Finding their voice: Men speaking out about Abortion
By Olivia Gans Turner
Editor’s note. Father’s Day is less than two weeks away. Over the next nine days I’ll be running some new, some older stories about one of the most neglected subject areas in the entire abortion debate: a father’s role and responsibility. The following appeared in the January 2008 edition of National Right to Life News.
The phrase that has been used by American Victims of Abortion (AVA) since our early days in the 1980s as an outreach mission of NRLC has been, “We are the mothers, the fathers, the families. They were our children.”
What does this recognize? That every abortion is truly a death in the family and, often, of a family. This grim reality is at the forefront of the message shared by those that told their stories.
But to help people understand that there is a ripple effect from every abortion that extends out beyond the mother and her child has been a rough row to hoe. It was not really until this past November that a professional conference met to address the pain fathers of aborted children feel.
Sponsored by the National Office of Post-Abortion Recovery and Healing, the conference in San Francisco, California, brought together some of the outstanding men and women it has been my privilege to work with since I entered the pro life movement back in 1982 as well as new faces. The synergy between the veterans and the newcomers meant there would be a wider, more free-wheeling discussion.
The presenters were for the most part physicians, therapists, and researchers committed to engaging our culture. We must reach beyond the commonplace but tragically mistaken notion that women have the sole voice in deciding what happens to a child who has a father, two grandfathers, uncles, and, often, siblings.
As highlighted in the June and September editions of NRL News, pro-abortion forces are terrified that men might actually find their voices and then discover that they have a platform in the pro-life movement to share their pain.
Although it was not yet called that at the time, the first person I ever heard speak about Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS) was Dr. Vincent Rue, at the 1982 National Right to Life Convention. He articulated perfectly what women like me were living though.
He was also daring enough to suggest, even then, that men as well as women were likely candidates for post-abortion emotional problems. It only made sense if one looked at the reality of the life-and-death nature of the decision being made and how men were completely shut out.
Now 35 years later Dr. Rue is still ahead of the curve. He explained that since 1973 only three major studies have ever been conducted to try to determine the effects of abortion on men.
Three-and-one-half decades post-Roe, men are still truly the forgotten players in the story of every abortion.
Rue believes that, tragically, the odds of getting more research are slim. We have yet to do the kind of studies that would address the health and well-being of women who abort, let alone men.
For both women and men, the best we have had to work with so far are clinical and small-scale studies that have only suggested how big the problem may truly be.
Pro-abortion forces are deeply troubled that men are beginning to find a place at the table of PAS concerns. They have long since tried to discredit efforts to discuss the degree of problems women may have after abortion, whether mental or physical.
The discussion about men and abortion threatens many on the pro-abortion side. If we do prove that abortion is not only deadly for our children but also damages mothers and fathers, then, as a society, we must ask ourselves, “Who is abortion good for?”
There were many, many outstanding speakers at the San Francisco conference. Greg Hasek is director of Misty Mountain Ministries and a frequent guest at NRL Conventions. He explored the lack of connectedness many men have to their own father and how this anticipates and aggravates the loss of fatherhood many men feel after an abortion.
Many women have shared with me how the apparent ambivalence shown by their baby’s father at the news of the pregnancy was viewed by them as abandonment. Yet the message given to several generations of young men has been, “Stand back and let her decide!” The results have been a recipe for disaster.
Dr. Catherine Coyle, another presenter, is committed to getting honest conversations started between men and women after an abortion. The best path to healing brings all parties together as they learn to remember their children rather than grieving alone.
Her book “Men and Abortion: A Path to Healing,” is the result of an online research project she initiated. It is an invaluable resource for those looking to expand or provide PAS support to men in their community.
Tom Golden presented wonderful insights into the different ways that men and women grieve. Men need to do something with their pain, so active grief tools need to be developed for them. Memorial project ideas are a good place to help men do something with the hurt.
This was not an Americans-only conference either. The sad facts are that abortion is a worldwide tragedy. Another presenter, Andrzej Winkler, M.A., is a therapist and president of the pro-life society in Poland.
A memory that I have of working in Poland during the 1990s was how often men approached us to talk about their abortion stories. That was something that surprised both of us.
Years of working alongside of good, committed, and compassionate people such as Mrs. Vicki Thorn, the executive director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Healing and Reconciliation, made me conscious of how hard it is to get the layers of complexity that surround abortion even discussed.
For many of the nearly 200 people in attendance, most of whom were male, some of the most powerful moments came when several fathers gave their own testimonies. The sincerity and courage with which they told their stories was the touchstone for the rest of the conference.
As it turned out, there were many other post-abortive fathers in attendance that had come only to find out what the whole thing was about. The fellowship that arose from the honest comments of their peers was heartwarming.
Our children have been forgotten by too many in our culture. Telling our stories whether told by men or by women is an important witness to their brief lives.