The Rec League: Abortion in Romance

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookEditor’s note: Please note that this is not an invitation to debate abortion in the comments. Any attempts to do so will be removed.

This request came from S.A. Thanks for submitting this one:

Do you have any recommendations for romances where heroines have had or are considering an abortion — sort of the reverse of the “secret baby” trope? I saw your review for Knit, Purl, a Baby and a Girl by Hettie Bell, but I’m hoping for more options.

EllenM: Ooooh hmmmmmmmmm this is a head-scratcher. Let me put on my thinking cap.

Sarah: It is really something that there aren’t any books we can think of, isn’t it?

OK – the one with the shoes and the fishnets.

The Siren by Tiffany Reisz. It may not be that book (I’m so sorry I don’t recall) but I remember Nora talking about abortion in her past.

There is a Jackie Lau book. I don’t recall which one. ARGH my brain is so tired.

Amanda: Jackie Lau has a few!

 

Sarah: The Jackie Lau I was thinking of is Not Another Family Wedding (aka “the one with the model on the cover whose hair I absolutely adore”). ( A | BN | K | AB )

YES – Cheers to Jackie for all of it. Abortion is healthcare.

Jenny Trout writing as Abigail Barnette has one.

Amanda: The Girlfriend? ( A | BN )

I found it on this great list!

Sarah: Oh – yes that’s it!

What books would you add to this list? And once more, we remind you that the topic of abortion is not up for debate

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  1. 1
    Gill says:

    Yes, Jackie Lau is fabulous

  2. 2
    Bee says:

    Not a book, the movie Obvious Child is an amazing romances that centres around the main character having an abortion

  3. 3
    Viktória says:

    Katie Cotugno wrote a duology, the first is 99 Days and the second is 9 Days and 9 Nights where the second book deals with abortion.
    Also Hate Crush by Angelina M. Lopez deals with past abortion.

  4. 4
    Escapeologist says:

    This is an older one from the glory days of “chick lit” – I’d classify it as a romcom – Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes.
    (I love her writing and humor but beware, heavy topics especially in her later books, not apparent from the cute covers and blurbs. Might want to check goodreads reviews.)

  5. 5
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    JB Salsbury’s FACE THE MUSIC features a heroine who has had not one but two abortions in the past (iirc, one may occur during the course of the book—not just referred to as a past event—but before the heroine gets involved with the hero). Although the abortions are presented as a simple fact of the heroine’s life, she is convinced that the hero (a widowed church pastor) will reject her when he discovers the truth. (He doesn’t.) I give the book high marks for including a topic so frequently ignored in romance, but it’s a bit wobbly on how it is administered in the plot.

    In the last WAYR, I went full rant-mode on Clare Connelly’s latest HP, CROWNED FOR HIS DESERT TWINS, because one of the ways Connelly vilifies the hero’s “awful ex” (a lazy writing cliched character to begin with) is by saying she had an abortion and the hero felt he couldn’t “protect his child—Ugh! But then commentator Deborah reminded me:

    “although this doesn’t in any way negate the criticism of Connelly’s use of abortion as shorthand for “evil ex/horrible woman/victimized male,” I want to note that she’s also one of very few romance authors who have written a heroine with an elective abortion in her backstory: THE BILLIONAIRE’S CHRISTMAS REVENGE.”

    So Connelly giveth and Connelly taketh away when it comes to characters who have had abortions.

  6. 6
    Chris k says:

    I think one of Robin Lovett’s alien quarantine books has a heroine who has had an abortion – it was discussed as something very matter of fact but difficult which I appreciated and thought was refreshing and well handed. It is not a big plot point.

  7. 7
    Katty says:

    @Escapeologist, I have very fond memories of Last Chance Saloon! I loved “chick lit” back then! I do want to point out, however, that the heroine in that book ends up having a spontaneous abortion / miscarriage before she can go through with the actual planned abortion. I seem to remember that she very clearly states she would definitively have gone through with it, but it still feels like a case of “close, but no cigar” in terms of normalizing abortions in books.

  8. 8
    Jill Q. says:

    Not a romance, but I have to give a plug for the YA book Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan. A teenage girl gets pregnant and knows that her parents will not give her permission to get an abortion, so she goes on a road trip with a friend she’s been estranged from for many years.

    I feel like her decision making process and how she felt about the decision was handled really well. No real romance, but a lot of really good female friendship stuff.

    There’s a movie too. I think? but I haven’t seen it.

  9. 9
    Alison M says:

    Rhoda Baxter’s ‘Girl In Trouble’ would fit this brief I think and is a great read.

  10. 10
    Ruth says:

    Cara McKenna’s Brutal Game includes a non-intended pregnancy where abortion, miscarriage, and unsought pregnancy are all addressed with respect and emotional honesty. It’s the second book in a duology of hers; the first is a really interesting romance with a consensual non-consent kink.

  11. 11
    Ellie M says:

    Bright Midnight by Karina Halle, although I’ll caveat this rec by saying that I didn’t particularly like this book for other reasons, though i thought the heroine’s abortion was handled well. Potential spoiler for the book:

    This is a second chance romance in which the heroine found out she was pregnant after they broke up years prior in high school, and had an abortion. The abortion is just presented as a choice she made, and the right choice for her and where she was at in her life, and she remained good with the decision.

  12. 12
    Anne Schwartz says:

    If you are looking for more on this the podcast Fated Mates has a whole episode about abortion in romance.

  13. 13
    Zoe says:

    YAY! Thanks for the recs. I’ve lamented to my friends for YEARS that I never see someone who has an abortion get handled neutrally, let alone have an HEA. Adding all these to my TBR.

  14. 14
    Rhoda Baxter says:

    Max Seventeen by Kate Johnson (space opera). The heroine has an abortion.

  15. 15
    msb says:

    Thanks to those who asked the question and those who answered it. Some interesting recs here.

  16. 16
    June says:

    Tammara Webber’s Good For You. It’s the third book in her Between the Lines series, which has characters that dealt with teen pregnancy in different ways.

  17. 17
    Nancy C says:

    Not abortion exactly, but Dirty by Kylie Scott features a couple who have unprotected sex, followed by the heroine going to a pharmacy for Plan B with the hero accompanying her. I liked how non-judgmentally it was handled, and that it was the heroine’s idea while the hero didn’t abandon her to manage it on her own.

  18. 18
    Eliza Whiting says:

    The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid included Evelyn getting an abortion, but it was a fairly minor plot point in the book.

  19. 19
    spinster.revival says:

    There was a great episode of the Fated Mates podcast talking about abortion, and I remember them recommending Once upon a bad boy by Melonie Johnson where the heroine had an abortion in the past and it was treated in a good normal way. I haven’t read it yet, but Jen (@jenreadsromance) has never recommended a bad book as far as I’m concerned.

  20. 20
    Francesca says:

    Angels by Marian Keyes has a character who has had an abortion. She doesn’t regret it, but her Catholic guilt kicks in later when she has fertility issues.

  21. 21
    Lara says:

    Not a romance, however “Exit, Pursued By a Bear” by E.K. Johnston is an excellent YA novel dealing with the dual topics of rape and abortion. Protagonist Hermione has a drink drugged at a party and works her way through the aftermath, including going to get an abortion when she realizes she’s pregnant. I promise up-front that nothing is explicit, and that Hermione gets huge amounts of love and support from her family and friends throughout the book. I remember it more as a story about strength and friendships than anything else.

  22. 22
    MeMe says:

    Thank you for this Rec. League!!! I wish these plots were as common as Surprise Baby (or at least mentioned seriously in Surprise Baby, in the way that modern mystery and horror need to explain why nobody’s cell phone is working)

    Experimental Marine Biology by Susannah Nix
    The heroine’s estrangement from her parents stems from her high school abortion. She doesn’t regret the abortion itself but she did loose her parents esteem and they lost hers. I wish there were more examples of literary abortions without emotional fall-out but here we are.

    Not an abortion but Melanie Greene’s Roll of a Lifetime has a swoon scene where hero goes to a pharmacy after a broken condom and he researches Plan-b on his phone to get the best one. Very romance. This book came along at the right time to bust my reading slump so I appreciate it even more.

    Clean Breaks by Ruby Lang
    The condom breaks and the hero immediately goes into historical romance “I’ll marry you” mode and the VERY COOL heroine is like, “I’m a doctor and this is modern times, no thank you. Emergency contraceptives exist.”

    and a warning: I just read Love Grind by Shelly Ellis- towards the end of the book an ancillary character (heroine of a previous book) cancels her planned abortion because her college student boyfriend got mad about it. This is treated as good news. The rest of the book is rife with anti-sex work rhetoric as the ex-stripper heroine is shamed for her former profession. I assumed there would be a twist or something but no, the heroine just apologizes to everyone who shamed her (including the hero).

  23. 23
    wingednike says:

    Not sure if this fits but Katee Roberts’ The Bastards Betrayal has a scene where they talk about going to the pharmacy.

  24. 24
    S.A. says:

    Thanks for the recs, all!

  25. 25
    Empress of Blandings says:

    My first thought was Jackie Lau too. Otherwise, there’s Dani Collins’ Innocent’s Nine Month Scandal – the h & H have unprotected sex, and both are in full agreement afterwards that the morning-after pill is the way forward (which doesn’t happen for various reasons, hence the title). While the actual discussion isn’t a big part of the plot, it’s presented as a straightforward anguish-free option.

  26. 26
    Anonymous says:

    Destiny’s Surrender by Beverly Jenkins. Heroine is a sex worker, who has had an abortion. She has a second pregnancy and has the baby. Hero is the baby’s father. She does about the side effects (book is set in 1880s?), but no moralizing. I highly recommend the book and Beverly Jenkins.

  27. 27
    JenM says:

    I just got an email from author Zoe York about an anthology she’s participating in to support reproductive rights around the world. If you donate at least $10 to NARAL or Planned Parenthood, you can send in your receipt and get a link to an anthology of 36 books donated by various romance authors. As I understand it, these are full-length books or novellas, not short stories. While not specifically focusing on abortion, she noted that her contribution, Love In A Sandstorm, features a midwife who has provided abortion support in the past, so I’d guess the other donated stories have similar linkages to this subject. The link is: https://romanceforroe.com.

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