Help! If I Have an Abortion, Do I Have to Tell My Boyfriend?

Hi, please help me. I have been with my boyfriend for a little less than six months. We live separately in upstate New York. I am not happy with him, and I just found out I am pregnant. We use protection, so this came as a shock. I have not told him. He is a nice guy but he's not the one for me, and I don't want to have his child for sure. He couldn't even really help support it if I did want to have it. I guess my question is whether it's OK for me to decide to terminate my pregnancy and not tell him. Am I within my legal right to do that? Should it matter? It's my body and my future I have to think about. I am not ready to be a mother. The last thing I want is for him to tell me he wants me to have the child and try to stop me from doing what I think is best. Please tell me I'm not a bad person. —Pregnant and Perplexed
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Dear Pregnant and Perplexed,

Despite using protection, you have gotten pregnant; naturally, you are shocked. You are not happy with your boyfriend, he is not a person you want to parent with, and you’re wondering if you even want (or have) to tell him that you are pregnant in the first place. You seem to indicate that your relationship doesn’t promise the stability—emotional and financial—that a child needs and deserves. You are worried but very clear-headed and caring in your analysis of the issues involved in your pregnancy.

You ask whether you are within your rights to terminate your pregnancy and not tell your boyfriend. As you might know, abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973, when the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have the right to abort prior to the viability of the fetus. I am not an attorney and nothing I write in this space should be construed as legal advice, but as far as I can tell the Roe v. Wade ruling doesn’t spell out paternal rights, and a little online research suggests that there are no barriers to you making this decision on your own, without your boyfriend’s consent or awareness (Planned Parenthood v. Danforth in 1976 addressed consent, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 addressed awareness). Again, do not take anything I’ve written here as gospel. Your question is one that an attorney can and should answer definitively, possibly even over the phone. Please call one. You might also refer to Planned Parenthood, which would either be able to answer your questions or point you to resources that can.

Beyond the legalities, you ask “should it matter” whether your boyfriend knows about your desire to have an abortion. That’s a difficult question that only you can answer.

You do not indicate your age, nor do you ask whether your parents need to know, but for the record, according to Planned Parenthood’s website, there is no parental involvement requirement in New York for persons under 18. (Some states may require one or both parents to consent to an abortion or be informed of it, a requirement that can be waived by a judge.)

Beyond the legalities, you ask “should it matter” whether your boyfriend knows about your desire to have an abortion. That’s a difficult question that only you can answer. The fact you’re grappling with the ethics of it all is a sign, to me, that you are proceeding carefully and thoughtfully.

It seems to me that one of the questions you might be asking yourself is what it means to be a woman in the United States in 2015. There’s a book called Our Bodies, Ourselves, first published in 1973 and updated every few years—the latest edition was released in 2011. You might take a look at it and see if it helps you find peace. The book supports women taking ownership of their bodies, which seems to be one of the many issues you are struggling with.

You ask for reassurance that you are not a “bad person.” You don’t seem like a bad person to me. You seem like a worried and scared young woman who is in a bad spot and trying to figure out the best way out of it. I think you would benefit greatly from speaking to a counselor or therapist who can help guide you through some of the more challenging internal quandaries you face. You write, correctly, that it’s your body and your future that you have to consider when making important life-changing decisions. I salute your warm, level-headed, and thoughtful approach to finding your way.

Good luck! I’m with you in spirit.

Respectfully,
Lynn

Lynn Somerstein
Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
  • 5 comments
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  • Faith

    Faith

    May 29th, 2015 at 11:42 AM

    Bless your heart!
    What a terrible decision to have to make on your own but I am a firm believer in the fact that it is your body and your decison

  • H

    H

    May 29th, 2015 at 1:45 PM

    yes of course you should tell him this is his baby as well

  • maranda

    maranda

    May 29th, 2015 at 1:06 PM

    Do you have to tell him? No. But should you tell him? Well that one is a little trickier for me. I am sort of thinking that for me it would be the right thing to do. But your circumstances are different and I haven’t walked in those shoes so I don’t know.

  • Brittaney

    Brittaney

    May 30th, 2015 at 9:36 AM

    Why should she have to tell him?
    she doesn’t want to be with him
    and she is not ready to be a mother right now

  • Teela

    Teela

    May 31st, 2015 at 1:34 PM

    This is not something that you should feel like you have to go through alone and I know that you have tons of support on this site but I hope that you have people at home who are rooting for you too. Do you have any friends or family who could help you through this? I just want to know that you have someone there to give you a little hug and assure you that everything is going to be okay when the time comes and you have to move forward with whatever decision that you make.

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