[notice]DIANNE STEVEN looks at an aspect of abortion that receives scant attention. How does it affect men? Why are men so silent about their experiences with abortion? What if the silence was broken?[/notice]
More than 2,9 million * babies have been aborted in South Africa over the past five years but South African men are silent about their involvement with abortion and how it affects them. [ * An estimated 2,5 million babies have been aborted illegally and 400 000 have been aborted legally.]
However scientific and clinical literature reveals recurring themes concerning men’s reactions to abortion which have received little attention from social scientists. Studies show that abortion causes deep grief and emotional trauma in men’s lives.
In the following testimonies, two men share about their very different personal experiences of abortion but they have one thing in common: the experiences left them deeply scarred!
First testimony: two abortions a month apart
“I met a woman at a concert. We became sexually active right away. Kelly became pregnant three months into our relationship. We had both grown up attending church and knew how our parents felt about sex outside of marriage. Kelly convinced herself she had to have an abortion so that we could try to hide what, honestly, our parents already knew was going on. Her friend took her to have the abortion, and we never discussed it.
Within one month she was pregnant again, and we aborted the second child just as quickly, to hide our shame. This time, I took her to the clinic. As I sat there in the waiting room, I could hear crying and saw women come out with tears running down their faces. This scared me because I was told “this was just a small procedure and it wouldn’t hurt Kelly or ‘the tissue’ at all.” In my heart, I knew this was a baby, not tissue.
When Kelly came out, she looked to be in a lot of pain, which made me furious about the lies we had been told. As we drove home, neither of us said a thing. Sadly, because of my inability to be a man, I put it all aside and we went on with our relationship.
We eventually got married, but many years after the abortions I realised I was in pain. My inability to protect those I was entrusted to care for created a domino effect of bad choices. I struggled with how to be a man and husband because I had become like Adam in my silence. I self-medicated my pain with pornography and alcohol, and searched for ways to find my voice, when really what I needed to hear was the voice of Jesus Christ. I was a broken man with a broken wife, two children in heaven, and was trying to pick up the pieces of what my indifference had done. I watched Kelly find healing from the abortions and I eventually decided I needed help, too. The healing process made me realise that I was meant to be a Daddy to those two children and that my silence never allowed me to be that for them. Where are the men? Silent! I could continue to be a silent bystander, or I could choose to be ‘Silent No More’”.
Second testimony: My wife became pregnant with triplets, but she wanted two of the babies aborted
A scarred soul testifies, “My soul carries a new scar. The pain is fresh and keen, and I know that while time might see the pain fade, I will never fully recover from what I’ve seen, and done. For I have failed, intentionally and knowingly, in the first duty of a parent: protecting the lives of two of my children.
My wife and I wanted children; alas, we needed IVF treatment to realise this dream. Several cycles and multiple embryo implantations later, we were faced with the news of triplets. I was shocked, knowing the burden that would entail, but I was prepared to do whatever I needed to do to help, manage, and provide.
My wife? Something snapped. She insisted we do a “selective reduction” from three to one, or else she would have a full abortion. She was adamant. She would not carry three. I was presented with a decision: save one, or save none. I chose the former.
We were told, point-blank, by the abortionist that he would inject potassium chloride into the placenta to stop the hearts. We were told that it was painless. Even then I knew I was being lied to. I agreed anyway.”
Before the abortion, my wife’s eyes teared up. I asked again if my wife was sure about this, because once done, it could not be undone. She said she was sure, but she knew as well as I that this was wrong. I wanted to insist she look at the screen, but I think her mind – already fractured by the news of triplets – would have snapped permanently had she seen the images. My wife didn’t look, but I did. I had to know how they would die!
Each retreated, pushing away, as the needle entered the amniotic sac. They did not inject into the placenta, but directly into each child’s torso. Each one crumpled as the needle pierced the body. I saw the heart stop in the first, and mine almost did, too. The other’s heart fought, but 10 minutes later it also ceased. The doctors had the gall to call the potassium chloride (salt) that stopped children’s hearts, “medicine.” I know they felt pain. I know they felt panic. And I know this was murder.
The emotional scar will ache my whole life. I play with my child, but I know there are two sets of hands that I will never touch, two sets of toes that will never be counted, two hugs that will forever be absent from my arms. I pray to God every day for forgiveness.
Let nobody fool you. It is not painless for the child, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Abortion is not an excision of a featureless bunch of cells. We have revived the practice of child sacrifice to the new deities of casual sex and convenience. We rationalise the reality of murder by altering our perspective of the nascent life through euphemisms like “foetus” or descriptions of “a clump of cells”.
If, by baring my scar for others to see, I can prevent an abortion, perhaps that will help when I face God’s justice. I have failed, intentionally and knowingly, in the first duty of a parent to protect the lives of two of my children.” The author’s name has been withheld by request but he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In her article entitled ‘Men and Abortion: Psychological Effects‘ Catherine Coyle, RN, PhD says: “Men may suffer intense grief after abortion as well as regret, helplessness, guilt, anxiety, anger, and emasculation. Grief and regret may be profound among men as abortion often involves multiple losses including the loss of a child, of a relationship, and loss of hopes for the future. Abortion is a death experience and, once chosen, cannot be undone. Pervasive feelings of helplessness and guilt can be debilitating.”
She also says: “Men may suffer from anxiety, persistent thoughts about the lost child, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and other somatic complaints such as headaches or palpitations. The trauma of abortion may be severe enough to cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
“Anger may be especially apparent among men who opposed the abortion decision. However, some men will appear to be angry when, in fact, other underlying emotions such as grief and helplessness are the real source of their suffering. For those men, anger becomes, a defense mechanism used to protect themselves from these other painful emotions. Substance abuse may also be used to numb emotional pain.” Coyle reports.
She says: “Masculine identity may be damaged when men fail to keep those they love from harm. Role confusion or a sense of emasculation may occur if men are not allowed to act on their healthy instinct to protect, or when they judge themselves to have failed as guardians. In an attempt to fulfill their perceived role as one of stoic support to their partners, men tend to contain their own emotions and put on a brave face. Ironically, men’s efforts to be strong for their partners by repressing their own emotions may lead to complicated or unresolved grief or to clinical depression.
“Relationships with partners may be stressed even when men agree with their partners to seek abortion. Sexual problems may occur if physical intimacy comes to be associated with emotional pain. Many relationships deteriorate and ultimately fail after abortion. Relationships with family and friends may also be strained if men deliberately isolate themselves or if their abortion related grief is minimised or unacknowledged by others.”
She writes: “An incentive for men to seek help may be to realise that grieving is normal when having experienced something as traumatic as the aborting of their child. When asked if they would have liked to receive counselling, many men answered affirmatively. Yet, there are few programmes available for men who struggle after abortion.”
The well-known slogan ‘men don’t cry’ encourages men to bury emotions and not deal with the issues at hand. Statistics from 31 studies show that a “significant portion” of men do not confide, or open up and talk to anyone about the abortion in which they were somehow involved. Study statistics include the following:
- 82% of the men suffered depression
- 86.7% believed they were being helpful in some way.
- 75% disagreed that abortion is easy for men.
- 61% believed men should have equal power in abortion decisions.
- 44% reported dreams or thoughts about the “infant they might have fathered”.
Man’s instinct to protect
In an article, ‘Post Abortion in Men’ by Mr Brad Mattes of “Life Issues” writes: “We need to understand why men are affected by abortion. God given instinct drives men to have achieved success in key areas of their lives and the two most important of these are to provide and to protect their families. Protection is an instinct that is highly programmed by our heavenly Father into men to protect his family. This should not be underestimated. When a man experiences abortion, these key areas of his life are seriously harmed or possibly, totally obliterated. Alcohol and drugs are often used to suppress pain of knowing he was too weak or unable, to protect his child from death. Study after study has shown that after an abortion the relationship is usually the first casualty, the level of trust has been destroyed. Future relationships with women are often difficult or impossible. We’ve also seen sexual dysfunction, impotency, addiction to pornography or masturbation and experimentation with homosexuality. These are areas where the man doesn’t have to worry about a pregnancy occurring, but can remain in control and receive sexual gratification.”
Ironically studies also show that 70% of women would choose life for their babies, if the father of their child had been supportive. The role of men is to protect, love and provide security for the wife and family. If men do not provide it, then the wife will feel insecure about bringing up the child alone, and possibly even fear going through the pregnancy and birth alone.
On the other hand, SA has particularly liberal abortion laws which allow women and girls to make a unilateral decision to abort. A South African woman can have an abortion without even consulting her husband. How would that make a man feel? How would he cope with it? In the testimony earlier in this article about the husband whose wife aborted two of their triplets, he refers to himself as a “scarred soul”.
A change of heart
In researching this article I searched for local testimonies of men and their encounters with abortion that could educate and challenge men on this issue. I came up with almost total silence. But Martin Labuschagne, a South African, emailed me saying: “I also believed, without giving too much thought to the issue, that abortion is acceptable, and what’s more that it should be legal. I passionately defended the notion of a women’s right to choose between birth or an abortion”.
He writes: “In July 2011 I made a 180 degree turn on the issue. My baby boy was born two months premature. He was small and fragile. As he lay in ICU his little eyes were closed most of the time. The most precious moment for me was when he suddenly turned his head, opened his eyes and looked at me. I thought, of the unborn children in the wombs of their mothers wanting the same care and love. Abandoning or hurting my son would be the most heinous thing I could think of and I thought – what difference is there between hurting him now, after birth, or murdering him while he was still in my wife’s body? The fact is: there is no difference!”
How long will men in South Africa continue to suffer in silence about their abortion experiences, and miss the opportunity to protect their women and unborn children. One opportunity for men to break this tragic silence is to make use of an online resource ( www.iregretmyabortion.com ) geared towards healing and restoration and pointing to Jesus Christ who can bring healing and forgiveness to men scarred by abortion.
Another constructive way for SA men who have experienced abortion to break the silence is to share their views by commenting on this article.