Oh those poor ‘post-abortive men’

// 8 January 2008

The LA Times has published a particularly creepy article about men who feel all upset and stuff about the fact their long-ago girlfriends and fiances had an abortion rather than keep their baby.

As Broadsheet’s Catherine Price says: “I think few people would argue that the decision to have an abortion is a serious one, and that it carries the possibility of regret. There are plenty of instances when both women and men could benefit from therapy or counseling both before and after the abortion — and it is definitely not a decision to be taken lightly.”

So I tried not to be unsympathetic to these men. But then I read what they actually had to say. Take Jason Baier who is now an activist for so-called “post-abortive men”.

He talks often to the little boy he calls Jamie. He imagines this boy — his son — with blond hair and green eyes, chubby cheeks, a sweet smile.

Very sad. But the fact he is fantasising about the son he never had (the concept that the foetus that was aborted might have turned out to be a girl never occuring to him, presumably) does not justify in engaging in this kind of movement:

The Justice Foundation recently began soliciting affidavits from men; one online link promises, “Your story will help legal efforts to end abortion.” Silent No More encourages men to testify at rallies.

“The lived truth of peoples’ experience is very hard to dismiss,” said Vicki Thorn, who runs post-abortion counseling programs for the Catholic Church. “It’s time we . . . affirm the pain that fathers feel.”

And what pain it is!

Chris Aubert, a Houston lawyer, felt only indifference in 1985 when a girlfriend told him she was pregnant and planned on an abortion. When she asked if he wanted to come to the clinic, he said he couldn’t; he played softball on Saturdays. He stuck a check for $200 in her door and never talked to her again.

Aubert, 50, was equally untroubled when another girlfriend had an abortion in 1991. “It was a complete irrelevancy,” he said. But years later, Aubert felt a rising sense of unease. He and his wife were cooing at an ultrasound of their first baby when it struck him — “from the depths of my belly,” he said — that abortion was wrong.

Of course, Aubert is now obsessed about what might have been – although the possibility that he might be stuck in a loveless marriage and his actual children might never have been born gives him a tiny bit of pause for thought. Not much though. As for the woman who had the abortion?

Aubert looks startled. “I never really thought about it for the woman,” he says slowly.

Big bloody surprise, I say. Like for almost all anti-abortion campaigners, the specific woman who would be forced to give birth in their ideal-scenario doesn’t even feature as a blip on the radar. Except as someone to be retroactively moralised about, even though at the time the abortion only prompted feelings of “complete irrelavancy”, or perhaps a check through the door to pay for the termination.

He has not talked with either of the ex-girlfriends, but he says he can imagine what they feel because he knows how the abortions affected him…

He hopes to organize a father’s section at this month’s march in Washington protesting the 35th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

Aubert pictures men by the hundreds praying, chanting — and waving signs: “I regret my abortion.”

Over and above this deeply annoying, dehumanising attitude towards women, this ‘movement’ is a real worry for already-embattled pro-choice activists in the US.

“They can potentially shift the entire debate,” said Marjorie Signer of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an interfaith group that supports abortion rights…

But the activists leading the men’s movement make clear they’re not relying on statistics to make their case. They’re counting on the power of men’s tears.

Unfortunately, in our society “men’s tears” – even those only cried years and years after the event – may well be valued more than the actual rights of actual women. As the article points out: “If anecdotes from grieving women can move the Supreme Court, what will testimony about men’s pain accomplish?”

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