In her newly released memoir, The Woman in Me, Britney Spears reveals she had an abortion while in a relationship with Justin Timberlake. The highly-anticipated book - which hit shelves on 24 October - is an honest retelling of Spears’ early career and rise to stardom, her 13-year long conservatorship, and her fight for financial and personal freedom.
As excerpts for the book began to leak last week, the only thing that people could seem to talk about was the abortion Spears had when she was dating the former NSYNC member from 1998 to 2002. But the one person who has kept quiet about her abortion from the start - and perhaps to his own benefit - is none other than Timberlake.
In The Woman in Me, Spears claims that she underwent an at-home abortion because Timberlake, who was in his early 20s at the time, was “so sure that he didn’t want to be a father”. For Spears, it “wasn’t a tragedy” that she was pregnant, as she “always expected” the couple would have a family together one day.
“Abortion was something I never could have imagined choosing for myself, but given the circumstances, this is what we did,” the pop star writes. “If he didn’t want to become a father, I didn’t feel like I had much of a choice. I wouldn’t want to push him into something he didn’t want. Our relationship was too important to me.”
Throughout her memoir, Spears subtly hints that she felt pressured into having an abortion because Timberlake wasn’t ready to become a father. Her revelations have since sparked a larger discussion about the role men play in reproductive care, and much like in Timberlake’s case, how there’s a stake for men everywhere in having access to abortion services.
Spears notes that Timberlake “didn’t want to be a father”, almost suggesting that he wasn’t ready to raise a child because he was focused on his career. At the time, which was sometime between 1998 and 2002, he was Mouseketeer on The All-New Mickey Mouse Club turned teen NSYNC heartthrob. Being two of the most recognisable entertainers at the time, Spears explained that her only option was to take abortion pills at home, so that “no one [found] out about the pregnancy” or her eventual abortion.
As Spears described “lying on the floor” of her bathroom, she wrote that Timberlake “got his guitar” and began strumming it at her, because he thought music would help her self-described “excruciating” pain. Once again, the beach scene in the Barbie movie when the Kens play their guitars at Barbie has reigned true. Still, Spears writes that her medication abortion “took hours” and while she doesn’t remember exactly how it ended, she does “remember the pain of it, and the fear” twenty years later.
No one should be pressured into an abortion they don’t want to have, just like forcing someone to carry an unwanted pregnancy shouldn’t be the decision of lawmakers. If anything, Spears’ memoir highlights the importance of women exercising their right to reproductive choice. We should be able to talk about the benefits of abortion, while still being able to acknowledge that abortion can still be a difficult choice for many women, and not everyone’s experience is the same.
Of course, the Spears haters of the world may argue that the pop singer is airing out Timberlake’s dirty laundry, that he kept quiet about her abortion experience all these years for a reason. After all, Timberlake wasn’t the one lying on the bathroom floor for hours. But when men are reluctant to share their own experiences with abortion, it reinforces the long-held belief that speaking up about access to abortion or reproductive rights is solely a woman’s issue. Timberlake, and men everywhere, do have a place in advocating for reproductive rights because if men could get pregnant, then abortion would be free.
It’s important to note that Spears shared in an Instagram statement last week that she’s over the events in the book, but didn’t reference the abortion specifically. “That was me then... that is in the past!!!” she said. “Most of the book is from 20 years ago... I have moved on and it’s a beautiful clean slate from here.”
As for Timberlake, it seems he remains intent on keeping quiet about his relationship with Spears, as he’s now disabled all comments on Instagram.