My friend Robert and I go way back; we shared the same obscure major in college. Our relationship has always been strictly platonic, but over 10+ years of friendship, more than one person has assumed we’re husband and wife. We’ve stayed close as many things have changed in both of our lives: many different apartments, jobs, relationships, etc.
Robert accompanied me to my abortion appointment two and a half years ago.
I look back on my abortion as a positive turning point in my life. At age 32 I got pregnant on a one-night stand. I’d just started a new job in a new industry, and was living in a place that stressed me out. I had a lot of mixed feelings about it all, along with unprecedented clarity: I didn’t want to bring a child into the world in those circumstances. I am incredibly grateful that the medical care I needed was fully accessible to me at the moment I needed it.
But I wasn’t sure how Robert felt about it. So, recently, we sat down in his living room one Sunday afternoon, snacked on summer strawberries and talked about it.
Here’s an edited version of our conversation.
How did you feel about my abortion?
Robert: I was super honored you shared the news with me: it was a testament to our friendship. It was sensitive and personal, a heavy thing for you to deal with. That day when we went for a walk, when you told me you were pregnant, I wanted to be as supportive as I could. I tried to avoid leading questions. I wanted to follow your lead on how to feel about it and be nimble. I was 100% ready to be supportive. Implied in that, it was 100% your decision, and I was there to back you up as much as possible.
It was the first time I was personally close to someone who was pregnant. My friends in Denver have two kids but I wasn’t there through the pregnancies.
It was really eye-opening, inherently a political act, supporting a right to personal autonomy and undermining male privilege. I was super conscious of weakening and undermining that structure of privilege through direct action, watching the movie Little Miss Sunshine in that waiting room with you.
It made me more committed to the cause of gender equality, in concrete ways, beyond money or marching. I’d been a supporter of abortion rights for a long time but always in the abstract. It was really meaningful to take concrete action in alignment with my beliefs. This was the first time I was there to witness and support in the flesh. I was honored.
What else do you remember from that day?
Robert: It was overcast in the morning when we went into the clinic. The sun came out a bit later. I don’t remember what day of the week it was.
There was an older man protesting in front of the clinic. He had a sign. He spoke to us quietly, then louder as we got closer to the door. He didn’t block the way physically but he was emotionally manipulative. “Don’t kill your baby.” I felt tempted to confront him but I knew you wouldn’t like that.
Ah, you know me well. What else do you remember?
Robert: I felt positive about it, proud of you for having made this decision, since it was not the right time for you. I was proud of you for doing what you thought was right. It required conviction and courage on your part. You hadn’t taken it lightly.
I was pleased with the closeness of our friendship. I was there for you as long as you needed, and no longer than you wanted. We got lunch near the clinic and then walked back to your house together, then you wanted to sleep so I let you rest and went home.
Is this something you talk about now, two and a half years later?
Robert: When the topic of abortion comes up I mention it. But I’m in fewer political conversations than I was ten years ago. Anyone who knows me knows my politics. I try not to initiate the conversation but if it comes up I don’t hesitate to say that I accompanied a friend.
I think every woman should have the option of abortion. Our society is weirdly sex-obsessed but the inevitable result—pregnancy—is much less talked about, especially outside the little box of ‘virtuous sexuality’ within a heterosexual marriage.
Robert: Do you remember that guy Salvador, who had just moved here? Some close friends had put me in touch with him and I tried to set him up with you. He was single, you were single, and I thought it might be a good match.
Really? I had no idea.
Robert: And then when we all went to the baseball game, you mentioned your abortion and he got really uncomfortable. At that point it was clear you two weren’t a match.
Wow, I remember the game but I don’t remember that conversation. When I was dating, I always made a point of bringing up my abortion early on, as a bit of a litmus test. The guy doesn’t have to agree with me, but it’s important to me to be able to have a civilized and productive conversation about it. Isn’t that the point of dating? To have real conversations about life-changing choices together?
About 15 minutes into my first date with Will [my partner of almost a year] he asked what I do for fun, and I told him about the healthcare innovation event I organized. He asked what inspired me to do that, so I told him about my abortion. I later found out that he grew up very Christian in a small town, and that his first thought was, “Whoa, how are my parents going to react to that?” I haven’t met his parents yet—they live far away—but I’ll be sure to avoid this topic when I do meet them. There are plenty of other things we can talk about.
Our first date was only the second time Will had ever heard an abortion story. The first time was when he was in this confessional storytelling circle at a forest retreat, on acid. The fact that the only other time in his entire life that someone talked about their abortion in his presence was when they were on psychedelics… wow, that really shows how little people share these stories.
Robert: When I was studying abroad in Cuba in college, a local professor talked to our class about the role of women in Cuba. He explained how abortion was one of many services in the national health system, a right guaranteed to allow women to fully enjoy the full range of sexuality, on the same basis as men. At the time I was not fully comfortable with that position, especially the part about pleasure. But now I’m a big believer in enthusiastic informed consent. It’s a beautiful thing.
Thank you, Robert, for being such an amazing friend and ally. I am so grateful for our friendship.
The contributor is an Exhale supporter in California who works in technology. Names have been changed.