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Men affected by abortion often suffer in silence because they are confused about their feelings, trying to put up a strong front, and ignored by society. These men deserve to be recognized and to have their pain acknowledged. They need to be reassured that their reactions are normal and that there is hope for their healing.
C.T. Coyle, AbortionResearch.net
Over 100,000 Canadian women made the difficult and painful decision to have an abortion in 1994. Not far in the background were their partners also suffering the hurt. Many feminists, both male and female, see abortion solely as a woman’s issue. It’s her body, therefore, it’s her choice. Unfortunately, this cut-and-dry approach fails to take into consideration that all people have emotions, both sexes. This simple answer to a complex issue does nothing to resolve the confusing feelings women and men experience when faced with the dilemma of an unplanned pregnancy.
Bob and Mike, not their real names, found out the hard way that no matter what side of the abortion debate you stand on, it doesn’t feel good when your mate has one. Mike was 22 when his girlfriend of eight months became pregnant. The relationship wasn’t going great, and her decision to have the abortion was the clincher in ending it, said Mike. Julie, not her real name, had already made up her mind to have an abortion when she told Mike she was pregnant. Mike had absolutely no say in the matter. “I don’t know why she bothered to tell me (that she was pregnant). She didn’t want my input. Since she didn’t want to hear how I felt, I would rather have not known,” said Mike.
Mike calls himself pro-choice, but maintains that adoption would have been his chosen option if he could have helped in the decision.”The correct route to go would have been to give life to the child. Adoption or even marriage and keeping the baby would have been my choice instead of abortion.” Even after his experience, Mike still partly adheres to the “it’s her body, her choice” philosophy. He said it should ultimately be up to the woman because she has to carry the baby for nine months, but it should still be open for discussion between the two partners.”If both parties are involved in conceiving a baby, both parties should be involved in discussing its fate.
“I wish ours would have been a rational decision between us, but it wasn’t and I can’t do anything to change it,” said Mike. Today Mike says he has no emotional problems in dealing with the abortion.”I don’t have that much guilt about it because it wasn’t my decision,” he said. Mike does admit to entertaining the occasional thought about his child that could have been.”I pass them off and go on to something else. The abortion is in the past, and the past is better left alone.”
Not everyone would agree
Fewer men than women seek counselling at any time. When it comes to terminating a pregnancy, even fewer visit a counsellor. A local therapist who deals mainly with men has developed a hypothesis as to why men don’t seek help for these emotions.”Men don’t believe they should be upset about it (abortion). There’s the feeling that it’s a women’s issue,” said Ed Risling, a therapist at Prairie Therapists and Trainers. Generally, when a man receives abortion counselling, it is because his partner encouraged him to join her. And occasionally repressed anger because of an abortion comes out during counselling for other issues. “I’ve dealt with men whose spouses have had abortions. They expressed anger with their lack of involvement in the decision,” said Saskatchewan Mental Health therapist, Curtis Mills.
The social work department at City Hospital provides abortion counselling for those who feel they need it, mostly by doctor referral.”We do meet with men, but generally we see more women. When men do come, it is normally with their partners,” said social worker Cheryl McKay.”But it’s not so much because they are being dragged along. The men who come (for counselling) are concerned and are hurting,” said McKay.
Bob’s story is quite different from Mike’s. Almost three years after his former girlfriend’s 2 abortion, he still has problems coping with his feelings. But unlike Mike, he placed a great deal of guilt and blame upon himself. Bob was 25 when his much younger girlfriend became pregnant. They had been together for several years and his girlfriend, Karla, not her real name, had no intention of having an abortion. But Bob was certain he did not want to become a father.
“I was afraid at the time. I didn’t feel secure about my future, and was sure both our lives would be ruined,” said Bob. Bob shut Karla out and pushed her to have an abortion. “It was mostly my decision because she had no one else to turn to, to talk about it. Karla made her decision based upon what I was thinking.”I wish she would have stuck to her guns and fought the pressure I put on her a little more,” he said.
From the moment the abortion was performed, Bob said he knew it was a poor and hasty decision.”The last year we were together after the abortion, I denied the pain I had. But in the back of my head, I knew it was the wrong decision,” said Bob. Bob’s feelings manifested themselves in a few ways. For quite awhile after the abortion, he could not stand to be around children.”I had real negative feeling towards all kids. I had to stay as far away from them as possible, even my young relatives,” he said. Bob says he became hostile because he kept everything inside and never expressed how he really felt.
“Karla and I didn’t communicate at all about the abortion. I wanted her to feel good about the decision and not think about it. But I guess she felt like I was shutting her out again. We should have worked it out together. Instead, we broke up.” After their break-up, Bob decided he needed help and sought counselling.”Counselling has made me able to forgive myself and to forgive Karla, but I’ll never forget.”I was surprised to find out how many other men have had similar feelings. Counselling gave me a strong sense that I wasn’t suffering alone,” said Bob.
Said therapist Mills, “Men are still socialized to minimize the impact of their experiences. They deny that there has even been an impact.”When feelings aren’t dealt with, people become totally inept in dealing with relationships. They have no sense of how to be intimate.” Bob remains strongly pro-choice, but he also agrees it should be a well-thought out decision between the partners. “Couples should talk to each other and make certain they are both of very sound mind when the decision is made. They definitely shouldn’t do it in haste,” he said. He said people should recognize every situation is different. Bob said he realizes not all men will be affected like he was.
“Some guys are like me, but there’s lots of guys out there who don’t care what happens if they get someone pregnant. It depends on the kind of relationship. The more you care about the woman, the more you will care about the unborn child,” he said. One Saskatoon therapist says no matter how involved a couple is and no matter how prochoice they may be, an abortion will have an affect on them. It is human instinct to want to reproduce, said Tom Leibel.”I think human beings have the innate desire to have a family. We want family,” said Leibel. Often people, especially men, will deny to themselves that the abortion has affected them in some way. Many men try to cover up these emotions but putting up a macho front, said Leibel.
“Our North American culture has taught men to be unemotional. We’re told not to feel , just be in control,” he said. Leibel has seen one young man who came in for abortion counselling. A 16-year-old boy was severely distressed after his 14-year-old girlfriend had an abortion without his approval. The two had been living together for about nine months with the consent of her family when 3 she became pregnant. Leibel had been working with them as a couple “to make the best out of a situation that wasn’t great.” When her parents found out about the pregnancy, they forced the break-up of the couple and brought her back home. The boy was then cut off from any contact with her.
“He was totally devastated. The sense of family had built for himself was suddenly pulled away. “The boy had no control over his child. Even though he had no say in the matter, he felt like an accomplice to murder. He thought he didn’t have anything to live for and became suicidal,” said Leibel. The couple stopped counselling together, but the boy came back to Leibel for help.”He came for grievance counselling over a six month period. He had to grieve the death of his child, the death of his relationship and the death of family as he knew it. “He really needed to feel a sense of value without family,” said Leibel.
Leibel says we still live in a very maledominated society. This has created the battle of the sexes with men pulling one way and women pulling back, with strong repercussions in the abortion debate.”We need to come together and find an equilibrium. We definitely have to get away from looking at the gender. We need to start looking at the person,” he said. By Danielle Chartier HELP FOR FORGOTTEN FATHERS IS JUST A PHONE CALL AWAY If you are suffering emotional after-affects from an abortion, both women and men, there is local help available. Sometimes, it helps just to talk about it.
Fountain of Hope Counselling, started by women who have been through an abortion themselves, offers an open ear and positive steps in dealing with the pain. In the three years the help-line has been around, very few men have contacted them, says the co-founder of Canadian Survivors of Abortion, Elaine Webster. One of the men wanted his girlfriend to have the baby. He even told her he would raise the child with his mother, but she had the abortion anyway, explained Webster.”There was no place for him to turn. He tried calling other places for help. All that he could find was a pamphlet that said men cried alone. But he already knew that,” said Webster. Another man who called had been opposed to his wife’s abortion. They already had one child, and the marriage wasn’t going well. She wanted to have another baby, and was successful in getting pregnant. Then she changed her mind. Said Webster, “He started to look for legal recourse, but was told there was no pint in trying.”
Fountain of Hope uses a nine step program in helping people deal with their pain. Two of the steps include dealing with denial and going through the grieving process. “Many people don’t want to admit the abortion is why they’re feeling bad,” she said. There should e more information made available to people who are thinking about having an abortion. “In my case, I was told out-and-out lies. It was presented to me as an easy solution. The doctor even told me the baby was just like a sprouted wheat seed,” said Webster who was 19 at the time and wanted to believe this. “I wish someone would have said to me,”this is what the baby is.” But I don’t let this excuse what was my choice,” she explained.
Fountain of Hope can be reached 24 hours a day at 242-0112. If you’re concerned about maintaining anonymity, that’s not a problem, said Webster.
Alliance for Life’s national toll-free number is 1-800-665-0570. They can refer you to counselling services in your area.
Father No More
“Where are the Fathers of Abortion?” Are you an “Aborted Father” – one whose child was aborted with or without your consent? There are many ways to get help if you are a woman. For a man, there are very few places you can turn. Here is a start.
So, how are you feeling?
When your child was aborted, you probably felt relieved. But shortly after that you may have felt uncomfortable emotions coming to the surface. Emotions that you would rather not deal with. These feelings are common among fathers like you.
What you experience depends on what your role was in the abortion. You may have been involved in on of 5 ways:
- You encouraged or supported the women to choose abortion
- You pressured her to abort
- You abandoned her to make the decision alone
- You unsuccessfully opposed the abortion
- You learned after it happened
Whatever your role was, one thing is certain. Your natural role as a father was cut short. As put by Dr Vincent Rue, a leading psychologist dealing with post-abortion issues among men:
Abortion rewrites the rules of masculinity. Whether or not the male was involved in the abortion decision, his inability to function in a socially prescribed manner leaves him wounded and confused.
As a man, you naturally begin to take on the responsibility of protecting the child. It’s how you are wired. But, because of the abortion, you are no longer able to fulfill this role. You may develop anger, resentment and guilt. You may not even realize where these feelings are coming from. They often come out in destructive behaviors-excessive drinking, drug use, depression, suicidal feelings, risk taking or maybe running from relationship to relationship unable to make commitments.
Men have no legal rights concerning abortion. Under the law, your opinion doesn’t count. If you were against the abortion, you may feel powerless, helpless to control events around you. If you pushed hard for the abortion, you may feel selfish or like you abandoned your partner when she really needed you. Or you may just feel like running to a place where no one will ever recognize you.
Maybe you didn’t even know about the pregnancy and abortion until after the fact. If you disagreed with the decision, you may feel rage, even hatred toward your partner. Your own child was aborted and you weren’t even asked for your viewpoint.
One thing almost all fathers feel after abortion is a sense of emptiness. You may be plagued with thoughts of your lost child. Thoughts about what things you might have done together. Things like playing baseball, learning to fish, or maybe building a doll house for that special doll
There is a hope! There are a few things that you have to do to start things happening. You need to change before you can heal. Sometimes looking at yourself and your situation can be painful. Without a real desire to heal, it’s tough to make changes. Here is a simple road map. It’s not perfect, but it will get you started on a path to becoming whole again.
- Forgive the mom
If you are feeling anger or even rage toward your partner, you can’t heal yourself. You have to be willing to forgive her. Whatever her part, whatever she said or did, you still have to forgive her. It was ultimately her choice to end the life or your child.
- Forgive yourself
“Before grieving can begin, you must handle your personal guilt before God and others and your anger toward the persons who made the decision”,says Dr. Wayne Brauning, Founder of MARC (Men’s Abortion ReCovery). Yes, if your were involved in the abortion decision, you have made a terrible mistake. Yet, God will forgive any sin, whether minor or life-shattering.
Ok, this will probably be awkward for you. But it’s absolutely necessary. Here’s what Dr. Vincent Rue, says about it: “Men do grieve following abortion, but they are more likely to deny their grief, rather than openly express (it)” When men do express their grief, they try to do so in culturally prescribed “masculine” ways, ie anger, aggressiveness, control. Men typically grieve in a ridden, tormented male does not easily love or accept love his denial of himself and his relentless feelings of post-abortion emptiness can nullify even the best of intentions.” Simply put, grieving is hard for a man to do. Some-how in our society, it has become taboo for a man to show his feelings. Somehow, normal human emotions like sadness, or even crying, have become only “feminine” traits. You need to admit to yourself exactly what you and partner have done. Denying what has happened is a cover -up and keeps you from healing at all. You need to grieve for the little one that is no longer living. Grieve for the horrible decisions that were made. Grieve for those around you that are greatly affected by the abortion – for the grandparents that will never bounce their grand kids on their knee or read them a bedtime story. Your sorrow will probably be profound and moving. It is real sorrow for a real act that has been committed.
- And what about the relationship?
It is not uncommon for the relationship to fail after an abortion. And the failure often comes from your side. It goes like this: you wanted relief from the responsibility, and got it. But now, your partner reminds you of a very bad time in your life. One that you would rather forget. You reason that the best thing would be to break up. And perhaps hat could be true. But, if this is a person you really love and want to spend your time with, you have some quot;fixing” to do.As the person who made the final decision, your partner is hurting. She may be subject to something called “Post Abortion Syndrome”. We have been talking about the same thing, only from a man’s point of view. As you gather strength from forgiving her, forgiving yourself, and grieving for your loss, be there for her. Let her use your strength to heal.Be ready for all kinds of emotions. If she feels you pushed her into abortion, you are in for some difficult discussions- admitting wrong, asking for forgiveness, trying to make up for something that can never really be made up for. It’s a long road, don’t try to face it alone.
- You are not alone.
Trying to carry this burden yourself is an impossible task. There is little chance that you will be able to understand the power of self-forgiveness until you experience the forgiveness of God. If you don’t really know God, perhaps that is where to start this whole process. The healing of your soul and the healing form the effects of abortion can go hand-in-hand. Many of the people at the help centers listed at the end of this piece do what they do because of their belief in the forgiving and saving power of Jesus.And many of these centers are now reaching out and offering resources for aborted fathers.Why not begin your healing today? Get some help, and get a new start on the rest of your life.
Fathers and Brothers Ministries 350 Broadway, suite 40 -Boulder, Co 80303 (303) 494-3282 – support and counseling for men
P.A.C.E. (Post Abortion Counseling & Education)
CareNet 109 Carpenter Drive, Suite 100 Sterling, VA 20164 1.800.395.HELP (4357) refers for post abortion peer counseling services throughout the country. National Organization of post abortion healing and reconciliation (NOPAHR) PO BOX 07477 Milwaukee, WI 53207-2203 (414) 483-4141 Nation office of Project Rachel, a ministry of the Catholic Church. Confidential help from people struggling with post abortion issues. Open to all.
Healing Hearts Ministry 2717 York Rd., Oak Brook, IL 60521 (630) 990-0909 or (888) 217-8679 One on one and support group counseling.
Rachel’s Vineyard Minsitries P.O. BOX 195 Bridgeprot, PA 19405 (877) HOPE-4-ME www.rachelsvineyard.org Post-abortion weekend retreats and support groups (above)
Heartbeat International 7870 Olentangy River Road, Columbus, OH 43235-1319 (800) 395 HELP (4357)
Ramah International 1776 Hudson Street Englewood, FL 34223 firstname.lastname@example.org www.ramahinternational.org Training programs, resources, research, world abortion issues.
Other websites: www.afterabortion.org www.afterabortion.com
Sources and Resources 1. Williams, Warren, Restoring Fatherhood Lost, Post Abortion Review, 4(4), Fall 1996, accessed online at: www.afterabortion.org/PAR /V4/ N4/LOSTDAD.HTM ON 10-5-06.
2. Brauning, Wayne, Men and Abortion, Grief and Healing, Post Abortion Review, 4(4), Fall 1996, accessed online at: www.afterabortion.org/PAR/V4/n4/WayneBrauningMenandAbortion.htm on 10-5-06
3. Rue, Vincent, The Effects of Abortion on Men, Ethics and Medics 21(4):3, 1996.
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