Liam Payne's Ex Maya Henry Opens Up About 'Painful' Abortion Experience: 'If It Were Up to Me, I Wouldn't Have' (Exclusive)

Maya Henry released her first novel 'Looking Forward' on Wednesday

<p>James Martinez/Courtesy of Mars Books</p> Maya Henry

James Martinez/Courtesy of Mars Books

Maya Henry

Maya Henry is opening about her difficult experience with abortion.

The former model released the novel Looking Forward, a work of fiction "inspired by true events," on Wednesday.

Henry, 23, tells PEOPLE that she "drew inspiration" from her real life — and in one pivotal scene in the novel, the main character Mallory endures a painful abortion after her partner warns her he will walk away from the relationship if she chooses to keep their baby.

The author says that what she went through in real life is “very similar” to that of her character, and that she dealt with serious complications with little support (In the book, Mallory is encouraged by her partner’s team to not seek treatment for hemorrhaging in the hospital for fear of being spotted in public and word getting out).

“If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have done it,” Henry says of her abortion. “But then also, if I were to have made a different decision, then I would’ve lost the person that I loved. There were definitely difficult conversations about it. But looking back now, things happen for a reason.”

Henry, who was previously engaged to singer Liam Payne, says she suffered complications during her abortion, and ultimately had to take herself to the hospital.

<p>David M. Benett/Getty</p> Liam Payne and Maya Henry in London in December 2019

David M. Benett/Getty

Liam Payne and Maya Henry in London in December 2019

Related: Maya Henry Was Engaged to Pop Star Liam Payne. But Their Relationship Was No Fairytale: 'I Was Very Naïve' (Exclusive)

“It was very lonely, having these men tell you, ‘Oh, it’s going to feel like a heavy period, it’s not going to be that painful, it’s going to be easy.’ But I’m like, you’ve never even gone through anything like [this], so how would you know to tell me?” she says. “That’s why I wanted to include it in the book, because I’ve seen so many people online talk about taking the abortion pill and it was the most painful thing for them. It’s just mind boggling to me that you could tell a woman how they’re going to feel.”

A source close to Henry tells PEOPLE that the ordeal was both “physically and mentally” draining for her.

“It broke my heart seeing her like that when she’s usually always so happy and positive,” the source says. “That was hands down the lowest point of her life, and it didn’t have to be that way.”

<p>James Martinez/Courtesy of Mars Books</p> Maya Henry

James Martinez/Courtesy of Mars Books

Maya Henry

Henry and Payne first confirmed their relationship in 2019, and were engaged in August 2020. After breaking up the next year, they rekindled their romance before ending things for good in April 2022.

Now, Henry, who will soon graduate from New York University with a creative writing degree, says she’s grateful to have a platform that she can use to help young women in relationships that are not serving them.

“You never know what goes on behind closed doors,” she says. “It’s definitely nerve-wracking and scary, but we need to have difficult conversations about these topics to help women not feel alone and to speak up about things. That’s ultimately why I wanted to put this book out there.”

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