Two years ago, Matthew Markman, a software salesman in California, and his wife, who was 20 weeks pregnant, learned that their son had a rare heart defect. If his wife carried the fetus to term, he would be unlikely to survive after birth, their doctor told them.
The news was crushing for Mr. Markman and his wife; they had been trying to have a baby for over a year and had used in vitro fertilization multiple times. After three rounds of implantation, one embryo stuck, but resulted in a miscarriage. This pregnancy had been their fifth embryo. They had even settled on a name, Elijah, “because my grandfather’s name starts with an E and he had recently passed,” said Mr. Markman, 37, who considers himself in favor of abortion rights.
When the couple made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy, Mr. Markman felt that because his wife was the one carrying the fetus and who had to go through the procedure, he had to be the stronger one in that moment of despair. They cremated the remains and spread the ashes on Muir Beach in Northern California.
“I personally had to take leave from work for a couple of months because it was emotionally a very difficult period,” he said. “It took me a while to realize that it was OK that the experience was hard on me as well.”
Life After Abortion
Another recurring theme in the responses from men who wrote to The Times was the belief that they would not be where they are today without abortion.
There is a vast body of peer-reviewed research that connects abortion access to a woman’s emotional, physical and financial outcomes, including the landmark Turnaway study, which followed women who had been denied abortions for five years and found that they were more likely to be living in poverty or be unemployed than women who were able to get abortions. But experts noted that only a few researchers have explored the long-term consequences of an abortion on a man’s life trajectory.
One study, published in 2019 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that men whose partners had abortions while they were in college were more likely to graduate and earn higher incomes than men whose partners did not.
Nam Phan, a 30-year-old engineer in Massachusetts and a father of two, said the abortion his wife got when they were dating as teenagers helped them to eventually become better parents. At the time, they were not financially equipped, nor did they feel mature enough to look after a baby. “I don’t think either of us could even manage taking care of ourselves at that point,” he said.
Their first child, who is now 5, was also an unplanned pregnancy, but they felt far more prepared for parenthood when they found out about him; they had graduated from college, settled into their jobs, gotten married and were about to buy a home.
“It isn’t lost on us that having a kid back then would have really changed our lives significantly,” he said.
When Kevin Barhydt was 19, the woman he was seeing became pregnant. Immediately, he was overcome with “panic and enormous fear.”
“There wasn’t a ‘gee, let’s do a pros-and-cons list’ moment,” said Mr. Barhydt, now a 60-year-old analyst and an author in New York. By that point, he had already had a rough run at life. He had been abused, he had dropped out of high school and he was struggling with alcohol addiction. They were not in a place to look after a newborn, and he did not even have money to pay for the abortion, he said.
Mr. Barhydt’s second experience with abortion took place about a year or so later with another woman, when he was still grappling with his addiction. He described that time in his life as “terrible.”
“The idea of having a child then just seemed insane,” he said.
Both abortions, Mr. Barhydt said, nudged him toward “a trajectory of healing.” He went to college and found a stable job. He got married and had two sons, and he has now been sober for over three decades. Those memories, though, are still painful.
“Do I pray for forgiveness? Yes, I do,” Mr. Barhydt said. “Do I wish there had been a way to have kept my children? Yes. Do I regret my decision at the time? Not at all.”
Audio produced by Kate Winslett.