OBJECTIVE: To estimate the rate at which women disclose abortion to their partners and examine the association between domestic violence and partner disclosure.
METHODS: A cross-sectional cohort study was performed on women presenting for elective termination of pregnancy to a single clinic in Houston, Texas. Subjects were offered an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire. The 15-question survey addressed disclosure of abortion to the partner, reasons for nondisclosure if applicable, and physical and sexual abuse using a modified Abuse Assessment Screen.
RESULTS: Of 960 patients, 85.2% completed the survey, for a final sample size of 818. Overall, 139 (17.2%) of subjects chose not to disclose the abortions to their partners, and 14% of patients reported abuse within the past year. Physical or sexual abuse or both was twice as common among nondisclosers (23.7% compared with 12.0%, P = .001). Among nondisclosers, 63 (45.3%) said the relationship with the partner had no future, 52 (37.4%) did not feel obliged to notify their partners, 29 (20.9%) said the partner would oppose the abortion, and 11 (7.9%) said disclosure would result in physical harm.
CONCLUSION: In this urban, racially and socioeconomically diverse population, 17.2% of women concealed pregnancy terminations from their partners. Although relationship instability and personal choice were cited as the most frequent reasons for nondisclosure, the rate of domestic abuse was twice as high in this group and may have adversely affected open communication. Of greatest concern, a subset of nondisclosers reported the direct fear of personal harm as the primary reason for nondisclosure.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: III