[More than forty] years have passed since the legalization of abortion in the United States. In those years, numerous studies have documented the potential negative effects of abortion on women. The effects of abortion on men, however, have been largely ignored by both the scientific community and American society.
The few published studies concerning men suggest that, like women, men may experience grief,1 anxiety, guilt, helplessness,2 and anger.3 The fact that men tend to repress their emotions may also make it more difficult for them to resolve their grief.4 Even men who support their partners’ abortion may experience ambivalent feelings such as relief along with anxiety, anguish, grief, and guilt.5 About half of the men interviewed by these authors reported that one year after the abortion occurred, they still had frequent (monthly) thoughts about it.6.
A study by Lauzon et al. (2000) compared men and women involved in first-trimester abortions with a control group of men and women who had not experienced abortion. After the abortion, participants were given a follow-up questionnaire and “three weeks after the abortion, 41.7 percent of women and 30.9 percent of the men were still highly distressed.” The authors concluded that “being involved in a first-trimester abortion can be highly distressing for both women and men."7
The most comprehensive work pertaining to men and abortion was published by Shostak and McLouth in 1984. These authors surveyed 1,000 men in 30 abortion clinics across the United States and followed up with post-abortion interviews involving 75 of those men. The persistence of occasional thoughts about the fetus was evident among the majority of post-abortion men interviewed. Of those men surveyed, 11 percent stated that they were opposed to their partners’ decision to abort and were described as experiencing a very profound sense of personal loss.3
If Shostak and McLouth’s sample is representative of males in the United States, we may extrapolate in terms of current abortion statistics. Given that approximately 50 million abortions have been performed since its legalization in 1973, there may be as many as 5 million men who have been negatively affected by abortion.
This inference may be too conservative since it is based only on the fact that 11 percent of men were opposed to abortion in the Shostak and McLouth study and does not account for many other men who may not experience or even be aware of negative effects until quite some time after the abortion. As men are not acknowledged by society as having any role in the abortion decision, they may be confused by the intensity of their emotions following abortion and/or unlikely to seek the help they need.
The effect of legalized abortion on children has been obvious with nearly fifty million children losing their lives before being born. The effects on women are well-documented and many clinicians are now aware of the existence of Post Abortion Syndrome8 among women. The effects of abortion on men continue to be overlooked although the limited research strongly suggests that abortion may have detrimental effects on men.
Abortion may contribute to a host of problems among men such as anger, helplessness, guilt, grief, relationship problems, sexual problems, risk-taking behaviors (e.g. substance abuse), sleep disturbances (e.g. nightmares), anniversary reactions, clinical depression, and confusion about masculinity.
This is unfortunate for both the men involved and for society as a whole as abortion has damaged the very fabric of our society. As children, mothers, and fathers are devalued, so too is the family, the foundational structure of a civilized society. It does not seem too far-reaching to suggest that abortion has sickened all of our culture The symptoms seem obvious as men and women struggle with unresolved grief, families break down, and even living children wonder at the precariousness of their existence.
Catherine Coyle, author of Men and Abortion: A Path to Healing, earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin. She is a registered nurse and holds a master's degree in psychiatric nursing. Dr Coyle is an associate of the International Forgiveness Institute and continues to pursue research in the areas of both forgiveness and post-abortive trauma among men. Information on her most recent study can be found here.