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Reclaiming Fatherhood

Deacon Pedro

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I remember sitting on the curb-side on Bloor Street in Toronto, once, many years ago, at a Life-Chain. This was in the days when I would say that I was against abortions, but I didn’t feel I could tell a woman what to do with her own body. The point of a Life-Chain is that you witness silently. Cars and people drive and walk by – some honk in approval, some yell in disapproval. Some of the Life-Chainers pray silently. Some hold signs.
I was sitting on the curb, with my Life-Chain T-shirt on – I was probably also holding an “abortion kills children” sign, when a woman cyclist flew past me yelling, “you try having the damn thing growing inside you for 9 months!”
That experience has stayed with me all these years. I can almost still feel the bike flying past me. My instant response was that I had no place in the Life-Chain, because abortion is a woman’s issue. After all that is what we are told. After all, I am not the one carrying the “damn thing” inside of me for nine months.
The truth is that many believe that I, as a man, have no say when it comes to abortion. My opinion does not matter, because abortion is a woman’s issue. For the last two days, I’ve been hearing a completely different message: not only is abortion an issue that concerns us all, but abortion is an issue that affects us all. In fact, men, particularly, are affected by abortion in ways a woman isn’t.
These last two days, Sept 7-9, at the Oak Brook Marriott, in Chicago, the Knights of Columbus, the Office of Evangelization of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Project Rachel, sponsored the second Reclaiming Fatherhood Conference, featuring testimonies from dads who’ve lost children to abortion, psychologists, priests and experts in post traumatic stress disorder, addictions and spiritual counseling. It was two wonderful days of networking, learning, creating awareness and most important: healing.
As a father of two boys, I am most interested in how men are different than women (so is my wife). Despite what some “experts” will tell us, the reality is that men and women are not the same. This does not mean that we are not equal in terms of rights or dignity. But God has created us male and female for a reason.
Now, these are going to be vast generalizations, but there is some truth to it. Think about it: when a woman is stressed, she needs to talk about it. She needs to share her feelings. Ask a guy what he’s feeling when he’s stressed and you’ll probably get a blank stare. Guys do need to get in touch with their feelings, but they generally don’t do it through talking. Guys are doers. We are problem-solvers. We need to get going and do something. In the doing, we sort our feelings. Generally. This is why the best-selling book “Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti” (by Bill and Pam Farrel) is a best seller. I highly recommend it. It makes a great deal of sense.
Think about men in our North American society: It’s not cool to show your emotions, or show pain. It’s not OK to show weakness, or appear helpless. It’s not cool to feel insignificant or powerless. This is not what feminists say – but this is very much the sense in the locker room: men need to be in control. Now think about abortion: Men are told that it’s not their issue, that they have no say in the matter. In fact, legally, men have no rights whatsoever, when it comes to abortion. On top of that, even if the man opposes the abortion, he is led to believe that the best way he can support his partner is by staying silent. He even believes that his pain is insignificant compared to her pain (then again, there are those who say that there is no pain whatsoever associated with abortions, even for the woman!)
So in the case of abortion, you have men who cannot show their emotions, cannot admit to pain. They feel powerless because they have no say in the matter and no reproductive rights. They can’t do anything about it and so they feel helpless. They are not defending, nor protecting their girlfriends, wives or their babies.
I’m really making the men look like victims here, right? Well, think of the man who forces the abortion on the woman. This is someone who intentionally causes the death of his own child. It’s true, he could be completely heartless. But perhaps he is also just misinformed. Maybe he truly believes that an abortion is the only way out. That abortion is the best solution. Imagine the potential for guilt. Imagine the shame. If he believes in God he may feel that God can never forgive him. He is unable to forgive himself.
Think of one more scenario: The young couple who finds themselves in a most desperate situation. He really feels that loving her is to support her. She says, “Maybe we should have an abortion.” He says, “If that’s what you want, then it’s OK with me.” Not only has he failed to love her, to defend her and protect her, but he has failed to give her what she really needs. He has failed to be a man and to really support her. It’s no wonder that after an abortion, most relationships fall apart. It’s no wonder that among post-abortive women surveyed, 80% report that had they had a supportive male, they would not have had the abortion.
I am over simplifying this, but let’s suppose that it could be as simple as this. Now add to this the fact that this man, cannot talk about it. He can’t go to his buddies and say, “hey, 10 years ago my girlfriend had an abortion and I am really devastated by it.” He can’t go to Church where he feels judged. He can’t talk to his wife about it. Still, studies have shown that after an abortion, no matter what role the man played, men show common symptoms of trauma. They feel rage, feelings of impotence, grief, extreme concern about his partner, they suffer disintegration of relationships, they may delve into risk-taking behaviour or substance abuse. They have obsessive thoughts about the child or children or abortion. In some cases they become abusive towards the partner, become sexually addicted, or turn into an overly protective parent. Some men even suffer psychotic episodes, depression and sometimes resort to suicide. All in silence. Experts say this is not different than the post-traumatic-stress-disorder suffered by war veterans.
I could go on – however I’ll leave it at that. If you want more information on how men are affected by abortions, visit or look for the Men and Abortion Network (M.A.N.) on the site, by clicking on the “Men and Abortion” link.
We’d be fools to think that there are no adverse effects to abortion (despite what the American Psychiatric Association says). In the U. S. alone, since 1973 there have been over 40 million abortions. In every single case, there was a man involved. Losing a child is a traumatic experience. Knowing that you intentionally caused the death of your own child is much worse. Feeling your partner betrayed you and had the abortion without your consent is pretty horrible as well. You failed to fulfill one of the key roles of a father: that of protector.
We need to acknowledge that about 40% of our population has lost a child to abortion. This is 4 out of 10 people sitting in the pews on Sunday; 4 out of 10 of your co-workers; 4 out of 10 people standing on the check-out line at the grocery store. They may be silent about it, but in many cases they are suffering – the experience has affected them in one way or another. We need to see how we can respond to them with compassion and love and offer them hope for healing. Let them know that they are not alone – that it’s OK to grieve and that forgiveness is available to all who seek it.

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