What is the tactful thing to say? (non-elective abortion)

Hypothetical question based on a real incident:

A close female friend doesn’t want a child. She becomes pregnant despite the use of normally effective birth control. The pregnancy is most likely doomed because of a medical condition the woman has which was discovered when she became pregnant. The fetus would not be likely to come to term, and there is a significant risk to the woman’s health. The woman has an abortion as recommended by all of her doctors.

You are conversing with the woman and she says, “The poor little thing didn’t have a chance, and that’s tragic.”

You would then say… ?
Saying, “Yes, that’s tragic” seems to suggest (at least to me) that she should be feeling bad about her decision. I don’t consider a miscarriage tragic for the embryo/fetus, just for the mother. Same for traumatic abortions. I know some people might consider them all tragic, but is it tactful to say so?

Contradicting her seems to be rude and to belittle her pain.


“If you had gone to term, you, and your baby, would have likely died so while it’s unfortunate that you had to make that decision, in the end, it was the right thing to do”

Or something along those lines.

Why say anything at all?

Saying that the baby would have died anyway won’t make her feel better. It just doesn’t seem like a time in which you should talk.

Perhaps a moment’s silence?

My vote is for silence or a noncommitting “yeah”.

I really don’t see a yes or no question there. You don’t have to say, “Yes, how horrible,” or “No, it’s not.” I’d just stick with, “I’m so sorry; it must be hard for you, but you made the right decision. You just didn’t have any choice.”

Whether you feel any sympathy for the fetus is irrelevant, because she obviously does. Your role as a friend, IMHO, is to just be supportive and help her get through the mourning process, whether or not you feel her degree of grief is warranted.

Simply put: “Words fail.”

This is just a shot in the dark, but it’s possible she’s trying to mask some feeling of personal responsibility for a condition that is, for all I know from the text of the OP, anyway, entirely not her fault. She feels guilty all around, not just for the abortion but for having, so to speak (and I would certainly not use this term to describe her), a flawed body. I might talk to her about the condition, mention, if applicable, that it just happens and it isn’t her fault. Of course, I would do this only if I felt that she would be able to derive relevant comfort and solace from me - were I to encounter her by chance, it would not be my place to do as I have suggested here because (again, if I’m right, and I could be WWAAAAAAYY off) she needs someone she can trust so she can unburden herself of this guilt.

If you can say it with utmost sincerity, ‘how terrible for you’ might work.

I’d just make sympathetic noises and tell her that if she needs to talk I’m available.

That sucks that your friend had to go through that. It must have been an incredibly difficult thing to do - I hope she accepts that it was necessary and eventually stops feeling guilty.

“You really did have no choice in the matter, and that is tragic.”

That’s what I told my wife when she had her tubal pregnancy. She bore two more sons since then. Had she not aborted, then my oldest son and I would be the only family to speak of right now.

I’d say nothing. Sometimes they’re just talking and all you really need to do is put a hand on their shoulder & let them know you’re there for them.

How about ‘I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through this. What can I do to help you?’

What EhhMon said. Saying nothing would be the best situation of you’re a man, and maybe a word of solation if you’re a woman.

I will provide an insensitive answe and I sguuest you avoid implying any part of it – “No chance at all with you, baby killer. Where are you carving your notches?”

A really really poor choice for a response.

I’m 95% anti-abortion (your friend’s situation being among the other 5%), and if I had to say anything. it would be along the lines of “you had to do what you had to do.” Anything further would have to be solicited by her, but it would all be sympathetic & supportive of her.

Btw, in conversations in which friendly acquaintances have talked about having abortions which are in my 95% category, I’ve just refrained from comment. They knew my views & didn’t pursue further. (I kinda think they were testing me in some instances.)


We all want to make things better when there is an accident or death that affects someone we know. We might look for words that, once spoken, will act as an incantation and make everything OK again. Those words don’t exist.

People in a bad situation, such as a death in the family, need to know that they are not alone, and that people care about them. At a funeral, I might say ‘I’m sorry that your grandmother died.’ That statement is true, it is genuine, and is usually answered with something like a sincere, heartfelt ‘Thank you.’