This article was originally featured in the Vol 19, No. 1 of the Christian Counselor Today journal
By Paul Marshall, Regional Coordinator in Central NY
A few years ago, I met a man who was in his mid-40s. He stood alone by the entrance of the banquet hall where I had just spoken. As I made my way through the crowd of people, he stepped forward to introduce himself. Jim and I talked for quite some time and, as we did, he began to unload a heavy burden…one he had been carrying for more than 20 years.
Jim had served in the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. While home on leave during his fourth year of active duty, his girlfriend became pregnant. Jim, however, never learned of this pregnancy until he was discharged and returned home to marry the woman he loved. It was during one of their premarital counseling sessions that his girlfriend shared her secret with Jim and their priest. When the word “abortion” reached his ears, Jim felt sick to his stomach. He could not believe what he had just heard. “It was like being punched in the gut and having a piece of my soul torn away,” Jim said.
Like many relationships where abortion is involved, theirs became unstable and ended in hostility. Jim never married because he became so untrusting. He thinks of his child every day and wonders what his son or daughter would be like. Every year Jim goes into deep depression during the month of June and drinks heavier than normal. “That’s the month he would have been born,” Jim said.
I wish this story is unique, but it is not. Common among men I meet who have abortions in their past is the inability to trust and hurt that cuts so deep it is felt even decades after the abortions occurred. This is especially true with men who had no say in the decision. However, even for men who took an active role, abortion brings back memories they would rather forget. They speak of shame, regret, depression, and anger.
Imagine how deeply it affects a man who in the 70s was led to believe that his baby was nothing more than a mass of cells, only to discover in the 80s and 90s—through the miracle of ultrasound—that the mass of cells had a heartbeat and little arms and legs. One man who completed our abortion recovery Bible study said, “I still feel the loss…but I’m not having nightmares anymore.” For years he endured nightmares reflecting the anxiety he experienced while sitting in the waiting room of an abortion clinic. As hard as he tried, he could not stop thinking of his unborn baby during the abortion procedure.
Some Christian men wonder if God will truly forgive them. One individual I counseled lived in constant fear that God would “balance the scale.” He became a Christian after the abortions occurred. Yet, even with his newfound faith, he was afraid that in an act of divine retribution, God would cause something horrible to happen to him or the children he later fathered with his wife. To cope with this fear, he did not allow himself the luxury of feeling too close to them, detaching himself as a way of protection. It was not until his kids were heading off to college that he realized how much he had missed and the source of his insecurity. Thinking about his story has led me to wonder how many children have fathers in the house, but not in their lives because of the long-term impact abortion has had on their dads?
In an effort to cope with the memory of abortion, many men turn to drugs or alcohol. That was my escape after living through two abortions in high school. After the first, I almost drank myself to death trying to kill the pain of my (our) loss. Having felt our baby moving inside his mother’s womb one Friday morning, I was crushed after learning on Monday that she had a late-term, therapeutic abortion over the weekend….a choice that was made for her, not by her.
One the outside, men may appear to be indifferent about abortion. I have certainly met my share who seemingly could not care less. However, after examining my own experience and listening to the men I have come to know, it seems that the trauma caused by abortion eats away at many of us like cancer. Even after discovering God’s grace and forgiveness, the residual distress can last a lifetime. This problem is aggravated by the fact that most men who do regret their abortion decisions have been silent about the effects of those choices. Fearing rejection and shame, especially in the church, most men never discover the healing that could set them free.
You might think “unspoken torment” is a distortion of what men experience after losing a child to abortion. Yet, having walked in their shoes and counseled men whose lives have been torn apart by abortion, to describe what we feel as anything less would be an insult.
Every time I share my testimony, whether it is in a church setting, at a pregnancy center banquet, or some other venue, men come forward to say “Me too.” Although not every one of them seeks healing…some are only ready to confess their grief for the very first time. However, from physicians to high school students, we are seeing an increase in the number of men at our center who are beginning to address this issue through abortion recovery Bible studies. My hope is that this trend will continue and that the Lord will inspire more men to seek help and discover lasting hope and healing.