Our inaugural Men’s Healing Matters webinar on February 14 focused on our National Men’s Study and white paper on the Long-Term Negative Effect of Abortion on Men. Host Greg Mayo led the presentation and discussion.

WHY DOES MEN’S HEALING MATTER?

Greg discussed questions that pregnancy center staff, volunteers, and others often ask including Are men really impacted by abortion? Where are they? Why don’t they come forward?

To provide context and insight into men’s experiences, Greg shared a music video by the artist Dax featuring Darius Rucker called To Be a Man. The first time he watched the video “It immediately resonated,” Greg said. He has since shared it with guys in general, as well as with some therapists who shared it with their male clients. The feedback was consistently “finally someone sees me,” he said.

“As we explore how men heal differently,” Greg said, “I thought this song would be a great place to start with sharing where many men are today.”

The lyrics include these words:
I know this life can really beat you down
You wanna scream but you won’t make a sound
Got so much weight that you’ve been holdin’
But won’t show any emotion, as a man, that goes unspoken
That we can’t cry when life gets hard… we just have to play our parts
And don’t nobody give a damn about our broken hearts
It’s a lonely road, and they don’t care…

Participants shared that the song helped them to “look through the eyes of a man – what he’s feeling but can’t verbalize” and to “grow an appreciation of how hard it may be for men – how they perceive whether or not people are interested in them.”

“This is what we deal with in reaching men for healing,” Greg said. He shared that at every event he speaks, men will approach him and say I’ve never told anyone, but my girlfriend or wife or significant other had an abortion. The conditioning that what they feel doesn’t matter is an obstacle to their even seeking healing.”

Participants and Greg discussed how the video can lead men into conversation because of its transparency. “If one man sees another man share openly and honestly,” Greg said, “that gives him permission to do the same.”

WHITE PAPER ON MEN’S RESEARCH – 15 KEY HIGHLIGHTS

Greg then dove into a presentation on our Men’s Research and White Paper and offered 15 key highlights:

20 million abortions occurred in the U.S. from 2001-2021. Our research shows that 82% of both men and women don’t know where to go for after-abortion support. That amounts to 16 million people who don’t know where to find care.

The National Survey of Family Growth estimates that by age 45, 1 in 5 men experience abortion through a partner’s pregnancy termination. That study’s authors note that figure may be low because men don’t always know about their partners’ pregnancies or abortions.

There are a lot of comments in society about the role men play in abortion. Our study found that 45% of men said they had no voice or choice in the abortion decision. And 57% did not make the decision (their partner or someone else did). This mirrors a Guttmacher Institute study in which 57% of men said they would not have chosen to terminate the pregnancy if the decision had been up to them.

Men often struggle emotionally after abortion experiences regardless of their personal views on abortion itself. “Since the white paper came out,” Greg said, “I often hear people saying we must have just interviewed a bunch of pro-life evangelicals.” He explained that our study participants were split the same as the general population of men with 51% of men in our study self-identifying as pro-choice. So, the 71% who reported adverse changes and the 83% who wanted help – that includes both pro-choice and pro-life men.

Although 83% want help and 71% experience adverse change, only 7% said they would go to a clergy member for help, only 40% prefer a religious approach to healing, and over half (53%) seldom/never attend church. In contrast, an estimated 95% of abortion healing programs are religious. “It’s about context,” Greg said. “If you’re only offering religious programming, you’re not reaching the majority of men who want help.”

“Men have been minimized, if not completely overlooked in the [abortion] conversation,” according to Dr. Brian Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Southern California and a reproductive health researcher. Greg pointed out that this ties into the idea in the song To Be a Man that what you’re feeling doesn’t matter. “I would argue it’s worse in the context of abortion,” he said.

71% of men report adverse changes after abortion. These include depression, guilt, regret, anxiety, anger, substance abuse.

Men often experience disenfranchised grief and emotional invalidation. The Cleveland Clinic cautions that “Grief can affect every aspect of your being – mind, body, and spirit.”

Greg shared a quote from a past workshop attendee: “Just talking about men’s abortions and knowing I’m not the only one and that there is hope for healing is priceless.” Greg pointed out that this man wasn’t looking for a magic pill – he just wants to be able to talk about it and find healing.

Emotional invalidation is dismissing or rejecting someone’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. After the men’s research and white paper were released, articles about the study were published in national-level publications. Greg shared some of the comments that readers posted attacking men – even though the articles were not about politics. They just offered information that some men hurt after abortion and that healing is possible. Comments included: Men need to stay out of it. Quit whining and man up. Men can shut their mouths. Their hurt feelings aren’t a consideration here. Greg shared one comment directed to him that has stuck with him: I hope you have a daughter, and I hope she’s raped, then we’ll see what you think about abortion. Greg suggested the webinar participants consider the effect of reading such comments on men who may be unsure if they’re even able to speak about their pain. “I’d say it would encourage them to be silent,” he said.

Our research identified three challenges to men’s healing after abortion:
Lack of awareness
Lack of abortion healing resources for men
Lack of options for the type of healing that men prefer

What is Abortion Healing?
Similar to other losses or traumas, healing from abortion is the process of sharing stories, working through emotions, grieving losses, and finding freedom from making decisions out of fear and trauma.

Healing isn’t one-and-done. There are layers of healing. Greg discussed Support After Abortion’s six-week introductory abortion healing resource Keys to Hope and Healing. He described our Unraveled Roots: Exposing the Hidden Causes of Damaging Behaviors book and study that are a helpful next step that looks at the impact of childhood issues and traumas. He noted that the men’s version of Unraveled Roots will be published in a few months.

Greg spoke about the importance of approaching and communicating with people in a way they can receive. “The key is to meet people where they are,” he said, “and not forcing a religious message or acceptance of a religious position in order to receive help.” He quoted Support After Abortion board member, Fr. Shawn Monahan, OMV, who said, “We can’t always lead with Jesus or prayer. We need to lead with love. Our role today is to help them find hope, healing, and peace at this stage in their journey.” Greg cautioned, “If your approach is that they must enter healing only the way you think they should, you’ll lose them.”

The idea of meeting people where they are leads into Support After Abortion’s focus on offering healing options – programs for different levels of healing (e.g. introductory, intermediate, deep dive), different modalities (such as books, audio, video), and different types of healing (such as in-person, virtual, or self-guided; secular or religious; clinical, lay-led, or self-guided; weekend, weekly, or self-paced; group, one-on-one, or independent.)

“I was against virtual at first,” Greg shared. “My whole life in recovery was in-person, and I thought it was the way to go. But I’ve found men in virtual groups have been more open. Perhaps it’s because when I’m virtual, this is my space, I feel comfortable and safe.”

MY STORY OF LOST FATHERHOOD

Greg shared his personal story of experiencing abortion twice, losing his path in life as a result, and finding healing decades later.

When I was 18 years old, my girlfriend and I got pregnant. Her mom decided she would have an abortion. I protested, but was told this is what’s going to happen. So I did what I thought I should and went with them. I was inside for about eight seconds then was asked to go outside. I sat on the steps. When she came out, something was different.

That was the end of my senior year. My intent had been to go to college, try out as a soccer walk-on, and study journalism. But the experience sent me down a different road. I didn’t go to college. I couldn’t hold a job or even a thought. I became an angry person. I started engaging in adrenaline junkie behaviors and I moved around the country a lot. I was a swirling vat of confusion, anxiety, and depression, although I had no words for it at the time.

Then when I was 22 years old, a girl I had dated briefly called to tell me “I’m pregnant, but I’m going to take care of it.” I already knew how I felt after the first time, so I begged her not to. I offered to take the kid myself or get married. I wasn’t a stable guy then, so I understand her not wanting to. I said I would get in the car and be there in the morning, and we can talk. But she told me. “Don’t bother, by the time you get here it’ll be over. It’s not a baby and it’s not your decision,” and she hung up.

So by the time an average person would have graduated college, completed an apprenticeship, or served in the military, I had lived in four states, seven cities, flunked out of college, and experienced two abortions. I didn’t know anywhere to go to or people to talk to. What I had heard about Christians was a lot of judgment. I had seen the baby killer and burn in hell signs in the parking lot of the first abortion facility. It drove me further and further away.

Eventually I did have a conversion. But it was still many years later during a men’s study that I felt compelled to share my story. I was so nervous. But after I spoke that night, three other guys out of 14 men said they had the same story. That was the moment I got into recovery. I started meeting weekly with my pastor and also with a therapist. Later I became a Celebrate Recovery leader, which led me to write the novel Almost Daddy and its 12-step recovery guide.

And that’s why I’m here doing what I do – to help other men find a path to healing.

WHAT DO MEN WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED ABORTION WANT AMERICA TO KNOW?

Greg shared three final ideas related to men who have experienced abortion:
Men need to know that grief is a natural response to loss and that it’s okay to feel pain, sadness, grief, and loss after abortion.
There is an immediate need for greater awareness of the impact of abortion and healing options including secular and other resources for men and by men.
Licensed therapists and counselors need to be trained in abortion healing to meet the demand for clinical care.

NEXT STEPS

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar. The topic will be Changing the Way we Talk about Abortion.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Men’s research and white paper on the impact of abortion on men.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Women’s research and white paper on the impact of medication abortion on women.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.