The circumstances of the choice
The timing of a pregnancy and what else is happening in your life at the time often shapes, at least in part, how you feel about the decision to continue that pregnancy or have an abortion. Here are some things to consider about the circumstances that can impact your choices.
If children are already in the picture
Fact: Half of women who have abortions already have children.
- It can make it a clearer choice as the focus is on the needs of the family.
- It can also make it harder if there is a strong connection to what “could have been” and what it means to be a “good mother”.
Be compassionate with yourself; you are human. Trust that you know what is best for your family.
If you want children in the future
Having an abortion can feel scary because you may think this will be your only chance.
Fact: Many pregnancies end in miscarriage (about 30%).
- When choosing to have an abortion, you do not know what the outcome of that particular pregnancy would have been.
Fact: Being able to get pregnant means you are fertile and therefore will likely be able to get pregnant again.
- Having an abortion does not make it harder to get pregnant in the future (complications are extremely rare).
A future pregnancy after an abortion can potentially be more planned and allow for a stronger foundation for starting or expanding your family.
If you’re older
Fact: It is quite common for women to get pregnant in their late 30s and early 40s.
- Embarrassment – Feeling like it should not happen at that age.
- Pressure – Larger decision about whether to have more children or children at all as remaining fertile years get fewer.
- Sadness or frustration – That it did not happen earlier in life instead.
Keep in mind that more people are starting families later as lives become increasingly busy. It may take longer now to prepare for or complete a family.
The decision about an abortion may prompt you to ready yourself for a future pregnancy in a more intentional way or if undecided yet, to think through this in a focused, supported way.
If there are health concerns
Fact: There are always risks, even when you are able to care for yourself in the best way you can.
Possible reasons for health concerns:
- Difficult time to become pregnant or carry it full term.
- Unexpected so unable to care for yourself as you may have wanted to (prenatal vitamins, eating well, no medications/drugs/alcohol).
Ultimately, you decide what level of risk you are comfortable with, knowing that you cannot always truly know the outcome of a pregnancy. You make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time.
If it is not the first time
Fact: Half of the women who have abortions will have more than one.
- Birth control methods fail;
- High fertility (you or your partner or both);
- Barriers to using birth control (side effects, affordability, health conditions, lack of access to information);
- A lot going on in lives or difficult history;
- Not complete control over your sexuality.
- There is a long time in women’s lives in which they are fertile.
- Women’s bodies are designed to get pregnant.
- Accidents happen or at the wrong time, especially with high fertility.
Be gentle with yourself!
If terminating a pregnancy is something you thought you would never do
Fact: We don’t usually get to hear others’ stories and therefore know how common and normal abortion is.
Beliefs and feelings possibly influenced by stigma and social judgement or lack of information:
- Abortion is wrong
- “I would never need/want to do it”
Going through a difficult pregnancy decision may allow for a different perspective on things.
- Abortion is more common that you think and you may now understand why.
- Might be ethical not to bring a child into a situation if you feel like you can’t care for them well.
- You can’t control everything but you can learn to treat yourself with kindness around that.
- More compassion toward others in similar situations.
Our values and beliefs often change as we gain experience and perspective, which can be a good thing as it allows our hearts and minds to become more open.
If you have religious concerns
- There are actually many beliefs within each faith.
- Many religious people and even religious leaders believe that abortion can be a moral choice when made in a conscientious and caring way.
Fact: People of all religious backgrounds have abortions as commonly as non-religious people.
- The central teachings of every religion are based on values like compassion, forgiveness and love.
- Our faith is meant to comfort us in difficult or challenging times.
Connecting to foundational values may help us to be kind to ourselves despite having been told that what we are doing or thinking of doing is considered wrong by some. It may also give us strength to do what we want and/or need to do and to find peace after it is done.
If you have spiritual concerns
Fact: Abortion has existed throughout all of time, in all places and cultures.
Possible spiritual concerns beyond religious teachings:
- Everything happens for a reason so maybe it is meant to be.
- Worry about the morality of ending a possible life.
Considering it from a different perspective:
- If everything happens for a reason, then abortion does too.
- Going through that experience can bring growth and change in your life too (refocus, priorities, main goals).
It is normal to grapple with these questions, but it is important to remember that it can be very ethical to make intentional, careful choices about when and whether to have children, and if we do, with whom and in what circumstances.
If it’s the beginning of a relationship
It might be an important factor in the decision.
- Make us reluctant to tell the person;
- It might force things to get serious too soon;
- It might feel awkward to go through this with someone you barely know and trust;
- This may reveals things about how the other person might deal with a crisis or a challenge.
Information that may come to the surface:
- Might strengthen or confirm the relationship;
- Things are difficult or disappointing;
- Learn that we do not want to move forward with the relationship.
If someone is unable to support us well with a pregnancy decision, they may also be unlikely to support us well through the stresses of a full term pregnancy, having a baby, and parenting.
If your relationship has problems or recently ended
- The challenges might be a factor in the decision;
- Might have made problems more obvious.
This can make things harder emotionally and you may need more time or support to heal afterwards as a result.
If you’re far away from support
- Adds to stress of the decision;
- Harder to start or add to our family;
- Lack of stable or familiar support;
- Maybe difference in language/culture.
It is best not to go through intense experiences alone.
- If in a new place, reach out to government or community programs that may be available;
- Reach out remotely to your familiar and stable support base or people you recently met.
If you’re unsupported or pressured
Fact: Legally, the choice about whether or not to have an abortion is a woman’s own, because a pregnancy is happening in her body.
It is not ok for someone to force or pressure a woman to end or continue a pregnancy, but it does happen. If that is your case, it is important to talk to someone about it if you can.
- Partner may have wanted to end pregnancy and you didn’t (but you didn’t want to be a single parent);
- Partner may have wanted to continue the pregnancy and you didn’t;
- Family said they wouldn’t support a certain choice instead of another.
All of these may make it harder to be at peace with a pregnancy decision. You may need space away from the influence of your partner or family and seek other sources of support to help you decide and/or cope.
If it is the result of sexual assault
Being pregnant as the result of a sexual assault can be an extremely difficult thing to go through. Although the decision itself might be clearer because of the circumstances, the pregnancy can feel like it prolongs or intensifies the trauma we have been through, making it harder for us to heal.
Situations not always thought of as assault:
- If your partner deliberately increased the chances of you getting pregnant;
- You agreed on sex based on it being protected but something was intentionally done to make it more likely for you to get pregnant that is no longer consensual.
Sometimes a sexual assault brings up feelings of shame or self-blame. It is crucial to remember that what happened is not our fault. The person who assaulted us is the one who is responsible for what happened. It can also be important to tell our story to someone safe.
If this is an abusive relationship
Physical or emotional abuse can be another factor in why we may choose not to continue a pregnancy. It may not feel safe to bring a child into that type of relationship.
Fact: Abuse does not always mean physical violence – other warning signs of someone being abusive include them being controlling, having a bad temper, throwing or breaking things, saying things that make us feel badly about ourselves and isolating us from our friends or family.
The staff at the abortion clinic will often speak to you without your partner present at some point during the appointment. This can be a good chance to talk to someone privately and confidentially who may be able to help you find ways to be safe and help you find local organizations that can support you.
Research shows that abusive behavior usually tends to get worse over time rather than better, and so it is best to get support as soon as possible.
If the experience is triggering difficult feelings or bringing up old experiences
An abortion experience can be a doorway for:
- old pain;
- past traumas;
- chronic difficulties,;
- ongoing issues in our lives.
Our feelings about an abortion are tied to feelings about:
- our relationships;
- jobs and careers;
- financial situations.
We may need support to work through these things even more than the abortion itself. If we do, it can be an opportunity to heal from things that might have been affecting us even if we were not consciously aware that they were. It is important to reach out and ask for help, especially if the emotions feel overwhelming or very intense.