We recently ran a piece on abortion and male suicide. Now, the BBC has produced a radio programme on men and abortion.
Scroll down to hear the programme!
Today, BBC Radio 4 aired a programme called “It’s my baby too“, asking the question “how are men affected by abortion?” It features presenter Aasmah Mir talking to men who have gone through the experience and to women about how they feel men cope with abortion. She also heard from abortion service providers about the current process, academics about the limited research conducted into the impact abortion has on men, and experts working in the field of relationship counselling.
Although the show isn’t perfect by any means (it uncritically features David Steel recounting why he introduced the 1967 Abortion Act), it is significant because any public discussion of how abortion affects men is almost unheard of.
The show makes it clear that the issue is surrounded by stigma and the experience of men is often a closed topic. One man, said three different partners aborted his children, tells Aasmah, “I’ve not spoken to anybody about this ever. I did bring it up once recently but people just seem to want to sweep it under the carpet with me. They were embarrassed that I brought it up. It’s a taboo. You can’t really talk about it.”
One man, who didn’t express any regrets about the abortion he and his wife had decided on, nonetheless said that “more discussion of the potential fallout” for men.
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Another aspect the programme highlighted was how men are often sidelined in an abortion situation. In fact, one man said a clinic worker was very surprised when he accompanied his girlfriend for the abortion. “We don’t often see [boyfriends] here” she said, and no kind of after support was offered. Psychotherapist Micheal Simon said that because abortion is generally seen as female only territory, men have come to sideline themselves and their feelings.
“It’s your decision”
One very important point made was about the idea that the supportive thing for a man to do is say “it’s your decision, I’ll support you either way”. Two women who’d had abortions agreed that the men in their lives had clearly been taught that this was what they were supposed to say, and were scared to say anything more, making the women scared to ask. As many people who work in crisis pregnancy help attest, “it’s your decision” is actually the worst thing for a woman to hear. As one contributor said: “What I hated about that phrase being trotted out was this feeling that like, ‘it’s all on you now, you make the decision, it’s your responsibility, it’s up to you, I’ve done my bit by letting you make that decision’.”
A psychotherapist from relationship counselling service Relate pointed out that a lot of even young men do see themselves as potentially good dads, and loss and grief can hit them hard. Although the programme didn’t relate anything as tragic as a man who took his own life after he found out his fiance had had an abortion, what we did hear was still heartbreaking. A man who said abortion should always be absolutely the woman’s decision admitted that he regularly thinks about how old his lost child would be. Another, when asked to describe the aftermath, described himself as feeling “empty, at a loss…cold…in a dark cave…in the middle of an ocean with dark waves crashing down…it left deep scars.”
Abortion hurts men too
Those who work in post abortion counselling have heard this kind of pain many times before. Louise Grant, who works with the Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline (ARCH) said: “Abortion is widely construed as a woman’s issue but there is no denying that men may also be negatively affected by an abortion decision. At ARCH, our call evidence shows that on average 10% of our callers are male. Interestingly, so far in June, almost 25% of our calls are from men, so we know abortion hurts men too and it probably affects more than we know of since some men often find it difficult to open up about emotionally sensitive subjects.
“Men, just like women, need to know that they are not alone in being negatively affected by abortion and in fact, it’s ok to seek help – that’s why ARCH is here”.
If you or anyone you know (man or woman) has been affected by an abortion experience, get in touch with one of the counsellors/befrienders at Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline.