Abortion Bans are Gifts for Abusive Men
Men who want to control women lending a hand to men who want to control women.
In Texas, a 26-year-old woman is dead after her boyfriend murdered her because she had an abortion. Gabriella Gonzalez had reportedly just returned back to Texas from Colorado, where she had traveled to end the pregnancy — she had to travel because abortion is now a crime in Texas. Her boyfriend, Harold Thompson, had a history of abusing her, and reportedly wanted to force her to have his baby. When she returned, he physically attacked her, and then shot her dead.
There are a lot of abusers out there who want to force women to have children against their will. Only some of them are those women’s husbands and boyfriends. Many more of them are Republican politicians and voters.
Abortion bans are gifts to abusive men. We know that pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable time in relationships with abusers, and that abuse routinely scales up when a woman is pregnant. This dynamic is so extreme that homicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women in the United States — and the United States is already the country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the wealthy and developed world. We know, too, that women in abusive relationships who are unable to have abortions are more likely to be tied to their abuser years later, while women who were able to end their pregnancies are more likely to have left the relationship.
A pregnancy is a tether. For many women trapped by abuse, abortion is one step toward freedom.
And yet “pro-family” and “pro-life” conservatives push for abortion bans, forcing women to bear the children of abusive partners, and putting those women at risk of greater abuse and even death. Those conservatives tell women the same thing abusive men do: Your body is not yours.
I’ll say the thing it seems weirdly taboo to say: It is wise to end a pregnancy if your partner is abusive.
Of course women should make whatever reproductive decisions they want to make. But we rarely talk about abortion as a good, solid, wise choice. And it is wise, not to mention an act of self-preservation and often protection of existing children, to choose not tether yourself permanently to a person who abuses you, and may very well abuse your children.
That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily unwise to have a baby with an abusive or otherwise terrible person. Life complicated; our circumstances are often imperfect, and our choices reflect that fact. The only person who is doing something wrong is an abusive relationship is the abusive partner. But it’s still good when women can leave. It’s good to realize that when you choose to bring another human being into the world, you have a responsibility to keep them as safe as possible, and it’s an abrogation of that responsibility to raise them in an abusive household. There may be no better choice, or it may feel like there’s no better choice, because abusive and dysfunctional relationships have a way of breaking down people’s reserves, their self-worth, and their ability to project a realistic and free future. But having a child with an abusive partner comes pretty close to guaranteeing that you, and that child, will be tied to that partner for life. Partner abuse does not guarantee child abuse, but it does significantly increase the chances of it — and it certainly increases the chance that a child will witness domestic violence, which is itself tremendously damaging. And yet courts the country over routinely award custody and visitation to men who have abused their partners. Courts have awarded joint custody to rapists, including to men who raped and impregnated children, and to men credibly accused of abusing their children. And despite claims from “men’s rights” activists, a woman alleging abuse makes her less likely to be granted full custody.
People should be free to have children when and how they choose. And it would be much easier for women to leave abusive partners if they had more support — if leaving wouldn’t mean being broke or homeless, or being ostracized from your community, or putting yourself at greater risk (a number of women are killed when they try to leave). But it is easier when there’s not a child tying you to the person you want to escape. And it is an act of love and protection for an existing or potential child to say: “I am not going to put you in this situation.”
It is good when women in abusive relationships lay the groundwork for leaving. The women who say “no thank you” to continuing a pregnancy with an abusive man are almost universally attempting a very brave and necessary step away from that man.
That may have been what Gabriella Gonzalez was doing. At the very least, she was stating a claim of sovereignty, even in the face of both a state and a partner telling her otherwise: You don’t own me. And Harold Thompson killed her for it.
Now, women across much of the United States do not have the right to end a pregnancy that ties them to an abusive man, because Republican politicians tell women the same thing abusive men do: I do own you; do what I say.
We know that an appallingly high percentage of American women don’t make it through their pregnancies or the first year after birth, many because of physical complications, many because of mental health complications, and many because the men who were supposed to love them murdered them. Republican politicians know that. They choose to pass laws anyway that guarantee women will die.
This is a simple fact: Abortion bans don’t simply mean women might die. In a nation where pregnancy is a death sentence for far too many women, and the women most likely to die in pregnancy are also among those most likely to seek abortions, abortion bans mean, by simple statistical probability, that women will die. Some will die because of physical causes; some will die by suicide; some will be killed by partners or former partners.
And all of these women, whether they die because pregnancies forced by anti-abortion laws or because of partners who kill them, will have had their lives stolen by people who share a single ideology: That women should be under their control.
Well, of course - it's simple logic. The misogyny evident in forcing women to give birth is very much present in western cultures, but Americans seem to think that it's only in Asia and Africa where women have no rights. Now it's not only abortion that's becoming illegal, but so is traveling - women driving, flying or taking a bus alone to a state where abortion is still available can be, at least in theory for now, given pregnancy tests or internal exams. Depending on which political party wins in 2024, things could get much worse.
Every day, I am more and more astonished by the increasing evidence that so many western men are so damn fearful - of women, of LGBTQ people, of people who aren't white and Christian. I'd say without any qualms that it's the men who have serious mental health issues in America, and yes, they've even armed themselves.
What an incredible article. Thank you for writing about the impact this has on abused women. Thank you for bringing to light what so many are trying to hide