The choice to get an abortion should be left to the pregnant person.
Britney Spears’ new memoir The Woman in Me reveals she had an abortion when pregnant with Justin Timberlake’s child. Spears wrote that, if it weren’t for Timberlake’s certainty he didn’t want to be a father, she wouldn’t have chosen to have an abortion.
While consulting both parents is important, the decision of whether to have an abortion should ultimately be made by the pregnant person. It’s fair to include both potential parents in the decision to carry a pregnancy to term, but having a child is life-altering for everyone involved and no child deserves to feel unwanted by either of their parents.
Abortion and pregnancy can be physically and emotionally traumatic experiences for the person who experiences them. It isn’t justifiable to impose either trauma on an unwilling party. Even after a child is born, the burden of care falls disproportionately on the shoulders of female bodies.
After giving birth, the birthing parent is pressured to prioritize childcare over all other aspects of their lives. The dominant cultural expectation in North America is for women to subjugate their identities and careers to maternity. Men aren’t subject to the same forces and can much more easily escape parenthood once a child is born.
Abortion is a medical procedure. As such, whether somebody is subject to it should be their own decision. Withholding medical attention for an open wound or a chronic illness wouldn’t be acceptable, nor would forcing a knee replacement on somebody who doesn’t need it.
It’s easy for coverage of Spears’ abortion to give way to speculation about her and Timberlake’s relationship or to narratives villainizing him, but the focus should be on commending Spears for sharing her experience. Reproductive healthcare, particularly abortion, can be a very isolating experience.
Despite being very common, abortion care isn’t openly talked about. In addition to alleviating the shame associated with the procedure, unfiltered conversations about abortion can promote safe experiences by providing a framework in people’s minds of what should and shouldn’t be part of a safe abortion.
Hopefully the attachment of Spears’ name to this conversation can direct more attention towards increasing abortion safety and accessibility.
At the time Spears was pregnant, both her and Timberlake were very young and extremely occupied with their careers. Having a child would have disrupted both of their lives in innumerable ways.
Timberlake’s career blossomed with the success of music about his breakup with Spears—a breakup presumably made much simpler by not sharing a child together. The story of Spears’ abortion is a testament to abortion care benefiting men as much as it does women. Men should be actively advocating access to abortion care.
As a medical procedure, the right to abortion must be honoured and the choice to undergo it should be left to the affected person.
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