How abortion affects men

The mental pain and anguish suffered by post-abortive women is widely known and well documented. But, what about a man involved in the decision to abort his baby? Does he too suffer negative psychological effects?

Men are often forgotten by abortion advocates and the media, but the truth is that men are often just as devastated by abortion as women. Some of the negative effects felt by men involved in the abortion process are:

  • Grief and sadness: Men in our culture may have difficulty articulating a sense of sadness. But, after an abortion, men often find themselves sad and depressed

  • Masculinity: After abortion; men can feel a sense of being unable to protect his partner or their offspring. This can be incapacitating, affect self-esteem and self-worth, and cause helplessness

  • Rage or anger: Rage and anger is often how post-abortive men lash out after the abortion loss. Anger may be internalized or targeted toward the mother of the child or other parties involved

  • Risk taking behaviors: Reckless or risky behaviour can increase following involvement with abortion

  • Suicidal ideation: Fathers who opposed the abortion may verge on being suicidal themselves. This occurs especially if the father wanted the child and was against the abortion

  • Alcohol and Drug abuse: This is a common coping mechanism shared by many men. Some will seek assistance through a treatment program, while others continue excessive alcohol and drug use

  • Emotional abuse and/or spousal battering: This can be man to woman or woman to man. On a subconscious level, this is the scenario of anger and striking out, but it can also be consciously "punishing" the partner for the choice of abortion. Some relationships may deteriorate completely and result in a divorce

Coyle, C. T., PhD. Men and Abortion: A Path to Healing. Lewiston, NY: Life Cycle Books, 1999.

What the experts say

According to psychiatrist Neil Bernstein, men frequently react by "denial and distancing." Those who can get in touch with their feelings, he says, experience abortion with the same range of emotions and ambivalences that women do, including compassion for the partner, guilt about destroying life and disappointment at having made a mistake.

Paterson, Judith. Whose Freedom of Choice? Sometimes it Takes Two to Untangle", The Progressive, 46(1):42-45, April 1982.

Sociologist Arthur Shostak says, "Most of the men I talk to think about the abortion years after it is over. They feel sad, they feel curious, they feel a lot of things; but usually they have talked to no one about it. It's a taboo. It's not accepted for them to talk about it... With the man, if he wants to shed a tear, he had better do it privately. If he feels that the abortion had denied him his child, he had better work it through himself. He does not share his pain with a clergyman, a minister; he does not share it with a close male friend while they're hunting in a duck blind. It just stays with him. And it stays for a long time."

Greene, Bob. "Men Carry Abortion Scars, Too." Human Life Review, Vol. IX No 4, Fall, 1983, pp.103-104, re-printed with permission of Tribune Company Syndicate, Inc., quoting Arthur Shostak

Vincent Rue, Ph.D., pioneer researcher in the field of men and abortion, wrote in an article, The Effects of Abortion on Men, that "men do grieve following abortion, but they are more likely to deny their grief or internalize their feelings of loss rather than openly express them . . . When men do express their grief, they try to do so in culturally prescribed "masculine" ways, i.e. anger, aggressiveness, control. Men typically grieve in a private way following an abortion. Because of this, men's requests for help may often go unrecognized and unheeded by those around them." He continues, "A guilt-ridden, tormented male does not easily love or accept love. His preoccupation with his partner, his denial of himself and his relentless feelings of post-abortion emptiness can nullify even the best of intentions. His guilt may prevent him from seeking compassion, support or affection. In turn, he 'forgets' how to reciprocate these feelings."