CREDIT: Maggie Steber/The New York Times
On Friday, the New York Times published a wedding announcement for Udonis Haslem, a basketball player with the Miami Heat, and his partner Faith Rein. The article traces the couple’s 14-year relationship from the time they first met at the University of Florida, to the beginnings of their powerful careers, to the birth of their son, to Haslem’s proposal in Italy.
It also includes several paragraphs about Rein’s decision to have an abortion after the couple had been dating for about a year — an experience which brought them closer:
Their first challenge took place the following spring when she became pregnant. It was her junior and his senior year, and he had begun training for the N.B.A. draft. Despite the pregnancy, she was busy with track meets and helping him complete homework. The timing was bad.
“I am not a huge fan of abortion, but we both had sports careers, plus we could not financially handle a baby,” said Mr. Haslem, noting how he struggled with supporting Kedonis, the son he had in high school, who is now 14 and who lives with his mother.
“Udonis appreciated that I was willing to have an abortion,” Ms. Rein said. “I found him caring, supportive, nurturing and all over me to be sure I was O.K. I saw another side of him during that difficult time and fell deeply in love. He had a big heart and was the whole package.”
The New York Times’ decision to include those details in a column in its prominent wedding section is a small step toward dispelling the persistent abortion stigma that’s deeply ingrained in our society. Despite the fact that terminating a pregnancy is a very common aspect of reproductive health care — one in three U.S. women will have an abortion sometime during their lifetime — many of those women feel like they’re not allowed to talk openly about it.
Shame-based messages around abortion care have reinforced the idea that it’s always morally wrong, and the women who opt for having one always end up regretting it later. In fact, research has consistently shown that when women choose to have an abortion, it’s because it’s the right choice for them — just like it was the right choice for Rein and Haslem in the early stages of their relationship — and they don’t actually regret it. When women who have had abortions are asked about their experiences, 90 percent of them say they primarily felt relief.
But abortion stigma tells them they should feel otherwise. The societal attitudes toward abortion have a huge impact on women’s feelings about it, and typically exacerbate their negative emotions after having one.
Although the anti-choice community always emphasizes the negative mental health effects of choosing to end a pregnancy, Rein provides an example of the potentially positive results that perhaps aren’t as widely discussed. She and her partner made the decision together, he supported her through it, and she ended up feeling emotionally closer to him because of it. Rein and Haslan also illustrate one of the most common benefits of reproductive choice: an opportunity to preserve economic stability when having a child just isn’t an affordable option. The couple went on to have a child when they were emotionally and financially prepared to do so.
Pop culture and the media can be important avenues for normalizing issues that may have once seemed “taboo.” In the fight for LGBT equality, the growing representation of gay people in the media has gone a long way toward changing public perceptions of same-sex couples. Women who have abortions lag behind in this area. It’s still rare for the media to portray a woman’s decision to have an abortion — and when they do, it’s typically accompanied by an emphasis on the emotional strain resulting from the choice. But Rein is hardly alone when it comes to her experience with reproductive health care. By giving her story such a prominent platform, the other women who can relate might realize they’re not alone either.