When it comes to abortion, most of the talk revolves around women and how it affects them – and rightly so. Abortion is something that is, largely, a women’s issue. Women have to undergo the procedure. They take on the risks. They’re the ones whose bodies get butchered and whose babies are ripped from their wombs. Women are the ones we know face serious psychological consequences afterward. It makes sense that the conversation would focus on women.
But what about men?
Largely ignored, the reality is that men are affected by abortion, too. It’s not unusual for men to feel grief, regret, and guilt after losing their child – because, after all, a post-abortive mother is just one of the parents. It’s not unusual for a father to regret the loss of his child, whether it’s right away or years later. The Daily Mail has spotlighted the stories of three such fathers, who opened up about the impact abortion has had on them.
Tony Perry is the father of two children: a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter, both of whom gave him handmade cards for Father’s Day. But he says he should have another child, one who would almost be a teenager today – except his girlfriend had an abortion, a decision he says he respected at the time but has come to deeply regret.
“It left deep scars,” he said. “There’s always a shadow in the background. The other way to put it is that it’s like wearing a backpack — most days, you’re simply aware it’s there, but on others, it feels like an extra weight pulling you down.”
When Tony found out his girlfriend was pregnant, he tried to get her to change her mind about having an abortion. “My mind was all over the place,” he explained. “You are experiencing such conflicting thoughts and emotions. On one hand, you’re trying to get your head round the fact you’re going to be a dad when you didn’t plan to be and preparing to be emotionally connected to this child. On the other, you’ve got to disconnect, because there might never be a baby.”
The relationship did not survive the abortion. Tony ended up seeing a counselor to work through his grief.
Another man, Carl Miller, said he struggles with guilt after abortion. The child who was aborted ended up being his only child. But at the time, he thought his girlfriend had tricked him into getting pregnant, and he pressured her into having an abortion.
“This was the last thing Jayne wanted, and there were tears from both of us as we wrestled with the decision,” he said. “Eventually, she agreed I was too young to be a father and apologised for deceiving me. We arranged an abortion together and I went with her to a private clinic for the termination at around 11 weeks. As I waited for her, I thought: ‘Am I forcing her to do this? Will I regret it?'”
Carl and Jayne broke up a year later, and Carl eventually came out as gay. And he realized that he had lost his only chance to be a father. “I’m in a civil partnership and I find myself a proud granddad to the three offspring of my partner’s two grown-up children,” he said. “I absolutely adore them, and this heightens my guilt over the abortion, as I wonder what my child would have been like. I’ve always felt I would have had a daughter, which I’d have loved now, and becoming a father would have been life-changing. But it’s only as time has passed that I appreciate the enormity of what happened and what I lost.”
A third man, Paul O’Callaghan, also remains childless after having aborted his only child. He had a casual girlfriend who became pregnant, and he pressured her into an abortion, despite the fact that she was in her late 30s and he knew she loved children. “We’d only dated for seven weeks and Charlotte knew I was not looking for a serious relationship,” he said. “I felt so stupid to be in this situation. I was furious with myself for being so careless. I was a grown man – not a feckless teenager. But I knew straight away that I did not want the pregnancy to continue, despite the fact Charlotte was in her late 30s and had never had a child. Maybe it would have been different if I’d known her longer, but I wasn’t ready to have a baby with her.”
“She agreed to go along with whatever I thought was best, but I could see the sorrow on her face and I felt terrible,” he continued. “I knew she hoped I’d tell her to keep the baby and we’d make a go of it. But for me, abortion felt like the only choice.” When his girlfriend saw the ultrasound of their baby, she was overcome with emotion, but Paul refused to budge. She went through with the abortion at nine weeks of pregnancy. Years later, the gravity of what he had done began to hit him, and he now feels guilty for his actions.
“There are bittersweet moments when I see men with their children and think: ‘That could have been me’,” he said. “I do feel guilty about what happened. I do wonder if she ever became a mum later in life, and I hope she did. Otherwise, it means her only child was aborted and, while I may never have a child, either, I’d hate to think that I deprived her of motherhood and caused her lasting pain.”
“A mourning process”
Professor Arthur Shostak, emeritus professor of sociology at Drexel University, told The Daily Mail that of all the men he has interviewed whose partners have had abortions, around 90 percent consider it “one of the most stressful experiences” of their lives, with nine percent never getting over it. And he explained that many of these men need an outlet where they can talk about what they went through.
Organizations like Rachel’s Vineyard are there to give men that opportunity. Charlie Conner organizes weekend retreats for Rachel’s Vineyard in the United Kingdom and calls abortion regret among men a huge “hidden problem.” “For every aborted child, there’s a father,” he said.
“It’s natural that there is guilt and shame — a mourning process is meant to happen,” he explained. “But because there isn’t a grave or funeral service, grief may not express itself until years later. Guilt will be greater if the man was the driving force in the abortion. Even if they are not religious, they can feel punished when there are other difficulties in their lives. If they have other children, there can be the fear something will happen to them as a result of what they did.”
Abortion largely is a women’s issue. But it’s something that affects men, too – the fathers of the children whose lives have been taken. And they should not be silenced — their feelings should be known as well.
If you are a father who is struggling with post-abortion grief and regret, there are resources that can help. Check out Silent No More, Healing After Abortion, Rachel’s Vineyard or a local pregnancy resource center for help.
Editor’s Note: All op-eds are the opinion of the writer, and not necessarily the official position of Live Action.