Guilt and Shame over a girlfriend’s secret abortion
By Dave Andrusko
The beauty of the Internet is that you can stumble across fascinating stories that come (from your vantage point) from obscure sources. Such was the case yesterday—what appears to be an advice column (“Dear Alison”) that appears in a newspaper in Staffordshire, England.
A man writes Alison of The Stokes Sentinel to tell her of a girlfriend from college who, after 15 years, had contacted him on Facebook. She’s left just before finals—and he never knew why.
“She eventually told me why she left, that she was pregnant with our child, knew I wouldn’t support her, had an abortion and became very depressed and attempted suicide before getting her life back on track,” he wrote. He felt guilty both for treating her so badly at the time (he’d cheated on her and stood her up) and also because “she had gone through all of that, on her own and largely because of me.”
The writer concludes, “Since she told me I have been off sick from work and my friends are worried about me, but I’m too ashamed to tell them what is going on.”
There appears to be a lot going on in this man’s mind. His sense of support seems inverted. He should feel ashamed not because he hadn’t known she was pregnant and therefore could not have gone with her to the abortion clinic but because there is nothing to suggest (I think) that he would have tried to persuade her not to abort their child.
He also appears at some level to understand the gravity of what the abortion did to his ex-girlfriend. He may be fishing for pity (or expiation), but he may also be honestly regretting what the abortion had done to her, even if the fate of the baby is never discussed.
Except by “Alison.” On the one hand she says, “I am glad to hear that you have changed and you find that young man unrecognizable.” On the other hand she concludes, “Counselling would help you to come to terms with this and deal with the loss of your child.”
Obviously we know only the barest outlines of the story that led to the baby’s death. But while the timeframe may be unusual—not finding out about the abortion for 15 years—a man subsequently learning of a secret abortion is not.
Every man is different, of course, but learning that a woman you were involved with aborted your child can and does tear you up. Every time we run a story about men and abortion, someone (or more than one man) will send me an email filled with pain and regret and remorse.
That is true, moreover, whether the man is convinced he would have “stood by” her decision to abort or would have tried everything in his power to dissuade her.
Abortion’s aftermath is something we write about all the time. But it applies not just to women but to the men in their lives as well.