The Britney and Justin era that must have created a severe shortage in denim clothing items in the early aughts is being re-litigated right now, with the recent claim from Spears’s upcoming memoir that she had an abortion 20 years ago while dating Timberlake, because he “didn’t want to be a father”. Spears is now a mother of two, and abortion experiences can differ wildly from person to person—it is, after all, a medical procedure that has the capacity to change lives for the better—but my heart still breaks to see Spears describe that choice as “one of the most agonising things I have ever experienced in my 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 of the pregnancy in her memoir, titled The Woman in Me and due out on 24 October. She adds: “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.”
It’s meaningful to hear anyone speak out about their abortion—that’s pretty much why the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag exists – but it’s particularly powerful coming from Spears, who was released from a 13-year-long court-ordered conservatorship just two years ago. (There’s a lot to be said here about the importance of abortion access and reproductive autonomy for people with disabilities, but I digress.) For a long time, Spears’s life was not fully her own, and while I can’t imagine it’s been easy to revisit the traumas captured in her memoir, I hope she’s found a sense of agency in doing so.
I don’t want to collapse this complex issue into a Britney versus Justin fight, and I certainly don’t want to opine about the family planning decisions of two people I will never know, but it’s hard to hold in mind the ways in which Spears has been repeatedly depicted as Timberlake’s crazy ex and not feel some frustration—not just for Spears but also for every woman whose personal life and/or health has been used to make her seem out of control or incapable of making her own choices. Hopefully, the publication of The Woman in Me this month will be only the beginning of Spears feeling empowered to tell her own stories, on her own terms.
This story was originally published on Vogue.com.