Exhale After Abortion Groups: Emasculation by Reproductive Choice
Two articles on men and abortion loss from The Atlantic and Fox News explore the topic from a fundamentally different perspective. This provides an excellent opportunity to explore some important issues they raise (especially the Atlantic piece) around the concept of “reproductive choice”; the roles and responsibilities of men in abortion decisions; and pro-choice post abortion groups for men like Exhale.
The first article from Foxnews.com by Bryan Fisher strongly emphasizes that abortion attacks an innate male/fatherly instinct to protect the life of one’s offspring…and that this fatherly responsibility begins as the child forms in its mother’s womb:
We are willfully taking the lives of those we are wired to protect…Men…have traded their innate sense of responsibility for a perceived freedom that is not worth the cost…a man’s fundamental calling to defend those who are dependent on him, including the unborn, is squashed by the abortion mentality.
The Second piece from The Atlantic is a thoughtful reflection by Hugo Schwyzer about his abortion decision at age 17. The author reveals a very different perspective arising from his personal experience of abortion loss and the powerful influence of his mother’s pro abortion feminism in the decision making process.
This mother strongly impressed upon her son that the guiding principle for any man in an abortion decision is not a father’s protection of his unborn child, as emphasized by Bryan Fisher. Rather, the only role of the father is to be careful that the mother of his child does not experience any “pressure” during her decision making process so she is free to make her personal “choice”:
The son of a feminist mom, I’d been raised with a deep respect for women’s sovereignty, particularly as it applied to their reproductive lives. I was close to my mom….I couldn’t pressure April to do something she didn’t want to do (whether that was have an abortion or carry a child to term). I couldn’t walk away, denying any responsibility. The third thing I shouldn’t do…was to burden April with my feelings. “She’s in a very difficult position,” my mother said. “Don’t make her feel like she has to take care of you too.”
This man internalized some powerful rules set down by his mother to submit to “women’s sovereignty particularly as it applied to their reproductive lives.” This served as an impenetrable protective barrier around his partner’s “choice” during the critical decision making process.
Note how the mother trivialized any conflictual or painful feelings her son might naturally have about the matter…even shaming him with her comments:
“Don’t make her feel like she has to take care of you too.”
In other words, “Don’t be a baby…suck it up…stay out of the way until she decides what she wants and then support whatever her decision is.”
The word Emasculate comes to mind.
- Make a person weaker or less effective.
- Deprive (a man) of his male role or identity
He faithfully followed his mom’s rules and stuffed his feelings:
I kept my own confusion tucked deep inside. As is so often the case, our relationship was never quite the same, and we broke up within a few months…When we’d gone together to see the doctor for a pre-abortion appointment, he told us the approximate due date: February 7, 1986. At the time I filed it away as the most useless of facts. But when that date rolled around, I was stunned by how heartsick I was. April and I were no longer speaking by that point, and I was off at university. I cried on that due date and for days after, stunned and bewildered by my own delayed reaction to loss. Though my wife and I now have wonderful two kids of our own, not a February goes by that I don’t think about a child who would now be 27
There is a dilemma for such a man, loyal to the pro abortion ideology of his mother, but like many men experiencing some complicated and painful emotions after the procedure. We see this conflict as Mr Schwytzer ends the very honest sharing about his abortion loss to make clear to his Atlantic readers that just because he grieves in a special way for his son or daughter each February 7 since 1986… this is in no way a threat to reproductive choice.
In fact the real danger is those scary pro lifers:
One danger is political: Anti-abortion advocates are all too willing to politicize any sign of grief or confusion after an abortion as evidence that the procedure is harmful and ought to be banned. Anti-abortion groups often frame the issue as one of father’s rights: the more evidence of men’s post-abortion grief or anger, the more potential fuel for the pro-life cause.
Mr. Schwytzer seems to me a kind and sensitive father who loves his child aborted many years ago. The public expression of that grief in The Atlantic clearly points to the fact that he is not grieving what pro abortion apologists would describe as a “clump of cells” or a “de-personalized fetus.” His powerful feelings are not for some “potential child.” This father is connected in a powerful way to that fateful day when he took the mother of his unborn baby to the abortion center and paid the abortionist to end the child’s life…and even more so, to the babies due date.
Mr. Schwytzer is clearly a father grieving a child lost to abortion. It is not pro lifers who have convicted him of this biological and relational truth. It is the undeniable and powerful feelings of love and grief and a natural hunger as a father to reconnect with that lost child.
However, to fully grieve this loss and find a deeper peace, he would need to get in touch with some healthy anger at his mother, and the ideology of “reproductive choice” which tragically led him to be an emasculated accomplice in the death of his unborn child. Instead he displaces his abortion related anger on Pro-lifers.
Pro-lifers are always a good target for unresolved grief, anger, depression and anxiety after abortion. (The vast majority of Pro lifers pray peacefully outside abortion centers offering free abortion alternatives/pregnancy assistance and non judgmental after abortion recovery programs.)
Just as his story gets to the point where he clearly acknowledges what was lost, and on the precipice of a deeper understanding his role and responsibility in the death of his child, he must retreat behind the ideology of choice. He remains the loyal son adhering once again to his mother’s pro choice feminism.
Mr. Schwytzer is involved with the pro abortion group Exhale, which allows expression of post abortion feelings, but only within a context where “reproductive choice” is the supreme value that can never be compromised. Exhale is telling men you are free to express your feelings after her decision, as long as it does not violate any of the sacred tenets of reproductive choice. Here once again we hear the voice of his mother and pro abortion feminism.
It took courage for Mr Schwyzer to honestly share his feelings in The Atlantic about his abortion experience. However, I would respectfully encourage him to consider that groups like Exhale limit the full expression of the feelings and experience of men after abortion. Most importantly, sharing feelings in this restricted context can never lead to a deeper healing of this loss. This is especially true for those men who are powerless to stop an abortion they do not want. How can groups like Exhale (where a woman’s right to choose is sacrosanct) ever acknowledge the rage, powerlessness and devastating grief of such fathers?
For Mr Schwyzer to fully grieve and reconcile this loss it will take more than sharing feelings with other men in groups like Exhale. Men can Exhale some of their painful feelings after abortion and this is of course important and can be a good first step in ending the isolation and bring a welcome outlet for some painful feelings. But in groups where reproductive choice reigns supreme and always has the last word, you can never find the depth of healing where you are free after exhaling the pain to Inhale the powerful grace and mercy of God.
This can only be found in after abortion healing programs that permit the full expression of post abortion emotions and offer the reconciliation and peace with the right combination of emotional and spiritual healing.
These time-tested programs provide participants an opportunity to safely and honestly assess their participation in the abortion so they can fully repent and grieve of their role in that child’s death. It is only in this truth that a father suffering after abortion loss can be truly set free to open his heart and soul to the Creator of all life, who will reveal to him a new and intimate spiritual relationship with his child. Here he will discover a deep peace that the ideology of reproductive choice can never provide.