Post-Abortion Healing Available For Men

By Lori Peters © 2012

Three in 10 women will have had an abortion by the age of 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Such a decision has far-reaching impact for both women and men. In fact, there is growing evidence that men can be as negatively impacted by an abortion decision as women. Studies begun in the late 1970’s continuing through today show men dealing with abortion may experience after-abortion grief or trauma. Such symptoms include initial relief then anxiety, grief, depression, guilt, powerlessness and anger, feelings that are typical of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Every man who impregnates a woman must live with the possibility that she may abort that child. And, unlike other alternatives like parenting and adoption, he would have no say about it. With parenting, he could choose to be a part of the child’s life. With adoption, he could help choose adoptive parents for his child. He has legal rights in both situations. In the United States, a woman has the right to choose whatever she wants to do with her body, courtesy of Roe v. Wade, and a man’s opinion and views don’t count. Various challenges to this reality have been struck down by state and federal courts, most particularly Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. A woman is allowed to have an abortion with or without the birth father’s consent. It’s perfectly legal and okay.  

Mounting evidence shows men are not OK with their lack of involvement in an abortion decision. Their disapproval manifests itself in physical and emotional symptoms like anxiety, guilt, depression, suicidal thoughts, brief psychosis, sexual dysfunction, alcohol and substance abuse and many others. After-abortion grief or trauma can affect anyone involved in an abortion decision, not just the mother. The man whose partner has aborted their baby without his consent, and sometimes without his knowledge initially, is angry and sad, and regrets his lost fatherhood.

Many psychologists deny the existence of after-abortion grief, but my experiences at three venues—a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, an abortion clinic, and a pregnancy resource center—prove to me that such grief is real. Rachel’s Vineyard, coordinated by Priests For Life and Anglicans For Life, is a counseling and support resource available to anyone experiencing post-abortion trauma. Rachel’s Vineyard offers a person hope, healing and renewal via counseling, the Bible, and hands-on activities.    

Mostly women come to a retreat, but men have come with their partners because they have faced an abortion decision together or because she made that decision prior to their relationship and now needs support before it can move forward. We had two such scenarios during the retreat. The men revealed feelings of shame, worthlessness, humiliation, loneliness and grief. They realized they had made a decision that sounded good at the time but has had devastating long-term effects.

Retreat attendees arrive on a Friday evening and get acquainted. On Saturday, they tell their abortion story, receive a doll representing their lost child, and write a letter, a poem, or journal entry addressed to that child. They also receive individual counseling. The retreat ends with a special mass or commemorative service on Sunday. Throughout the experience, the retreat team uses scriptural readings and helps attendees insert themselves into the Bible stories read. Afterward, they are encouraged to meet for ongoing support. The entire weekend is emotionally draining, but God provides so much healing during that time.

My experiences there plus research in the post-abortion field have helped me find future trauma victims. While praying in front of an abortion clinic, I met a father who had taken his daughter for an abortion after she had refused his offer of help. The pain in his eyes mirrored the pain seen in the eyes of those on the retreat. After this gentleman shared that he’d also lost another daughter a few months before, I knew his risk for after-abortion trauma would be greatly increased. We prayed with this man.

At the pregnancy center, I’ve encountered young men needing support because their partners have undergone the procedure without their consent or they now regret their abortion decision. All have reported feeling angry, frustrated, sad and lost. What will those feelings do to them down the road?

Sometimes, those feelings can help you reverse your actions. For example, a client had an abortion and was pregnant again. She had the abortion due to pressure from her partner and her family, particularly a grandfather who was an integral part of her life. This time she decided to continue with the pregnancy and gave birth. She was surprised when her partner and family embraced her and the baby.
Not all stories end happily, but it is reassuring to know resources like Rachel’s Vineyard and pregnancy centers exist to help men and women reach a state of peace in their lives so they can move forward and make positive decisions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lori Peters, a former journalist, is a mother of 8 children, six of whom are living. In her spare time, she runs a crisis pregnancy center in Carlisle, PA, volunteers at her church, and hosts a radio show on life issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment