Perceptions of male knowledge and support among U.S. women obtaining abortions

Womens Health Issues. Mar-Apr 2011;21(2):117-23. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2010.10.007. Epub 2011 Jan 28.


Purpose: At least one national study has shown that most women having abortions have consulted with male partners before terminating a pregnancy. However, little is known about the extent to which women perceive men to be supportive of their abortion decisions or which relationship characteristics are associated with male knowledge of and support for the abortion.

Methods: We used data from a nationally representative sample of 9,493 women obtaining abortions to examine perceptions of male knowledge and support for the abortion according to three relationship characteristics: Union status, length of relationship, and exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV).

Main findings: The overwhelming majority of women reported that the men with whom they got pregnant knew about the abortion, and most perceived these men to be supportive. Cohabiting and, to a lesser extent, married women as well as those in longer relationships were more likely to report both of these outcomes, even after controlling for demographic characteristics. Exposure to IPV by the man involved in the pregnancy, reported by 7% of abortion patients, substantially reduced the likelihood that women perceived the men to know about or to be supportive of the abortion.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that most women obtaining abortions are able to rely on male partners for social support. Education and counseling efforts that incorporate or reach out to male partners may increase support for women obtaining abortions. However, this strategy may not be appropriate for all women, especially those exposed to IPV.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Domestic Violence*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult