Abortion Benefits Men, Too
Britney Spears, paths not taken, and owning your choices.
In a new memoir, pop icon Britney Spears says she had an abortion when she was dating Justin Timberlake, a relationship that lasted through both of their late teens and early 20s. She still seems conflicted about the decision, writing, “It was a surprise, but for me, it wasn’t a tragedy. I loved Justin so much. I always expected us to have a family together one day. This would just be much earlier than I’d anticipated.” She continues: “But Justin definitely wasn’t happy about the pregnancy. He said we weren’t ready to have a baby in our lives, that we were way too young.”
Spears also writes: “I’m sure people will hate me for this, but I agreed not to have the baby. I don’t know if that was the right decision. If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it. And yet Justin was so sure that he didn’t want to be a father.”
She ended the pregnancy, and says that the decision was “one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced in my life.”
I have little doubt that this story will be seized upon by abortion opponents as one of regret. But I hear something much more complicated: The very adult reality of making difficult decisions in imperfect circumstances.
I haven’t read Spears’s full memoir. But I do know some of the basic biographical details of her life. She’s 41 and has two sons who by all accounts she adores. She’s had an incredible career, and also been under an abusive conservatorship from which she only recently broke free. I don’t know what goes on in her head, but I have to imagine she has at some point clocked that, if she hadn’t had an abortion in her late teens or early 20s, her two sons would have never come to be. She might be one-hit wonder Britney Spears, not pop icon Britney Spears. Maybe that would have been a more desirable path; maybe not. But that is how life works: The big decisions we make veer us off of one path and onto a new one, and with each choice, there are some opportunities seized and others not realized. When women end pregnancies, they generally do so in order to stay on their existing journey. Had Spears not ended the pregnancy with Timberlake, it’s not like she would have had her two sons plus one more kid; she would have been walking a different way, and her life would have taken a different shape.
And so too would Timberlake’s. Had he had a child with Spears when they were both practically children themselves, would his career be as fruitful? Would he have been in a position to find his partner, have his children? Maybe. But maybe not.
I have no doubt that Timberlake is going to be painted as the bad guy here, as a man who isn’t the kind of stand-up guy who supports his partner no matter what. And this may be unpopular in a feminist space, but I don’t think Timberlake did anything wrong.