What Do We Know About Men’s Involvement in Abortion Care?

Women contemplating abortion frequently involve their male partner in the decision, and those who opt for the procedure often rely on him to help with logistics or finances, or for emotional support before and after the abortion. But what about at the time of the procedure itself: Is it helpful to a woman to have her partner involved? Judging from findings presented in a 2016 review article, the answer would seem to be a qualified yes. The authors identified 13 relevant studies, both quantitative and qualitative, based on women obtaining surgical or medication abortions in noncoercive situations; the research was conducted in six countries, and results were published in a total of 15 articles between 1985 and 2012.

The studies showed that men were involved in the abortion experience in a variety of ways: They may have accompanied their partner to a provider facility, stayed with her throughout the procedure, or participated in preabortion counseling or postabortion care. Findings suggested that men’s involvement was beneficial to their partner’s emotional comfort and assessment of the overall experience, and that it included financial or practical support; none pointed to negative effects. The authors of the review note, though, that none of the studies could be considered high-quality according to established criteria, and men may be involved in partners’ abortion care in ways that were not captured in these studies. There are good reasons to pursue the issue, they observe, because if involvement in abortion care helps men understand their partners’ experiences, “it may not only strengthen couples’ relationships, but also help men become stronger advocates for women in general.”

Cover illustrations of Margaret Sanger © Matthew and Eve Levine