February 2010. An important but often unacknowledged
angle of the abortion debate involves the serious effects that legalized
abortion has on men.
A recent scandal surrounding John
Edwards, former North Carolina Senator and US presidential candidate, brought
this issue into plain view. Mr. Edwards publicly acknowledged an extramarital
affair with Rielle Hunter in the summer of 2008, a few months after pulling out
of the presidential race. Even after admitting to the affair, however, he
continued to deny having fathered Ms. Hunter’s daughter, Quinn, until January
of 2010 when he finally admitted that he was, in fact, her father.
A former aide to Mr. Edwards has just published
a tell-all book describing how Mr. Edwards tried to coerce Ms. Hunter to get an
abortion. Commentator Jill Stanek analyzed the situation this way: “Fortunately, Hunter resisted this all too typical coercive attempt by a
sexually exploitative and irresponsible man to abort his own baby. Of course
Edwards is a pro-abort, which as we see is incredibly self-serving for men.
Edwards was ready to sacrifice his own baby for political and personal expediency.”
Edward's extramarital activities remind us how legalized abortion has the clear
and pronounced effect of supporting sexual infidelity, providing
"cover" and encouraging men to become less responsible and
accountable for their personal choices. It enables men to justify and get away
with sexual license.
Abortion hurts men
in other, more direct ways as well. The fact that upwards of 3000 abortions
occur each day in the US implies the obvious corollary that about 3000 men lose
a son or daughter each day to abortion. Some of these men may have encouraged
or pressured their partners to abort; others may have strongly resisted; still
others may not have known they were fathers until afterwards.
What is not widely
acknowledged is that men can and do suffer emotionally and spiritually from
their loss. It seems fair to say that men are not often encouraged to
acknowledge their emotions around this issue – whether relief, grief, anger, or
healing ministries like Rachel’s Vineyard have expanded in recent years, many
women along with their husbands or male partners have come to seek help in
dealing with the negative effects of their abortion. A growing number of men
have found themselves regretting their involvement in an abortion, and various
websites now include testimonies from men who have lost a child this way (cf. rachelsvineyard.org or priestsforlife.org).
Many of the
testimonies are poignant, raw and searingly honest. Phil McCombs, a Washington
Post Staff writer shared his own post-abortive struggles in a 1995 article in
I feel like a murderer, which isn't to say
that I blame anyone else, or think anyone else is a murderer. It's just the way
I feel and all the rationalizations in the world haven't changed this. I still
grieve for little Thomas. It is an ocean of grief. From somewhere in the
distant past I remember the phrase from Shakespeare, the multitudinous seas,
"incarnadine." When I go up to the river on vacation this summer, he
won't be going boating with me on the lovely old wooden runabout that I can't
really afford to put in the water but can't bring myself to discard, either. He
won't be lying on the grass by the tent at night looking at the starry sky and
saying, "What's that one called, Dad?" Because there was no room on
the Earth for Thomas.
father wrote a letter, excerpted here, to his deceased son as part of his own
journey towards healing and peace:
My Dear John Peter — This past weekend I did something
I should have done a very long time ago. I confessed to your death by abortion.
John, you would today be a young man of twenty, vibrant and alive… Tears come
again John, as they did Saturday night… In the fall, John, when the leaves fall
from the trees I shall think of you, for you too fell from life. In the cold of
winter, John, the snow shall remind me of you: for like the snow you were and
are white and pure. In the spring, John, I shall think of you: for the birth of
spring shall remind me that you, too should have been born into this world.
John, I shall think of you in the summer: I shall imagine your laughter. I
shall see you as you might have been, a little boy running and playing,
scraping your knees from a fall. I shall miss, John, all that I might have
gained from your life. My Little One, John Peter, I can only now ask you to
forgive me as Jesus and God have done. May you rest in the arms of God — Dad
The deep emotional
scarring of both men and women that follows in the wake of legalized abortion
should be a growing concern for all of us, and should challenge us to craft a
more just society where every man, woman and child is unconditionally
protected, respected, welcomed and loved.
Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D.
earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at
Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, MA, and serves as the
Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in
Philadelphia. See www.ncbcenter.org