I've long been a fan and, for the first time, I find myself in a situation where I am truly stuck and unable to make a decision and wondering what your advice would be. To put it bluntly, I've been having an affair with a married man and am now pregnant. Having a child has always been my dream and did not seem possible due to medical issues, life circumstances, and, more recently, age. To set up the context of the relationship…

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We started this relationship against our better judgments and our own moralities and subsequently fell deeply in love. We both understand the limitations of our relationship. His family comes first and our relationship is time-limited. We know it has to end soon but haven't been able to break it off. For many years, I've told men, when asked about birth control, that "there's nothing to worry about" or "got that covered" if I felt comfortable not using a condom. I know that the assumption was "she's on the pill or something" rather than "she has a negligible chance of getting pregnant naturally," but the latter is too complicated/painful to discuss early in relationships and I honestly don't think much about it after trust is built because it is that much of a non-issue. Or so I thought.

Now this has happened and we essentially are down to two options: abortion or not. I cannot have an abortion. He cannot live with having a child he cannot raise. Neither of us could live with breaking up his family by coming clean. This is tearing both of us up. I want to be able to have the abortion because I hate seeing him in so much pain and there are moments when I think I can do it. Then everything inside me revolts at the thought. I know he was misled and that makes it harder for me to justify having a say in this. I know I shouldn't have an equal say but I don't think I should entirely lose any say. I can't bear the thought of condemning him to a lifetime of misery and guilt. But I cannot accept having an abortion. I just can't do it. But not having an abortion is the most selfish, most inhumane thing I can do to the person I love most in this world.

So I've agreed to start the process. I’m researching clinics, making appointments, etc. But I can easily see myself not being able to go through with it the day of. I've already fantasized about being dragged in and sedated long enough for them to get things moving so the choice is out of my hands. And I worry that's what it might come to. I’m worried I might have to ask him to physically make me do it. And that's not fair. None of this is fair and I recognize that much of the responsibility for this falls on me. But to me, this conception is miraculous and it may be my only chance at a healthy baby. Even if I can wrap my head around ever trying again, if I can forgive myself enough to try again, my age alone may preclude the possibility of having a healthy baby in the future.

I don't feel I have the right to choose. The weight of my deception and his circumstances really should make abortion the obvious, albeit gut-wrenching, solution. But I'm still so stuck... I have to do it but I can't do it. He deserves better than this but I don't think that I deserve this either. What are your thoughts? It would help to have an objective opinion.

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In all honestly, ETGAETL, my first thought was to kick this one to the commenters and throw my laptop out the window. But then I had a second thought...

Your letter reminded of a conversation I had a few years back with a young man who approached me in an airport—occupational hazard—with a question about a sex problem he and his girlfriend were having. Before we parted I asked him what kind of birth control they were using. He said, "She has an IUD." I replied: "Did you see it go in?"

By which I meant to say... trust but verify. Because a man (or any penis-having, load-blowing person) who 1. doesn't want to be a father and 2. is having sex with a woman (or any uterus-having, egg-releasing person) needs to be very careful about where he's blowing those loads because the decision to reproduce (if not parent) is out of his hands once his female partner is pregnant. My intent wasn't to seed mistrust between that young man and his girlfriend. I just wanted him to think about the worst-case scenario. What can I say? Low-probability/high-consequence events keep me up at night. And unlike, say, a full eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, unplanned pregnancies are fairly routine high-consequence events. (Not to be alarmist or anything, but the words "fail" and "failure" appear eighteen times on this relatively short birth control information page at the CDC's website; those failure rates range from 0.01% for hormonal implants to 27% for the sponge.) So even if the probability of his girlfriend lying to him about having an IUD was low, the consequences for that boy were so high that I didn't think he should just take her word for it.

Which brings me to you and the married man you've been fucking against your better judgement and your morality, ETGAETL...

This shouldn't have to be said, ETGAETL, but I'm going say it anyway: The decision to abort or to continue with this pregnancy is yours alone to make. You do have the right to choose. And your lover knew this choice would be yours to make and he knew it before blowing that fateful load into you. And if being drugged and/or physically carried into a clinic is the only way you can imagine going through with an abortion, you obviously can't go through with it. And you clearly—desperately—want to have a child and this may be your own chance and everything inside you revolts at the thought of having an abortion and if that's actually true and you're not just saying that and you didn't write seeking responsibility-vacating permission from me to have an abortion and and and...

But but but... you assured your lover there was no chance you could get pregnant and, in a very real sense, he consented to unprotected sex after receiving that assurance from you. But this awful circumstance isn't comparable to, say, a man removing a condom he agreed to wear during intercourse, an act that instantly negates consent. Because even if he assumed "she's on the pill or something," he had to have known (or he should have known) that 1. birth control methods can fail and 2. women are capable of lying. Which means pregnancy is always a risk during cishet PIV sex. So any man whose life would be destroyed if the woman he was fucking got pregnant can't just make assumptions. He can't tell himself, "Oh, I guess she's on the pill or something." That guy—Mr. Life Would Be Destroyed Guy—has to be wearing condoms and practicing withdrawal even if his female partner has assured him there's an IUD in there somewhere or she said something vague like "I've got that covered." (Especially if she said something vague like that!) He needs to worry even if she's told him not to worry—or he needs to stick to solo sex or anal sex or oral sex or only have vaginal intercourse with post-menopausal women.

But it's too late for caution and good judgment—on his part or yours, ETGANTL. You're pregnant, you don't want to get an abortion, and no abortion provider is going to perform one on a woman who arrives sedated and/or has to be carried into the clinic. Your lover could attempt to go the secret second family route but the truth will come out eventually and better to face the music now—and the angry spouse now—than to live with the tension of keeping an entire human being secret. On top of the logistical and financial challenges it would present, keeping that human being secret wouldn't be fair to that human being.

Alright. Them's my thoughts. Over to you, commenters.


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