LITTLE ROCK – Fathers impacted by the pain and anguish of abortion told powerful stories of hope and forgiveness at the 44th Annual March for Life on Jan. 16 at the Arkansas State Capitol.
Thousands gathered at the Capitol for the annual event sponsored by Arkansas Right to Life marking the 49th anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
Jeff Langston, a business owner, shared the story of getting his high school girlfriend pregnant and borrowing money to pay for her abortion.
“On senior night I decided to tell her that our relationship was over, and she told me she was pregnant,” Langston, “I was scared, terrified, and immature.”
He said his girlfriend’s struggling family wanted her to have an abortion.
“After a few conversations, I took one of the people I worked with to the side and asked for a loan of $300 to pay for it. This is by far the lowest of the lows for me,” said Langston.
“For around 25 years I carried this load. This impossible load was killing me inside. I actually believed that I didn’t deserve to have children because I had done this,” said Langston, who later married and had children with his wife, Natasha, who serves as president of Garland County Right to Life. He was never able to tell her about the abortion.
“In 2012 she wanted to see a film called October Baby. It was during after watching all of this that all the pain and memories came back,” said Langston. “I had been forcing myself to try to forget, but now it was impossible. I carried that millstone for many years. I finally came out and told my wife about my past.”
Langston looked to the crowd, “For anyone who has a past, know this, there is forgiveness, there is hope. I stand before you today because God still loves me. My wife still loves me and there are people here and others that will hear this, that need to know God hates sin. Not the sinner.”
He concluded, “For every woman that has had an abortion, there is a man who lost a child. Not all regret it the way I do. I pray that one day they will and will ask for forgiveness. At one time I truly felt that I did not deserve kids because of my small part in this. And now I have five kids to look after.”
Bruce Trice, a six-generation Arkansan who served on the board of a local pregnancy center for seven years and as its development director for two years, told the crowd, “Thirty-six years ago I became one of what is now over 60 million men in America who are fathers of an aborted child. That’s difficult enough to say privately. It’s infinitely more difficult to admit it on the steps of a State Capitol and in front of friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers.”
Trice said it was in February 1986 that he discovered that his girlfriend was pregnant.
“After a few days of anguish, embarrassment, shame, guilt, and fear, she set an appointment with an OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist), who performed that function during the day and then performed abortions for cash two nights per week,” he said.
“It’s ironic that this is the same young lady who I stood in front of in my parent’s driveway one spring evening, confessed my love to her, and declared that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I also encouraged her to get a pregnancy test from this doctor and then to schedule an abortion with him, that I would later drive her to and sit in the waiting room while she had it done. When we walked in the door to the office that evening, she was seven weeks pregnant.”
Trice and his wife, Janice, married a few months after the abortion and have five children together. “We also came to a very bitter point in our marriage where we needed counseling and lots of it.”
In 2008 Trice said he and his wife were “shocked and surprised but in a very different way” when they found out about their seventh pregnancy.
“Our children were excited. Our friends were excited. And we were all looking forward to expanding our family one more time. Weeks went along just fine and then one evening during dinner, Janice didn’t feel well. Something was off,” he said.
A visit to the OB-GYN the next day confirmed their worst fears. An exam revealed that no heartbeat could be detected.
“We were taken to a separate exam area where Janice lay on a table while a very kind technician began to slowly and methodically look for a heartbeat. There was a large screen across from us with an incredibly detailed image of our 17-week-old baby. I held Janice’s hand and continually shifted my gaze from her eyes to the technician doing her work and the incredible image of our baby on that screen. Finally, the technician stopped, took a breath, raised her head up, and said, ‘Guys, I’m so sorry.’
“It was in those moments, having been face to face with the image of a child, my child, who I would never meet, that the inhumanity of my decision years earlier swept over me like a wave,” he said.
Trice quoted Warren Williams who has spoken out about the effects of abortion on men.
“(Williams) says, ‘If you get shot in the foot, it doesn’t matter if someone shot you or if you shot yourself. There is still a hole in your foot. The physical pain is the same and you experience the same amount of blood loss.’”
Trice added, “Thankfully, God does forgive. The decision to have an abortion is often deferred to female partners with total suppression of the man’s own emotions. That wasn’t the situation in our case. We were both mortified at the thought of being pregnant out of wedlock and we were obviously willing to do whatever it took to make that go away.”
Concluding, Trice told those gathered at the March, “But generally speaking, in culture, a man’s containment of his emotion is viewed as consistent with men’s perceived role as one of supporting the decision of the woman, if even that. But here is the truth. It hurts. Men are left only being able to grieve the loss of a child that they never carried, felt, heard, or experienced in any way. When you hold a baby, particularly your own, you think about it. When you see photos of babies, you think about it. When you hear a baby laugh, cry or just make baby sounds, you think about it. When you see a baby in a movie or on television, you think about it. It is inescapable.”
Joining the thousands of Arkansans from churches and families participating in the march to the Capitol steps in attendance were members of the Arkansas General Assembly and constitutional officers Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Secretary of State John Thurston, and Land Commissioner Tommy Land. Also in attendance were U.S. Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman, U.S. Representatives French Hill and Bruce Westerman, Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.