There is a growing awareness that women who experienced ambivalence, pressure or coercion at the time of their abortion can suffer from a similar cluster of symptoms as other victims of emotional trauma.
But can men also experience emotional trauma associated with an abortion?
The diagnostic manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists lists two key features of psychological trauma:
- The person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.
- The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
Keeping these in mind, let’s look at Jason’s story.
Jason returned from the military and soon met Andrea, a childhood friend. She had a five-month-old daughter. Their renewed friendship developed into a romantic relationship.
After getting an apartment together, they decided to marry and build a life together.
A few years later Andrea shared the news she was pregnant. Jason’s response: “I was thrilled! Kelly was almost three years old and now she’d have a baby brother or sister. I told everyone in my family and at work that I was going to be a daddy.”
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At first, Andrea seemed happy about the pregnancy. But after a few weeks things started to change. Jason recalled, “She was saying things like, ‘I’m not sure if we’re ready for another child,’ and, ‘we can’t afford to have a baby right now.’ ”
Jason assured her he would be there to support her and the new baby. As her doubts and fears increased, Andrea told Jason she was considering abortion.
Jason was terrified. He was excited about being a father and didn’t want to lose his child. When his encouragement and heartfelt pleas failed, their arguments turned into fights. Jason even went to a lawyer to see if he had any legal rights to protect his preborn child. He was crushed to hear the lawyer’s response: “You have no rights until the child is born.”
Jason’s final hope was that Andrea would not be able to afford the procedure, and in time would agree to give birth to their child.
Tragically, Andrea’s sister offered to pay for the abortion. It was Andrea’s sister who contacted Jason after the procedure to let him know she had the abortion.
Jason was devastated:
“The last thing I remember after hearing the news was lying in the parking lot of a bar screaming at the top of my lungs. I have no recollection of how I got home or how many days passed before I moved back in with my parents.”
As is often the case after abortion, Jason and Andrea’s relationship came to an end. Jason was hurting:
“My depression was getting worse and I was angry all the time at everything and everyone. I was drinking heavily and started using drugs. I was also having trouble sleeping at night and my job performance began to suffer. I was stricken with panic attacks that seemed to come for no reason and without warning.”
After a period of hospitalization and dead-end treatments Jason was overcome with despair. “Life was no longer worth living. So I sat at my dining room table with the last bottle of sleeping pills I had. ‘This will be easy’ I thought to myself. I would just swallow all these pills, lay down, fall asleep and never wake up.”
But as he raised the pills to his mouth he was overcome with an intense warmth over his entire body and a feeling of peace. The pills flew out of his hand and he spent the next hour on the floor as tears flowed out of him in a powerful expression of grief and pain.
After discovering a book by Dr. Catherine Coyle, Men and Abortion: A Path to Healing, Jason learned that he was not alone and other men and women experienced great pain and grief from the loss of their child to abortion. He attended an abortion healing program, and experienced a deeper level of emotional and spiritual healing.
Jason’s story reveals the truth that even men can undergo a traumatic, at times life-threatening experience of loss after abortion. Even men who are ambivalent, supportive of the decision, or pressuring for abortion can still experience feelings of shame, anger, anxiety and depression after participating in the death of their preborn child. They, too, can benefit from information on the common difficulties men often face after abortion and resources for healing.
Unfortunately those in abortion recovery programs can attest to the fact that many medical and mental health professionals would dismiss or downplay a man or woman’s suffering after abortion, especially if it challenges their pro-abortion ideology.
Some may identify the abortion as connected to their patient’s symptoms, but lack the deeper understanding and knowledge of the recovery process that is needed for such a loss. This leads to so much unnecessary suffering.
Let’s continue to share resources for education on the impact of abortion on women and men, and raise awareness of safe and effective healing programs. Share this good news on social media, in your faith communities, and with your family and friends.
For some, this will be a life-saving message of hope.
LifeNews Note: Kevin Burke, LSW, is a pastoral associate of Priests for Life and co-founder of Rachel’s Vineyard. An expert on men and abortion loss, he is the author of Tears of the Fisherman and co-author of Rivers of Blood/Oceans of Mercy.