In a recent episode of Private Practice, a 15-year-old girl is pregnant and tells her parents. Her mom declares that the girl must abort, and when her dad is asked his opinion, he says, “I’m just a guy, I don’t have a choice.” The episode revealed the confusion families face about who should make such an important choice.
All that stuff about “a woman’s choice” is absolutely true—technically. The woman’s “right to choose” means that no one (laws, parents, boyfriend) should be able to force a woman NOT TO abort. The reverse should also be true: no one (laws, parents, boyfriend) should be able to force a woman TO abort. Anyone trying to legally force or prevent an abortion would find themselves on shaky ground.
Families and romantic partners sometimes try to force women to abort without using laws or courts at all. This kind of coercion includes dire negative predictions, threats, and sometimes even violence. Coercion tends to be dramatic and emotionally manipulative. The coercers, like the mother in the TV show, are driven by their own strong emotions to do anything to get the pregnant woman to do what they want, instead of what she wants.
Identifying coercion is important because women who feel forced into an abortion may have more trouble dealing with their decision emotionally. Some reactions include anger and resentment at the person who encouraged the choice. Important relationships can be damaged at a time when women most need strong emotional support.
If you’re facing a pregnancy decision, take some time to think about the reasons you’re considering each option. Do your reasons come from inside yourself or from others? Don’t ignore what other have to say. But it’s important to remember that you are the one who will be living with the result of your choice. You need to be the chooser.
* Men may also perceive an abortion as “forced on them,” whether by their partner, parents, or other forces. If you and your partner disagree about what you should do, try reading We Can Work It Out.
* Some coercion is abusive, or covers up abuse. If you are being abused, please tell someone and get help.