Men and Abortion: How little we know

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. Father’s Day is this Sunday. As we do each year we are running stories all the week before about one of the most neglected subject areas in the entire abortion debate: a father’s role and responsibility in the death of his child.

The following first ran in 2012.

After nearly 40 years, you’d think almost everything that could be said about abortion has been said. However, as Wednesday’s annual meeting of the Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change demonstrated, there are many gaping holes beginning with the topic of last night’s session: men and abortion.

The four presenters provided everything from an overview of the research done to date through a very powerful personal testimony of one man’s abortion experience to a new organization that will help buttress the case using scholarly analysis that abortion hurts women and men.

Catherine Coyle explained the paucity of scholarly study, although in the last few years, she said, the pace had picked up considerably.

Coyle began by elaborating on an almost forgotten consideration, one that was not clear in the immediate aftermath of Roe. We tend to forget that even after the disastrous 1973 decision, there was hope that husbands would be given a say, or at least notified of the impending abortion of their child.

However, subsequent Supreme Court decisions made unmistakably clear those fathers—unmarried or married—had no voice. Coyle discussed the symptoms that many post-abortive fathers experience including guilt and overpowering grief.

She keenly observed that men have a paternal instinct that is much underrated. Like all presenters, Coyle offer quotes from fathers devastated by the death of their unborn children.

Coyle also noted that the failure to communicate may play a part in more abortions than we would ever imagine. On the one hand, women are looking for affirmation from men that they want them to continue the pregnancy. On the other hand, men are anxious to “support” whatever decision the women in their lives make, even if they do not want her to abort. Their noncommittal responses are interpreted as indifference, at best.

David Russell provided a moving testimony about the abortion many years ago of a child he subsequently came to name Mathew David. The audience listened with rapt attention as Mr. Russell talked of how he felt he had taken the “easy way out,” that his aborted son had deserved a father “who would protect him,” and that Mathew David “deserved better than he got.”

He said unequivocally, “Men regret abortion every bit as much as women.” His comparison of men who sit by while women abort their children to Saul holding the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen made the audience’s heads snap to attention.

Greg Hasek offered a very provocative plan for treating men who have gone through an abortion experience—or more than one. Hasek believes that men do not often come to counseling to talk about abortion. They come for other reasons (which he calls “presenting symptoms”) but that unresolved and unacknowledged grief is at work in their hearts.

Hasek also argued that men respond (in a therapeutic setting) much better to the idea of “lost fatherhood” than to abortion. He ended his talk with his own recommendations for how to help men suffering from what is, after all, a traumatic experience.

Priscilla Coleman, whose work we have frequently run or commented about in NRL News Today, ended the evening’s program with an explanation of WECARE—the World Expert Consortium for Abortion Research and Education (www.wecareexperts.org).

Launched in January 2012, WECARE is designed to “foster international research, provide experts for litigation, and disseminate information on the health effects of abortion.”