Thirty years ago, at the urging of my then boyfriend, I had an abortion.
He convinced me we weren’t ready to have children, promised we’d get married one day and have children later, said we’d be together forever, and assured me that he loved me.
I believed every word.
So, on a Saturday morning, I drove myself to Planned Parenthood and my life was forever changed. As was our relationship. Nothing was the same between us after we made the decision to end the life of our child. Nothing. Within a year, we broke up.
That fact is most couples involved in an abortion experience together don’t make it. The act is just too traumatic to be reminded of it constantly by being together.
There’s no question it changed our relationship, I don’t think we ever looked at one another the same. I’d catch myself watching him and wondering, “How could he say he loved me when he allowed me to go through that?” Like me, I would guess, he was wondering to himself, “How could she actually go through with it?” Confused, with broken hearts, we said goodbye to our “happily ever after”.
Through the years, I thought of him often. When I did, it wasn’t with compassion or sympathy, but of hatred and disgust. As time went on, I found myself loathing the man I once loved and wanted to grow old with. I hated what he’d done to me, loathed him for what he’d made me do. I blamed him for years for what happened until I finally had to accept my part in ending the life of our baby.
In my mind, I’d imagined he was going on with his happy, successful life, having forgotten all about me and the child we’d lost, and this made me angry.
I hated hating someone so much, and knew I had to do something about it, so I chose to volunteer at a local pregnancy resource center. My reasoning? I felt if I could help other women from making the same mistake I’d made, it would help me deal with my own pain, guilt and shame. I was convinced post-abortive men weren’t suffering the same effects as the women they’d impregnated, and completely detached myself from having empathy for these post-abortive fathers.
After going through my own healing process, at the encouragement of family and friends, I decided to write a book, “They Lied to Us”. I not only shared my story in the book, but the stories of other women who’d chosen abortion and how it had forever changed them. Although I changed my own post-abortive father’s name in the book, I felt an obligation to tell him about it.
After thirteen years, I picked up the phone and dialed his number.
He recognized my voice immediately. Then, something happened that will always be etched in my mind. He began to cry, then sob. I could barely understand his inaudible voice. Finally, he calmed down and began telling me he’d waited and prayed for this call for over a decade. He said, “I’ve been wanting to tell you how sorry I am for what I made you do. Can you forgive me? Please, forgive me.”
He went on to say, “As a man, it was my job to protect you and our child. Our choice has haunted me ever since. I’ve been in therapy for years trying to deal with it. I wish we could go back and change it.”
At that moment, something changed within me.
The hatred I’d felt for so long was gone. What I felt now was true compassion, empathy and sympathy for this man I’d grown to despise. Frankly, I was shocked. I had no idea that, like me, he’d been traumatized by our decision to end the life of our child. His healing was made complete when I said, “I forgive you.” And, I meant it.
It didn’t end there.
I asked him to forgive me as well. Because no one held a gun to my head when I walked in that abortion clinic and allowed my baby to be taken from me. We talked a little while longer, then said good-bye. A ten- minute phone call changed us both. For me, it brought the healing that was missing in my heart. It also shifted my paradigm as to how I’d view the post-abortive father from that point on.
I had an epiphany. Men were hurting too. Men were experiencing pain and trauma of a past abortion, yet no one was talking about it. Any time the issue is mentioned, the focus is on the women and babies. The men are forgotten. But we must recognize, these aborted babies had fathers.
Throughout our culture, men have been made out to be “tough, macho, insensitive, without emotion or feeling”.
If they care to be vulnerable, they’re labeled weak. But, the truth is, men are affected by abortion in some of the same ways as women. There are 55 Million+ post-abortive men in this country, men who are suffering alone from the effects and trauma of an abortion. We can no longer silence them. They’re not talking about it because they’ve never been given permission to do so. They’re afraid of how they’ll look or maybe convinced themselves no other man feels this way. This is just another tragic ramification of abortion.
Throughout my speaking career, as I’ve traveled around the country sharing my own story, I’ve met hundreds of men at my events. They come to meet me at my book table, many confiding in me, a woman they’ve never met, because they know I’ll listen, without judgment or condemnation. Again and again, I hear the same things.
“I’m haunted by the abortion.” “I have no one to talk to about it.” “No one understands.” “We’re in pain too”. Walking away, they’ll whisper, “Please, don’t forget about us”.
In the moment of decision, abortion may be a quick, easy solution for a man. He can then remove himself from the situation and move on with his life. For one thing, his body isn’t affected in the same way as a woman’s, so it may be easier for him to forget. For some men, walking away and forgetting seems to work.
But, for countless others, it does not.
These men still taste the bitterness and pain of their abortion. It’s always there. Without knowing it, this unspoken part of their past creeps up on them through the way they behave or treat others.
Men have told me they never understood why they were so angry, had trust issues, abused drugs or alcohol, or suffered from depression. Some of these men have carried these issues for years, some decades, until they come to understand these behaviors stemmed from their past abortion experience. We must change the stigma of men when it comes to the abortion issue. Men want to be heard. They need to be heard. They deserved to be heard.
We can no longer forget these “forgotten fathers”.