By Vicki Thorn
Editor’s note. Some issues in the abortion debate receive nowhere near the attention they warrant. Such is the topic of Men and Abortion. We’re posting another story on this later today. This story, from the November 2008 issue of National Right to Life News, is part of our year-long “Roe at 40” where we are reprinting some of the best and most representative stories from NRL News going back to 1973.
In September, 2008, the second national “Reclaiming Fatherhood: A Multifaceted Examination of Men Dealing with Abortion” conference was held in Chicago, drawing 150 people from 29 states and 4 countries. Both this conference and the first one held in San Francisco in November 2007 were made possible by the national Knights of Columbus.
Little thought is given to the fact that that there is a man involved in every abortion. When they are acknowledged, a myth abounds that the millions of men who have been party to abortions are all narcissists who coerce woman into having abortions.
But the reality is that men can play many dramatically different roles. This intricate and bewilderingly complex pattern of relationships cannot be reduced to simplistic stereotypes.
For example, there is the man who opposes the abortion but cannot stop it. This man is immediately impacted and may respond with profound grief, rage, and a sense of being unable to protect.
There is the man who first agrees, then changes his mind, but the abortion goes forward anyway. He bears a huge burden of guilt.
Some men find out about abortions after they have happened. These men struggle with why the woman they thought they loved would not talk to them about this. There are men who, when hearing descriptions of the aftermath of abortion, wonder if a past partner had an abortion.
There are the men who “seem” not to care. I say seem because men have taught me this. He may care and not want her to have the abortion, but his friends explain that it is “her choice.” This man says “whatever you want to do, I will support,” but that may not be what his heart is saying.
There are men who don’t care. It serves them well at this point in their life. But years later, when they are ready to be fathers, the reality of what happened hits them hard.
There are men who force abortions and many times have forced many women. This is about power. Without a powerful life-changing event, he will continue to do so.
There are men whose wives had abortions before they met, who get caught up in the vortex of her pain.
There are fathers who have forced their young daughters to have abortions. There are the brothers of men and women involved in abortions who worry about their loved one and who mourn the loss of a niece or nephew. Finally, there are the brothers of the children whose lives were taken. All men, all affected by the death of an unborn child.
We know that the powerful experiences of women who have had abortions have changed the face of the abortion debate. Women participate in “Silent No More” events and women on the other side wear T-shirts that say “I had an abortion.” Even 15 years ago that didn’t happen.
The Reclaiming Fatherhood conferences were designed as first steps to help men grapple with their wounds and to enlighten society to the fact that an abortion is not an isolated experience but has a number of victims.
Men do not know where to turn in their pain and so hide in destructive behaviors. Often they keep away from authentic intimacy because of fear of being hurt again. This can lead to more abortion. As men speak out, they are signaling other men that it is permissible to share their experiences and to heal.
Each conference began with four men speaking about their abortion losses. These testimonies were riveting and captured the attention of the media. Their lived-experiences spoke volumes and were impossible to dismiss.
Both times the media were very taken with the fathers’ stories. The Los Angeles Times made coverage of the first conference a front-page story. The Nation, hardly a magazine we would expect to even acknowledge the issue, made it a cover story in February 2008 under the headline, “Pity the Man.”
The second conference was covered by U.S. News and World Report in its health blog site. The first article led to a second. The Chicago Tribune Religion blog site also covered the story.
It is interesting to note that after the first conference the blog sites attacked the concept that men might hurt after abortion. Now, after the second conference, there is more being written about men and abortion. There are more YouTube postings as well. It is vitally important to continue speaking out about the many men and women hurt by abortion.
Speakers at the conference included the handful of experts who have explored the issue of men dealing with abortion. Vincent Rue, Ph.D., and Catherine Coyle, Ph.D., reported on the research that has been done on men dealing with abortion. Dr. Rue spoke about the impact of trauma on men. Dr. Coyle presented a forgiveness model of healing that she developed many years ago.
According to Tom Golden, an expert in male grief, it is a mistake to try to shoehorn men and their grief into women’s models. Men do not do warm fuzzy feeling things well. Men do not normally do well in group experiences. Men need focus and activity.
Rev. Martin Pable, a psychologist who has been involved in Project Rachel from the beginning, explored men’s spiritual growth. Warren Williams, a pioneer in helping men resolve abortion loss, participated in both conferences as did Greg Hasek, a mental health professional who runs programs to help men and women heal from abortion.
Healed men and women are changing the culture in quiet, subtle ways. But we have reason to hope that one day there will be so many who are healed that we will reach the tipping point and the face of our country and our world will change! We all need to help that happen.
The San Francisco conference was co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Chicago event by the Office for Evangelization of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The conference organizer in both cases was the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing in Milwaukee.
Vicki Thorn is executive director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing; 1-800-5WE-CARE; e-mail: email@example.com