We stayed together for another year and a half after but some things were never quite the same; we spoke often about how she was feeling and after many long talks, sadly agreed separating would be best. An abortion is a big deal, it’s one of the hardest things a woman can put her body through, second only to birth. – Sam

"A woman isn't something to be controlled, why should any man think otherwise?"

A friend asked me to drive her to the clinic for her procedure and although she had two of her girlfriends with her as well, I was able to support in that small way. I never even considered this to be virtuous on my part, or a moral dilemma. It never went through my mind to either congratulate myself or to question her; she isn't something I'm seeking to control and why should any man think that a woman is? It wasn't my role as a friend to add pressure or to impart any sort of agenda. Her reasons were legitimate, whether they're never shared with anyone or explained to the world – I feel quite simply that it is a woman’s choice and I struggle to see the other side of the argument here. I can’t understand how the overturning of Roe vs. Wade benefits anyone. Isaac*

"I'm proud that my sister had an abortion"

Only the day before writing this, my sister told me that she had an abortion five years ago. Finding out that information filled me with many emotions but the one that stuck with me throughout the day was a sense of pride. Pride in the dominion that my sister has over her own body and pride in the system that legally gives her that authority over the choices that may affect her future wellbeing.

America revoking these reproductive rights affects the human race as a whole; as the nation that holds itself up as ‘the land of the free’ it sets an example for the rest of the world that freedom only applies when you have a penis. This is why men everywhere should be outraged – outraged that other men are letting the side down, that they’re so hell bent on conserving power over others that they forgot how to be a human. Men should not be upset or annoyed about this as a ‘brother’, a ‘father’, or a ‘son’. They should be annoyed as a human being, because the abolition of ‘Roe vs. Wade’ is anything but humane. – Rhys, Emily's brother

*Name has been changed

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