‘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 there 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 a man I fear to see.’
Extract from ‘Men and Abortion’ by Dr. Vincent Rue
Abortion can have a profound impact on men’s lives, both through their own exposure and/or through their partner’s trauma. Men are less culturally conditioned to express their feelings than women and are usually unaware of the value of doing so.
Parenthood is a process which begins on first learning of the pregnancy.
This initial discovery can produce a mixture of unexpected and even conflicting emotional responses. Feelings of fear and uncertainty frequently surface, many of which, only time will resolve. Even a planned pregnancy can be daunting.
The parenting process is often impacted by:
- Relationship with the partner.
- Lack of time to work through deeper underlying issues.
- External pressures from family, friends, peers, health professionals, society…
- Internal issues such as unresolved childhood issues, inability to connect to deeper self.
- Perceived expected male and female roles:
- A male may be focused on his role of supporting the woman at the expense of his own values and desires.
- A female may internalise the perceived needs of the male and/or significant others.
Introducing the idea of abortion complicates the parenting process.
Pregnant women can feel vulnerable and any hesitation or failure on the part of the male may be interpreted as negativism and imply a preference for abortion.
Couples typically do not work through their parenting process within the same timeframe, adding to the confusion and conflict.
Both men and women can experience symptoms of abortion trauma in anticipation of the event. Feelings of numbness, anger and shame in the lead up to the abortion, can incapacitate their ability to work through issues.
Parents are often bonded to their unborn child, regardless of the ‘wantedness’ of the pregnancy, or gestation. It is during this vulnerable time that most abortions are carried out.
The extent to which men suffer because of abortion is unknown. However, whether th abortion was wanted or unwanted, underlying conflicts are not uncommon.
The males initial reaction may be ‘denial and distancing’. They may feel deeply rejected an experience profound depression. Some men will identify with the unborn’s death to such an extent that it amounts to ‘loss of self’, almost his own death. For other, abortion violates the very essence of masculinity.
Most men find themselves totally unprepared for the suffering abortion can cause. That neither health professionals nor society recognises abortion trauma in men, exacerbates the isolation and hopelessness men feel.
Anger, Despair, and Self-destructive Behaviours
‘In a study on 35 adolescent males whose partners were undergoing abortion, of the cases examined in detail, rage, fear of abandonment and total despair were observed.’1
Without the opportunity to work through inner conflicts, unexpressed feelings can become ‘toxic’. Anger is the most consistent and evident symptom of abortion trauma, usually acted in aggression or self-destructive behaviours.
Typical male coping mechanisms:
‘Within 60 days I was in what I now call the 3D’s
– Drugs, Daring and Death –
And that is where I remained for three years.
I was doing drugs constantly – 24 hours a day.
I never went straight. I went to church stoned.
I went to my job stoned.
I also ruined my career.
I was living on the edge of a daring life.
I was the guy you saw on the ski slopes coming
Down missing trees, doing flipsand hitting those
[Ski-jumps] at 90 miles per hour.
I was driving fast and drinking and driving
Because I had lost my self-worth.
I had everything bottled up within me.
I was waiting for life to be snatched from me
Because it had lost its meaning and I wanted to die.
To atone for the one I hallowed to be taken.’
Healing Conference, Milwaukee 1993.
- Rothstein, A. A. (1978). Adolescent males, fatherhood, and abortion. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 7(2), 203-214. ↩︎