Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears: So often men benefit from abortion, but stay silent on reproductive rights

Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears: So often men benefit from abortion, but stay silent on reproductive rights

The first extracts from Britney Spears’ highly anticipated memoir The Woman in Me have been published by People magazine, ahead of the book’s release later in the month. In these, Spears opens up about the abuse and cruelty she allegedly experienced during the conservatorship, which she was placed under between 2008 and 2021, and an abortion she reportedly had while dating Justin Timberlake. She has kept the news of this abortion a secret for over twenty years.

In the extracts, there’s a familiar sense of loneliness to her story that many will relate to: how she seems to have been pressured into an abortion by a man, who then moves on with his life.

“It was a surprise, but for me, it wasn’t a tragedy. I loved Justin so much. I always expected us to have a family together one day. This would just be much earlier than I’d anticipated,” Spears writes. “But Justin definitely wasn’t happy about the pregnancy. He said we weren’t ready to have a baby in our lives, that we were way too young.”

“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.”

Spears, now 41, explained the trauma she felt having a termination: “To this day, it’s one of the most agonising things I have ever experienced in my life.” Spears and Timberlake dated from 1999 to 2002, and the abortion is said to have happened when Spears was 19.

Timberlake announced their split in 2002, saying he was “broken-hearted”, and went on to release his debut solo album Justified – in which he revealed every song was about his relationship with Britney.

The revelation has caused a lot of people to condemn Justin Timberlake, as it gives their breakup a new framing: did he push Spears into having an abortion, and then leave her to deal with the fallout alone? If so, it’s a scenario that is all too familiar for many women. Timberlake has yet to respond to the backlash.

Research has shown that majorities of both men and women express support for legal abortion, though women are somewhat more likely than men to hold this view (63% vs. 58%). However, abortion rights are overwhelmingly fought for and defended by women, a look at the many 2022 marches illustrates this – thousands of women turned out, but in the crowds only a handful of men can be seen.

We don’t hear many abortion stories from cisgender men, even though they are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the world’s unplanned pregnancies, and so often benefit from them. Instead, women are the ones expected to ‘speak up’. Britney Spears has bravely shared her story, will Justin Timberlake do the same?

At the time, there was a misogynistic and disgusting culture that surrounded Spears, one which simultaneously sexualised her from a young age but shamed her for any sexual autonomy and projected an expectation of purity onto her. Spears, during this era, had publicly said she was “saving herself” for marriage before having sex. Timberlake, after their breakup, went on to claim they had sex.

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