Abortion rights supporters: ethically, should a happily-married woman get her husband's opinion ...

before having an abortion?

No long story today, and probably no poll, though I reserve the right to change my mind later. I probably won’t edit this paragraph, though.

Before you answer, please bear in mind what the question is not.

I am NOT asking if a married woman, or any woman, should be legally required to inform her husband before having an abortion.

I am CERTAINLY not asking if a husband should be allowed to veto his wife’s decision to terminate her pregnancy.

I am DEFINITELY not asking whether abortion should be legal.

And now I’ll expand the question. Assume there is a woman, Penelope, who is happily married and faithful to her husband, Kevin. Penelope has no desire for children; Kevin has agreed to accept that but is philosophically opposed to abortion, though he’s not political about it. Their birth control method has failed Penelope. It’s early enough in the pregnancy for her to terminate it without his knowledge, and she has the means to do so. Ethically, may she? Why or why not?

It would seem very weird to me to hide a surgical procedure from my wife, so yea I say she probably should tell him.

Sure. They should talk things over. She should listen to his opinion, and he should, ideally, respect her decision.

We don’t always live up to our ideals. He might criticize, lobby, persuade, even extort. (“If you do, it’s all over between us.”) She might not listen to a word he says. (“I can’t hear you, la la la.”)

The healthier their relationship, the more open each will be to listening to the other.

If he knows she doesn’t want kids, and she knows he is opposed to abortion, wouldn’t this have come up at some point? I know I’ve discussed it more than once (though in my case, my he’s not opposed to aborting but to adopting). Just seems odd that you’d discuss part of it, but not the part that applies to you both :confused:
In my marriage, we share pretty much everything so I wouldn’t keep it a secret. But I know marriages that are completely different.
If it’s already been discussed ahead of time and agreed upon, if the marriage is one where they keep medical stuff private / separate, if the husband has asked to not be told, if the husband is abusive (she may view herself as “happily-married” even if it’s abusive), if the husband is a blabber-mouth, if the husband will need to act or not (pick up from hospital, be aware of side-effects), etc: all reasons that it would be ethical to deal with it on her own without his input.

Also, the question you ask in your title is different from the question in your OP. There’s a difference between getting / not getting someone’s opinion (title) and taking a prescription medication with/without explaining all the details.

So I’m going to straddle the fence and say “it depends on the situation”. I know my situation and can answer based on that, but I can’t make a blanket answer for the wide variety of situations out there

She should inform him. The question of “should she get her husband’s opinion” is a different question. I expect people to tell their spouses things that are relevant to the relationship. This seems relevant. I don’t expect people to ask for opinions when they already know what they want to do.

In my opinion, yes.

I agree that it’s her choice. But it’s something a spouse should know.


In a relationship, a decision like that should not be made by one party without input from the other.

I feel she has to tell him. The weight she gives his opinion is up to her.

My take is that if she’s actually a happily married woman, she will be getting her husband’s opinion.

missed the edit window:

And now, having read the story of Penelope and Kevin, I’m going to assume that they already had this discussion themselves (still assuming that “happily married” is to be taken literally). She knows best what his preferences are going to be, vis a vis knowing about any putative abortions in advance.

Should she tell him? Probably, otherwise she’s just setting herself up for the Big Scene when he inevitably finds out.

There’s too many variables to know what will happen if she tells him and has the abortion anyway. He may hate her. He may find himself relieved. He may find that he’s not anti-abortion after all, when it’s his butt on the line with an unwanted child. OTOH, if she lies to him about it, he’ll certainly hate her for that.

If they break up over it then they probably didn’t really have a happy marriage.

Yes. As grude said, it would be weird for Penelope to hide this from Kevin. She doesn’t need to get his permission, but to secretly have an abortion without telling him doesn’t bode well for the marriage. Since they are both on the same page to begin with, why would she not?

Also, why hasn’t Kevin had a vasectomy yet?

This. In that situation, it would never occur to me *not *to discuss it with my husband. This is an important decision, he’s the person whose opinion I trust most in the world, it matters to both of us, I care about that…of course I’d be discussing it with him. Both because I’d want to and because I should.

If I was Penelope, Kevin would hear the yelling and swearing from the bathroom the second the test changed colour, and be calling “honey, are you okay?” so it’d be pretty hard for him to NOT know everything that was going on.

Shouldnt they have discussed this before? Such a thing would go so much easier if they had already talked this over. The smart thing would be is if they both agree if she should become pregnant that either;

  1. She should tell him and they would discuss it.

  2. He agrees that if indeed it happens, he doesnt want to know.

Thing is birth control can and does fail all the time. I would hope your doctor would have explained that. Doctors routinely deliver condom babies, pill babies, diaphragm babies, sponge babies, etc… all the time.

As long as you’re not talking “requirement”, yeah, sure. Heck, she should probaby get some opinions and feedback from her best friends.

Yes, this. For the past 22 years*, I’ve given this announcement to every potential partner, including one night stands: “I don’t want to have a baby. If birth control fails and I get pregnant, I will have an abortion. Don’t let’s have sex if that’s not okay with you.” His reaction to that statement leads us to the next step: if it happens, do you want to know about it or not? My choice will be unchanged, the only difference is whether you’ll hold my hand or I’ll be taking a friend to the clinic with me.

My husband wants to know, because he wants to be the one holding my hand at the clinic. That’s part of why he’s my husband. And I know he wants to know because I asked him, point blank, if he wanted to know if it ever happens, and he said yes. So yes, I will tell him if it ever happens (please no) because it’s ethically correct to keep that agreement I made with him (and because I want him there holding my hand.)

If our heroine has not had such a discussion, I leave it entirely up to her without ethical judgement, as she knows him and the state of their marriage and other similar agreements - spoken and unspoken - better than I do.

*Uncoincidentally, after a birth control failure and the birth of my son when I was 18. Sometimes, experience is a really good teacher.

Assuming that there is no prior agreement that precludes her telling him (and if he doesn’t want to be told, then in my opinion, he is a piece of shit), then yes she needs to tell him, otherwise in my opinion, she is a piece of shit.

“Oh, Michael. Michael, you are blind. It wasn’t a miscarriage. It was an abortion. An abortion, Michael. Just like our marriage is an abortion. Something that’s unholy and evil. I didn’t want your son, Michael! I wouldn’t bring another one of your sons into this world! It was an abortion, Michael! It was a son Michael! A son! And I had it killed because this must all end!”

Agreed. BUT …

To have talked it over is one thing. To have gotten to agreement is something else entirely. Also note your first choice is really a decision to defer the topic until / unless the situation comes up. And THEN to have to work to some resolution (happy or otherwise) while under the gun.

In my personal case my wife and I communicate unnaturally well. And back in the day we talked about this issue. She was resolutely anti-abortion, whereas I was all in favor of abortion if our other precautions failed. We ultimately left the topic unresolved and hoped the issue would never arise. It didn’t.

I’m going to suggest complete neglect of the topic or the solution we ended up with is far more common than your more ideal solution.
My take on the OP: Penelope is ethically bound to seek Kevin’s opinion. And to give it some non-zero weight. For folks less entwined than P & K, the woman’s ethical duty is correspondingly less.

It would be interesting to recast the question to include another couple where their preferences are reversed versus K&P. i.e. Sue is moderately anti-abortion and Harry doesn’t want kids. Then to explore how the difference between K&P vs. S&H changes our collective opinion of what’s right.