Conference on Male Post-Abortion Trauma
L'Osservatore Romano

Reclaiming fatherhood: abortion's effect on men

Annually around the world upwards of 40 million abortions are performed. Each unborn child killed in abortion has a mother and father, many of whom have lasting emotional scars as a result. While it has long been known that abortion can be psychologically harmful to women, only recently have men come forward to face their post-abortion trauma.

The first international conference on male post-abortion trauma was held 28-29 November 2007, in San Francisco, California. This historic gathering was co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Milwaukee-based National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing (NOPARH). The event drew nearly 200 people from nine nations and 28 States.

Entitled "Reclaiming Fatherhood: A Multifaceted Examination of Men Dealing with Abortion", the conference "helped propel the message" that abortion can impact men as well as women, according to Vicki Thorn, executive director of NOPARH. Participant feedback convinced the Knights and NOPARH to develop a new website (, produce a documentary based on the San Francisco meeting, and organize another conference scheduled for 8-9 September in Chicago.

This new movement is overturning the myth that men are not affected by abortion. Men can experience "widely varied" feelings a sense of loss and sadness, grief, powerlessness. guilt, remorse, regret and anger. Vincent M. Rue, a psychotherapist who holds a doctorate in child development and family relations and directs the Institute for Pregnancy Loss in Jacksonville, Florida, cites that one aspect of abortion mentioned frequently in the United States is that men "have no reproductive rights whatsoever".

"In 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a husband has no legal right to limit his wife's decision to abort or even be informed of her decision", noted Sulpician Fr Gerald Coleman, vice-president for ethics for the Daughters of Charity Health System in California.

One of the avenues by which men tell their stories about their experience with abortion is the "Silent No More" Awareness Campaign, a joint project of Priests for Life and Anglicans for Life. When it began in 2003, the campaign had 556 women and no men; today the campaign has more than 2,300 women and about 100 men.

The emergence of men into the arena of public regret has been slow for the simple reason that they are men, said Fr. Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life. "Men certainly hurt a lot and yet, just because of their nature, are slower to come forward", he said.

"It's connected specifically with one of the aspects of their suffering, which is, 'I'm supposed to be a man, I'm supposed to be in control of things, a protector, and here I am in a situation where I've violated all of that, lost my fatherhood, and contradicted my role as protector and provider'".

The participation of men in the Silent No More campaign has had a "very powerful" effect, said Fr. Pavone. They help other men step forward, but also present a strong face for women and the public in general:

"It has a tremendous effect on women who are in the campaign and those who are out there suffering this pain, because for them a big cause of their pain and a big reason for having the abortion in the first place is the absence or irresponsibility of men", he explained, "When they see these men coming forward to admit and apologize publicly for their failures, a huge burden of grief is lifted from their shoulders".

Georgette Forney, president of Anglicans for Life, co-founder of the campaign, agreed. "It means so much to me when I see a man stand up and do what he is called to do as a man, because I've been on the side where I've wanted a man to do what he should have done, and he didn't".

For the general public, the men's part in Silent No More calls to mind that abortion is not just a women's issue, said Fr. Pavone. "It's reminding us that abortion is a man's sin, too. We can't have the abortion done in our bodies, but we can certainly carry the sin in our souls".

In his booklet Healing for Your Soul: A Guide for Post-Abortion Fathers, Capuchin Fr. Martin Pable notes that some of the most difficult challenges for many men who have taken part in an abortion is "believing or accepting that they can be forgiven by God".

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that: "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offence. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. 'A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae (2272). Latae sententiae means it is automatic; no official decree is required. Canon law also provides Bishops with the power to absolve a latae sententiae excommunication, usually in the context of confession. Many Bishops grant all priests under their jurisdiction permission to absolve from such an excommunication without securing the Bishop's permission.

Fr. Pable advises anyone desiring spiritual healing in the wake of an abortion to seek help and counsel: "Awareness of guilt and responsibility has to be balanced by another wonderful truth: every sin, every act of wrongdoing, can be forgiven by God as long as we are truly repentant. The Bible is filled with references to the boundless mercy of God toward those who repent of their misdeeds".

Excerpts reprinted with permission from Columbia magazine, courtesy Knights of Columbus., Supreme Council, New Haven. CT, Dan Morris-Young and Gerald Korson. All rights reserved.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
6 August 2008, page 4

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