While less is known about the emotional impact of abortion on fathers, the main difference between men and women is that the woman physically experiences the abortion. As a result, the stress can be varied depending upon the father's involvement in the decision. A post-abortive father can fall into several groups as list below:
- He insisted or forced his wife or girlfriend have an abortion.
- He allowed his wife or girlfriend to make the decision to abort
- He didn't want the abortion to take place and tried to actively stop it
- He found out about the abortion after it was completed and had no voice in the decision
If you are struggling with a past abortion decision, understand that you are not alone in your emotions. Millions of other men share your pain.
Ramah International is pleased to offer a devotional for men who are experiencing this trauma. It's called "David's Harp." Below is a portion of the testimony of "David's Harp" author, Richard Beattie.
He's A Wonderful God
In the Frank Capra classic film, It's A Wonderful Life, the main character, George Bailey, has an opportunity to see what life would have been like had he never been born. The audience, along with Bailey, goes along on a journey. Without Bailey's integrity and sacrifices, the charming town of Bedford Falls is reduced to the dark and evil Pottersville.
The 1940's movie wasn't a big hit when it came out, but the generation that I grew up in, the '60's and '70's, embraced it as a virtuous fantasy. It seems ironic that the generation known for its personal autonomy, free sex, and abortion on demand would identify with the unselfish virtues of George Bailey. Perhaps it's a yearning for a figure that cares enough for his family and community that he would be willing to sacrifice his own dreams for others.
I am now forty-two. I came to Christ almost twenty years after some bad moral choices I had made. On reflecting on those decisions, I am able to see the impact that my choices have had on many people. If it wasn't for God's grace I know that my life could have gone in a downward spiral. I can't say that all my life has been wonderful, but in spite of my vast regrets I can say: "He's A Wonderful God."
Like George Bailey, I have had a great opportunity to get a view of what life could be like if I made different choices. I am watching from a window looking backwards at the teenager on the other side. My elbows are engaged on the windowsill watching the boy struggle. He, who looks like me (thinner and much more hair) is reading a letter. I am straining to read over his shoulder. It's from a girl, yes now I remember the girl who dumped me because I was a virgin. I wish the boy could hear me... I would tell him, "It's going to be all right, you've done the right thing. God has a plan for you and in that plan there is a perfect mate for you and you will have kids and everything you've ever dreamed of." He can't hear me and Roma Downey is no where to be seen, nor is Clarence, George Bailey's angel. The discouraged look on his face brings me back to 1974.
I often wonder what would have happened if I had a mentor. No one perfect, just someone that I could have said, "There is so much pressure on me and I need someone to talk to." Then I wonder if there is some young man I could advise. I can see that the pressure to have sex outside of marriage is even more intense now than when I was in high school. I am happy to see that there is a safety net of churches, purity rallies, and materials that bring the truth to the forefront. But how many teens seek out wise counsel about peer pressure? I know that the boy reading the letter doesn't know who to turn to. The struggle is just beginning.
I'm now looking through the window at the boy. He is jogging with his younger brother. They are passing the familiar houses and trees of our little town. They are huffing, puffing, and talking. I zone in on the conversation from my memory. "Your problem is that you go out with girls who don't give out, the younger boy blurts out. I see the confusion and anguish in my youthful face and I remember my thoughts, "Something must be wrong with me. Even my kid brother has had sex."
If I could have kept up with these young runners I would have put my two cents in. I would have told them about God's plan. "Hey, brothers, what does God have to say about this? You guys have been brought up to obey His laws." That's right, but if they could have heard me would it have done any good? Probably not. Hitting these guys on the head with a bible may have caused permanent brain damage! These truths need legs. How can I penetrate the peer pressure of the youth of today? Jesus spoke in parables illustrating the issues of the day and what God wants from us. Paul spoke of his transgressions. No longer dwelling in them but revisiting the sin. Utilize the testimony to help others and to lead them to Christ. Biblical truth laced with real life stories of a true relationship with Christ can transform lives if the testimony is genuine and sincere.
The young "me" is in the school cafeteria. He is talking to a girl who he was interested in. He asks her out and she accepts. "I had a dream that you asked me out," she says with a smile. They talk on the phone nightly and the conversation turns to sex. The 42 year old "me" wants to rip the phone chord out of the wall upon remembering this. It started with our minds and ended in a way neither one of us had ever expected.
The buses are in the bus circle at the high school. The boy rushes up to her bus. He smiles, excited to see his first "lover" and she steps off of the bus, silent. They walk, he asks "What's wrong?" Then she says, "I think I'm pregnant..."
The two walk. I in my present state, follow. They cut their first class. They talk of love and marriage. They talk of their baby. They even talk about names. They talk about how they will ask for some support from family and he talks of finding a job and providing for her and their child. They decide to tell her mother first. "My mother's cool. I can talk to her about anything." They agree to go to her house after school. He'll stay for dinner and on the way to take him home they'll tell her mom.
I watch this scene again and again in my mind. What can I say to these kids? It's 1974 and not a crisis pregnancy center for miles. They never even heard of a crisis pregnancy center. What about the church? They are minors... Too risky... Where else could they go? How will these two families deal with such a crisis?
The ride home comes very quickly. The two are huddled in the back of her mom's car. Her mother stops to buy some milk at a local deli. When she comes back the boy that was me says, "I know you're wondering why your daughter still has the flu. I think I know...I think she's pregnant." The words still ring in my ears. "What are you going to do?" her mother asked, obviously reeling. "We want to get married," we said jointly. Her mother screamed, "Married? You can't. You have your whole lives in front of you. I'll tell you what we'll do. We're going to take her down to the hospital and have an abortion!" We both protested and were pleading but it seemed so hopeless.
Her mother drove me to the long driveway at my parents' house. Numb, I held my girlfriend's hand and said, "We'll talk about this tomorrow." The sixteen-year-old walked slowly to the house. Inside in the living room sat his father. "Hi Rich," he said. "I had the carpenter here today and I wondered if you could sweep the upstairs room he was working on". The boy looked at his father, wanting to tell him what was going on in his young life and plead for help, but he didn't have the nerve. I watched the boy head up the stairs with the broom in his hand. He swept the sawdust and nails that littered the renovated room. I, the 42 year old, wanted to reach out to him. I watched him sit in the corner and weep trying to muzzle the sobs. He was no longer a virgin. What he believed would make him a man took a piece out of him that echoed throughout the empty room.
As I remember this scene I wonder where a boy in crisis can go for help. With that in mind I called a local crisis pregnancy center and asked what they would do. I found that when our situation happens today there is a counselor for teens assigned by the CPC. An ultrasound (not available in 1974) would be scheduled and the girl's mother would be invited. The main obstacle is getting the word out to teens involved in a crisis pregnancy.
They pass out condoms in schools, they teach "health education," and abortion clinics are built close to many metropolitan high schools. But true counsel is often banned or shrugged off to those in need and that is why the CPCs around this country need to keep fighting and find ways of penetrating through the well financed wall with the pro-life message.
I go back to the window that lines my memory and watch the young couple as they discuss the fate of their child. She is worn down with morning sickness, he contemplates telling his parents or taking her and fleeing the country. They are caught between protecting her reputation, their family's names and the life of their baby. They yield their control to others and hope for a "stay of execution."
The day came. The boy sits in one of the school's music practice room. His girlfriend is not at school. Her mother has called to tell the attendance office that she is ill. The boy goes through his day and wonders what is happening. Is the baby still alive? Are they on the way to the hospital? Has her mother changed her mind? The final bell of the day goes off. He goes to his locker and heads to the bus.
It wasn't his bus; it was her bus. I watch him stare out the window as he contemplates what he will do or say. The bus reaches her stop. He rises and gets off. He walks through the gate into the yard where they had so many good times last summer. Friends and her family gathering, laughing, and he wishes they were all here now. The boy that was me knocks on the front door wondering what he will find.
Her mother answers the door. She lets him in. The house is completely quiet. They sit at the kitchen table. Her mother is laboring over a crossword puzzle and then I hear the boy break the silence. "I'm sorry about all this." She nodded. It wasn't very long that the telephone rang. "I'll be right there," her mother said. We headed to the car, "It's over Rich," she said. They drove to the hospital.
I watch the next scene as an observer. This woman could have shut the boy out, she could have called the police on this trespasser who has made her daughter pregnant, but she didn't. He had just lost a child and she just lost her first grandchild. They arrived at the hospital, "Wait here," she said. He did. Then he stepped out of the car looking downward at the parking lot asphalt. Then they emerged, mother and daughter. The girl was pale and unemotional. They were in the same car where a few days before he made the announcement of her pregnancy. The car started out. The girl buried her head on the boy's shoulder and sobbed.
I wish I could report that the young couple got counseling, but I can't. They experienced sex, death of innocence, and the death of their child. Did they learn anything from the experience? Does abortion solve anything? It wasn't long before the secret was out, but not in the way one might expect. It wasn't due to talking about it; it was due to not having anyone to talk to.
From elbows engaged on a windowsill I walk through this gallery. The pictures of an unborn child eclipse a once bright corridor of landscapes and music. The track lighting illuminates the victories. A dark shadow eclipses the joy of this journey of memories. It is as painful as Chuck Swindoll wisely brings out. Yet the past can be used to reveal what happens when we aren't walking with the Lord. The brightest corridor is yet to come! It is the corridor of grace and forgiveness. That is where we discover His victories.
So let me take you to the gallery of my life. As I look at the portrait of the sixteen-year-old couple coping with their loss. As tragic as teen pregnancy is teen abortion is even more tragic and with many more long-term repercussions.
While life seemingly went on and the abortion was secret, the teen couple resumed a physical relationship. That relationship became the means of a "coping mechanism" that without Christian counseling would become a cycle of inappropriate responses. In secret there is no opportunity for counseling, or grace, and so they turned to each other.
Sydna Masse, founder of Ramah International, said it best when she said, "Sin will stay around much longer than you ever intended it to." So they rationalized and the cycle grew into a whirlwind. Then once again, the girl was pregnant. This time who they turned to opened the first wound, but healing would not be part of the answer.
There is a portrait in my gallery of the boy sitting in the breakfast nook of the family home. This time he tells his mother. It is a chance to tell her about what happened the first time. It was the chance to tell her the secret and to ask for help. Fear and shame overcame him and he couldn't bring himself to tell her.
A meeting was set up where the two families could discuss the options. The boy was sure his parents would opt for marriage and support their unborn grandchild. But the women's liberation movement of the 1970's had an effect on people that would have normally stood up for life. Of course his parents felt that they didn't have a leg to stand on when the girl's mother told them about the first time.
The next portrait is the teen couple alone and talking about what the "parental summit" would decide. He says to her, "It's gonna be alright." But she seems to think otherwise.
The jury finally deliberates and reaches a verdict. They emerge from the dining room. Her father glares at the boy that he trusted with his daughter. The boy looks down. As I watch the scene I wonder how I would react to a boy if he got my daughter pregnant. I understand his disgust. The verdict is not read, it is not even stated. "It's time to go home." Two family portraits of anguish etched in our minds.
The decision to have the second abortion was decided by the four adults. I don't know who voted for what. When the boy's parents told him in the car, it was the first time he yelled back at them. It was heated and the boy's father finally told him, "You be quiet, there's nothing we want to hear from you about this!" In subsequent years the dialogue about the abortions was short and tense with quick staccato jabs.
The only change in this decision from the first time was that he would pay for both abortions. Resentment came from this. Not because of the money but because he felt since he was paying for the murder of his children, then he would be the one with blood on his hands.
This dark corridor of the gallery takes us to a portrait of a sixteen-year-old boy throwing a tennis ball against the wall of his house. It is a scene that looks quite normal. But it's not. About eight miles away his girlfriend is on a gurney where doctors are aborting their second child. With every throw he winces as if in pain. Afterwards, the parents keep them apart until they graduate from high school. Counseling - individual, as a couple, or as a family - was never considered.
Then comes a portrait of the teens as they became young adults. The relationship continued on and off but it was volatile and one of deception. They finally drifted apart. For eighteen years the boy would grow up and was a portrait of a man who had a dark secret.
Five years later he married the right girl, the girl who was God's perfect mate for him. But, he chose not to reveal the dark corridor of his gallery. The abortions were something he didn't think he could tell anyone about. When his wife became pregnant he was overjoyed at first and then he felt scared. He thought that God would be angry and take his child away. He didn't know much about God.
Isn't it ironic? We go about life in our flesh, without a clue that if we wait to follow His plan, He makes our joy complete. So often we go our own way, but His plan is still the same, but we affect His plans by our choices. The past was one choice. To conceal it was another.
In the dark corridor of his life he threw a wrench into his marriage. He had two affairs. After the second one, when it seemed like divorce would be inevitable, he broke down and told her everything. It was the first time he had confessed to anyone about the abortions. The marriage had a long way to go to be reconciled. The truth went a long way on the road to healing.
That same year he attended a Promise Keepers conference. When Greg Laurie made the invitation, the boy who was me started on the road to the man that I could become. A rich oil painting of many men starts the most recent addition to the gallery. I can't say the road has not been a tough one. But in the last corridor in this gallery of my life there is a picture of Jesus walking along side me. But when you see it from another angle, it's me following close behind and keeping my eyes on Jesus.
There are many more corridors left in my gallery. The Lord has been a wonderful curator. He is constantly replacing the charcoal with his glorious oils and watercolors. He may be replacing my pain with grace and the self-portraits with his glory on the gallery walls, but what is happening in the artist's studio is even greater. For that is where he is using the dark portraits of my life as an art lesson for the other artists to show what He can do if they learn from the Master.
Resources for Post-Abortive Men:
If you are struggling from a past abortion decision, help is available. To find help immediately, visit this site (http://www.lifeissues.org/men/referral.html). Below are suggested resources that are available to help you understand the pain you may be experiencing:
Fatherhood Aborted, by Guy Condon and David Hazard, available through Tyndale, http://www.tyndale.com
Men and Abortion, by C. T. Coyle, Ph.D. available through Life Cycle Books, www.lifecyclebooks.com
Men Hurt Too, brochure by Bradley Mattes, available through Hayes Publishing, http://hayespub.tripod.com
A bible study, entitled "Missing Arrows" is also available for free on-line at: http://www.lifeissues.org/men/missingarrows.pdf
If you are interested in ministering to post-abortive fathers, this page offers a free on-line training manual: http://www.lifeissues.org/men/teachingmanual.pdf