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Under Pressure: Britney Spears, Ernest Hemingway, and Abortion

Under Pressure: Britney Spears, Ernest Hemingway, and Abortion

In her memoir The Woman in Me, Britney Spears reveals that when she and Justin Timberlake were a couple 20 years ago, she became pregnant, and he convinced her to have an abortion.

“Justin wasn’t happy about the pregnancy,” writes Spears. “He said we weren’t ready to have a baby in our lives, that we were way too young.” She then says, “I’m sure people will hate me for this, but I agreed not to have the baby. I don’t know if that was the right decision. If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it. And yet Justin was so sure that he didn’t want to be a father.”

“To this day,” she adds, “it’s one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced in my life.”

Interestingly, most pro-lifers I’ve known would not be surprised at this confession. They’re well aware of the pain and remorse experienced by many women following an abortion.

Because hundreds of thousands of abortions occur annually in the United States, discussions between partners about children (and the pressures that such decisions often bring) undoubtedly take place many times a day.

Oddly enough, a short story capturing the spirit of such conversations appeared nearly 100 years ago. Odder still, the author of that story was that most macho of American writers: Ernest Hemingway.

In his 1927 short story, “Hills Like White Elephants,” an American and “the girl with him” are sitting at a café table outside a railway station in Spain while waiting for their train. Their casual chatting ends when the man says, “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig. It’s not really an operation at all.”

When the girl is silent, the man adds, “I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural.”

“Then what will we do afterward?”

“We’ll be fine afterward. Just like we were before.”

“What makes you think so?”

“That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.”

The girl then says, “And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.”

“I know we will. You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it.”

“So have I,” said the girl. “And afterward they were all so happy.”

Her sarcasm here is unmistakable. After more back-and-forth talk, the girl asks, “Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along.”

“Of course it does. But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want any one else. And I know it’s perfectly simple.”

At the end of the story, the man carries their luggage outside, slips into the bar, drinks an Anis, and returns to the girl, who “was sitting at the table and smiled at him.”

“Do you feel better?” he asked.

“I feel fine,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.”

As is the case with so many of Hemingway’s stories, those last words “I feel fine” drip with irony. Whatever the future may bring, the woman knows her relationship with the man has forever changed. This particular moment will always stand between them. Her question—“Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along”—may have been a weak argument for having the child, but it was nonetheless an argument.

Unfortunately, the pressure present in Hemingway’s story and Britney Spears’ experience is not uncommon. Plus, Hemingway’s girl masking her remorse (“I feel fine”) and Spears feeling regret and conflicted (“If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it”) seems a natural response if the fetuses inside them are actual human beings.

Thus, celebrating the extermination of an unborn being (as some pro-choice activists now promote) or brushing aside an abortion with the nonchalance of having visited the dentist diminishes womanhood and cheapens our humanity.

Image credit: Pexels

Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick

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  • Avatar
    October 24, 2023, 11:02 am

    When the foundation that holds societies together (WOMAN) is convinced that killing their offspring is OK , societies crumble. It's really that simple.

  • Avatar
    October 25, 2023, 1:11 pm

    Killing a human life is just a casual thing… It has deadened the soul of our nation.

  • Avatar
    October 29, 2023, 6:48 pm

    A beautiful piece.

  • Avatar
    george mccartney
    November 9, 2023, 7:46 am

    Dear Mr. Minick, Your statement about abortion is spot on. I hope that people will read the Hemingway story. Given the parading of abortion "rights" we've been witnessing in recent years, I'd like to see it assigned as mandatory reading in college classes. Its flat coldness powerfully conveys the horror of what the male character is proposing to the woman in the story.

    It's also present in the work of other great writers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne whose short story Young Goodman Brown includes a moment in which the narrator mentions in his catalog of sins, "how beardless youths have made haste to inherit their fathers' wealth; and how fair damsels—blush not, sweet ones—have dug little graves in the garden." Thus Hawthorne in his story of unacknowledged sinfulness invites his readers to recognize the inevitable link between euthanasia and abortion. This might foster some healthy second thoughts about the implications of pro-choice reasoning.


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