Would my boyfriend be able to tell if I had an abortion?

Dear Alice,

Do you think it is possible to have an abortion without my boyfriend knowing? I think I might be pregnant and I do not want to have the baby. If I tell my boyfriend, he will not approve. Is it possible for me to have one and not tell him about it? Do you think that when we do resume sex, he will notice?

— I really need to KNOW!!

Dear I really need to KNOW!!, 

Discovering you're pregnant at a time when you aren't ready for a baby can be a jarring experience, especially when you feel your opinion on the matter differs from your partner's. The answer to your question, in short, is yes, it’s possible to have an abortion without your boyfriend knowing. Depending on how frequently you see him and what type of abortion you choose, he may notice if you're not feeling well from the procedure or if you need to travel and are gone for a few days. As for whether or not it's possible to not tell him, that’s ultimately up to you and whether you feel you can or want to keep that a secret from him. To start, however, you may want to first find out if you’re pregnant or not as it seems, based off your question, you're still unsure. Some options for figuring this out would be to use an over-the-counter pregnancy test, go to a clinic such as Planned Parenthood, or make an appointment with your own health care provider, if you have one. 

If you are indeed pregnant, it sounds like you will want to get an abortion. Given the overruling of Roe v. Wade, some states have either heavily restricted or banned abortion procedures entirely. If you're in one of the states where abortion is either illegal or heavily restricted, you may choose to either reach out to a Planned Parenthood to help you find out what options you have or check out AbortionFinder.org to determine if there’s an abortion clinic close to you. While traveling between states for an abortion is still legal, it may not be an affordable option for some. If you need financial assistance when it comes to traveling for an abortion, consider contacting the National Abortion Federation or the National Network of Abortion Funds regarding any financial help so they can explain what funds might be available to you. Keeping your data private has now become increasingly important, as internet searches, text messages, and even location pings can become sources of evidence for penalties revolving around abortion. For more information on how to access information on abortion services safetly, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation for more explanation on how to keep all of your information secure. 

If you choose, and are able to get an abortion, you may be instructed by your medical provider not to have penetrative vaginal sex, and receptive anal or oral sex for about two to three weeks after the procedure. While most individuals who have abortions are able to resume sex once they feel comfortable doing so, medical providers tend to instruct patients to be cautious given that you may be bleeding during this time and microorganisms can more easily get into the reproductive tract creating risk for infection. Given that you don't want your boyfriend to know about your abortion, you may have to figure out how to explain why you are avoiding sex with him during this time. Of course, this may not be a problem, depending on how often you spend time together, how close you live to each other, and how frequently you have sex. If feasible, one possible route could be to arrange the procedure to coincide with a vacation or trip you would take on your own. 

As for your question about whether it’s possible for you to have an abortion and not tell your boyfriend about it, there are no physical signs that would indicate to your boyfriend, or anyone else, that you had an abortion. Given this, only you will have the power to decide if you want your boyfriend to know about your abortion or not. If you're thinking of your boyfriend as a long-term partner or possible husband, you can consider this: trust is basic to this kind of relationship. In that case, what would it be like for you to keep this information from him? What would you do if he finds out later? What if there were complications? At what point might you tell him, if at all? Answering these questions may help you figure out whether or not talking to your boyfriend about your desire to get an abortion is the right decision for you. If you're in a state where abortion is either banned or heavily restricted and you are worried that your boyfriend may try to get you into any kind of legal trouble, then it may be in your best interest to avoid telling him to help ensure your safety from any legal troubles that could occur. Again, this is your decision to make and thinking about the particular reasons for whether or not it makes sense to tell your boyfriend may help you decide what's best for you. 

While the decision to tell others about your abortion or desire to get one is yours alone, you don't have to go through the decision process alone. If you would like to explore some of your feelings about this, or if this situation is more complicated than your question suggests, it may make sense to talk with a medical professional, a mental health professional, or someone you trust. You can also reach out to Planned Parenthood to talk about the different options you may have available to you. Talking with someone, whether it be a friend or a mental health professional, may help you clarify your motivations, voice your fears, and facilitate potential communication with your boyfriend. 

Hope this information helps and good luck,

Last updated Jul 21, 2023
Originally published May 10, 1996

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