Men are impacted by abortion. Men stuff down their emotions and pain, particularly when our culture doesn’t validate that men hurt from abortion. Todd Reinschmidt from Venice, Florida developed a unique program that engages men who enter pregnancy centers with their girlfriend or spouse. He shared strategies and practical suggestions on how you can invite healing to men who’ve been impacted by abortion or pregnancy loss.
Todd spent several hours every week volunteering at his local pregnancy center. His initial objective was to help guide the men who stayed in the center’s waiting room as their pregnant partners sought medical treatment. As he helped these men navigate the fear and overall extreme emotions, it became clear to Todd that these conversations were actually saving babies’ lives. When both women and men were provided helpful information to their decision process, partners together were changing their decisions about abortion, to keep their future babies.
This positive effect drove the creation of Rookie Dads, a program designed as a support system from conception through birth and the early stages of being a father. Todd would train and equip volunteer coaches, who would take shifts –like the female volunteers– in the center, to be available when men would come in with partners to address the pregnancy situation at hand. Todd quickly understood that oftentimes, not only was there a current pregnancy situation, but that many of these men had previous pregnancy experiences, and a significant amount of those were aborted. Todd knew he needed to address current fears about the current pregnancy (finances, living situations, relationship issues, and all the other complexities) as well as their previous experiences. There was a tremendous need for healing and support in the post-abortion process. This was the start of Support After Abortion.
Todd knew that the foundation of the healing process was to allow men to reach a level of vulnerability and share their previous abortion experiences by talking and engaging with them in a non-threatening manner. To do that, it’s important to form a relational connection. Todd and other coaches would take time to speak with the men in the centers about more than just abortion because there is so much more to these men. He would ask them about work, sports, even the weather, to help put them at ease. By building this rapport, men felt comfortable enough to channel the emotions they were experiencing into words. This vulnerability only grew as Todd shared his own experiences of hardship in his own life.
As Todd spoke to dozens of men, he quickly acknowledged that the dominant emotions that most of those men were carrying were shame and not being good enough. For so many of them, the guilt and shame they carried from a past abortion were not simply repressed but truly buried. Todd witnessed an array of reactions, from agitated to weeping or tearful. Through these feelings of shame led to unraveling feelings of anger. Todd understood that these heightened emotions due to past trauma were quite possibly impacting these men’s ability to think clearly about the current pregnancy situation. These heightened emotions also stopped these men from seeing that, should they re-experience this trauma, those feelings of shame and not being good enough would deepen or worsen.
To help sift through these emotions, Todd helped discern lies from the truth, shifting away from lies of shame, guilt, and not feeling good enough towards the truth that everyone makes mistakes, does things they regret, but that that didn’t have to be a shame they carried with them through life. Moving toward a message of acceptance and love for who they each were as a person, regardless of their pasts allows Todd and the coaches to begin discussing the current pregnancy situation at hand.
Many men who had dealt with abortions wished that they had spoken up. The most common response to a pregnancy situation was, “It’s your body, I’ll support whatever you decide.” But Todd reminded them that while it is her body, that baby is theirs as well. While the men said that thinking it was a loving and supportive position to take, what the women really needed was honesty: regarding their opinion, their thought process, and a firm decision on their part. Todd encouraged the men that, whatever their opinion was, it was their responsibility to vocalize that, because she needs to hear a definitive opinion from her partner. He would explain that this lack of response is actually not a loving response, despite their good intentions. This was never a criticism and was what Todd would use as the platform to validate whatever it was these men were feeling. Validating the feelings of men in these situations carries particular weight, making sure no one feels judged or attacked. It doesn’t matter if a coach agrees or disagrees with an opinion: validation is a strategy that is critical to the success of the conversation.
When aiming for validation, Todd knows that mirroring the information shared with him goes a long way, making the men feel truly heard and listening to. Most often, the shame these men feel from their past abortion experiences tells that they’re not worthy of being seen. Being seen lays the foundation for these men to tackle their feelings head-on and have more challenging conversations. This is why it is so important for Todd that the coaches lay a foundation with the men first, breaking the ice and making it clear that this conversation is a safe space.
“If you don’t prepare your own heart for these conversations, you say things in a way that drives the person to shut down, you’ve eliminated the possibility of having an impact,” Todd shared.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by abortion, you are not alone. Call our confidential hotline at 844-289-HOPE (4673). For women whose partner, loved one, or friend has had an abortion visit us at www.supportafterabortion.com to learn how to create a safe space, and create a dialogue so more men can receive hope and healing after abortion.