Forgotten Fathers - Men and Abortion!

Men, like women, are human and imperfect. They may undergo equivalent feelings of shock, denial and anger.
  • Parents are parents forever, even of a dead child
  • Most relationships (70 percent) failed within one month after the abortion
  • Clinical experience shows that men become hostile when they have been excluded from decision-making
  • The male's role conflict may well be responsible for some of the increase in male sexual dysfunction
  • Men often describe the abortion experience as bewildering and painful beyond their coping abilities
In the book Abortion and Men: Lessons, Losses and Love, sociologist Arthur Shostak describes male abortion pain as the loss of fatherhood and a "wound you cannot see or feel, but it exists". (A. Shostak. Abortion and Men: Lessons, Losses and Love. NY, Praeger, 1984).

According to Shostak, who describes himself as "unswervingly pro-choice," that a man gets an incredible message at the first real evidence of his virility, his partner announces "we are pregnant, and I am going to have an abortion." In interviewing 1000 men, Shostak found:
  • abortion is a "death experience", and for most mean more emotionally trying then they expected
  • the most common post-abortion reaction was helplessness
  • men who are not helped to mourn over an abortion are learning how to be even less involved as nurturing parents in the future
  • the majority of relationships failed post-abortion

Dr Vincent Rue, a psychologist who has vast experience with the issue of how abortion affects men, says that abortion rewrites the rules of masculinity. "At a time," says Rue, "when roles are changing and men are having more involvement with their child's upbringing, they are denied the right to have any legal say in an abortion decision that will affect the life or death of their unborn child."

For men., as well as women, the feeling of emptiness may last a lifetime. Any parent who has had a child die, still regards themself a parent, no matter how long ago it happened. This is also true with abortion. The fact that with abortion there has often been no resolution in grieving, and in most cases no body, makes it difficult to find to reach 'closure.'

Rue says that "because the unborn child was denied humanity, he or she is denied a grave or marker. The grieving process is left unfinished."

One sad aspect of abortion is that men who are basically caring and sensitive, hurt the women they love by saying nothing when the word "abortion" is first uttered in the decision-making process.

Desperately wanting to please, these men are rejected because they are judged deficient in their true love for their partners: "How could you say nothing during this crisis and let me just go out and kill our child? Is this all I mean to you?"

Quite apart from the emotional effect abortion has on men, abortion affects relationships as well. Researcher Emily Milling found that of more than 400 couples who went through the abortion experience, most of the relationships (70 percent) had failed within one month after the abortion.

According to one such father:

"Things are pretty screwed up when the way you show a woman you love her is by agreeing to abort rather than having a child."

For men who pressure or encourage the women they care about to have an abortion, the test of true feelings emerges later on. Typically, having encouraged the abortion for selfish reasons or out of fear, these men can pay a great emotional price once the reality of what an abortion is sinks in.

Some men are so wounded by their abortion role that they abort their own lives. Dr Rue has treated women whose partners committed suicide because they couldn't escape hearing the relentless little voices that kept saying:

"Daddy, Daddy, please don't let me die".

And for the man who stands up and opposes an abortion, under the law he has no legal recourse and cannot defend his child's right to life. His grief is punctuated with impotency and feelings of helplessness. Words are just not enough to prevent his child's death.

Grief, Guilt and Loss
Men's lives contain greater attachments and are more profoundly affected by fatherhood that is usually assumed. One father whose child died from abortion described his grief this way:

"I wasn't in the room; I wasn't even in the clinic that day. But in my mind, I've been there a million times since. I've been watching, breaking, wanting to rescue you. In my mind I need to be a hero not a killer, the man who didn't flee. But I am not. I am the man I fear I see."

In the conflicting emotions felt after an abortion, it can lead to an inability to trust, for men as well as women. The man who has had his child aborted, against his wishes or without his knowledge, can feel betrayed. This conflict may well be responsible for some of the increase in male sexual dysfunction in society.

Both men and women frequently report sexual impotency, aversion to sex, loss of intimacy, unexpected guilt and extra-marital affairs as a result of induced abortion.

Sexual dysfunction
A Scottish study of 84 couples who were in a stable relationship found that:

  • 50% of the couples involved reported they made love less frequently than before, and reported a lack of interest because of depression and sadness
  • 24% reported they rarely made love after the abortion, which was very different from their behavior prior to the abortion
  • 14% stopped making love which was frequently linked to a deterioration of the relationship as a whole

One husband suffered from impotence following the abortion, despite his wife's desire for another pregnancy. Sexual difficulties were reported to have lasted from 3 - 26 months, with 8% of the couples suffering for more than 12 months. Despite these difficulties, only 2 couples with sexual problems asked for help and assistance. (White-Van Mourik, 1992)

California-based psychotherapist Michael Y. Simon, who counsels men after abortion, says that men tend not to ask for help, he adds, exacerbating the perception that there is no need to provide resources for them. "Men get the message that the best thing they can do in the situation is to withdraw," says Simon, "forcing deeper or more traumatic feelings to be kept unconscious."

The male may come to believe his sexual  feelings and desires are dangerous (they led to the death of an 'unwanted' child) and experience sexual dysfunction as a result. 

American talk show host, Doctor Phil, featured a couple, Michelle and her husband Tripp who, after 2 years, were unable consummate their marriage. They could not have sexual intercourse due to the inability of the husband to maintain an erection. Dr. Phil discovered that the couple had an abortion early in their dating relationship.

Michelle felt forced to abort by her husband. The couple had no previous difficulty in their physical intimacy. However Tripp began to see the effects of the abortion, the pain and unhappiness this caused Michelle. This conflict led to Erectile Dysfunction. 

Dr. Phil was able to affirm that abortion had indeed been the source of their sexual problems.

Re-writing the rules
Abortion rewrites the rules of masculinity. While a male is expected to be strong, abortion makes him feel weak. A male is expected to be responsible, yet abortion encourages him to act without concern for the innocent and to destroy any identifiable and undesirable outcomes of his sexual decision-making and/or attachments. A male is expected to protect, but by law he is encouraged to do otherwise.

All humans must grieve a loss or they will in some way be tormented. Typical male grief responses include remaining silent and grieving alone. Men who have experienced abortion death can become traumatised by this significant loss. They may become:

  • depressed and/or anxious
  • controlling, demanding and directing
  • enraged or hostile when triggering events occur

A national U.S. poll found that 87 percent of the population thought that the ideal male should "stand up for his ideas." Three out of four respondents still believe that the ideal man is one who will fight to protect his family. Yet the law does not allow him the right to protect or have a role in the decision to abort.

For those men who don't have any real emotional tie to the woman they impregnate, on the other hand, persuading a woman to have an abortion is a convenient way of avoiding responsibility.

If women choose motherhood, men are liable for child support. When the man objects and the woman refuses to abort, it is becoming common for men to resort to violence to either cause a miscarriage or kill the woman.

Rue points out that "when men promote abortion for their partners it is typified as coercion, lack of caring, insensitivity and selfishness," yet "when women choose abortion it is the exclamation of women's rights, an affirmation of the right to health and freedom from male oppression, and a confirmation of sovereign territoriality over the female body and reproductive functions."