Studies - General Research

Men, Young Men, & Abortion (1977 – 2007)

There has not been a great deal of research on men & abortion. However, older studies are posted here to show what has been known for decades. 


Male Adolescent Conflicts in Abortion

The impact of abortion on adolescent males has been little studied. In a study of 35 adolescent males whose sexual partners were undergoing abortion at Bronx Municipal Hospital, most prominent were regressive wishes for nurturance, competition with one's own father, and efforts to meet parental ego ideals of maturity and responsibility.

Cases examined in detail revealed rage, fear of abandonment and total despair.

AA Rothstein, Journal of Youth and Adolescence 7(2): 203-204 (1978).  [Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change Newsletter, vol 3, no 3, Fall 1990;]


Men and Abortion

While all family members are deeply affected by the aftermath of abortion, the hardest hit, next to the mother, must shrely be the father.

While men do not physically experience the trauma of abortion, the emotional rending there. It is a child the man helped create who dies."Unable to bear children themselves and powerless to prevent their partners from terminating a pregnancy, men who care are the silent sufferers, bewildered and frustrated by their emotional responses."

According to psychologist Dr. Vincent Rue, "For men, in particular, the abortion experience is a gnawing paradox. At a time when more men than ever are involved in changing roles and being more involved with their children…men are systematically excluded from the right to be involved in life or death decisions affecting their children's lives."9

This exclusion of fathers from the abortion decision certainly suits proponents of legal abortion.

This article will not attempt to discuss or argue fathers' rights in an abortion decision.

However, the lack of rights does not exclude men from experiencing the pain of abortion, a fact that prompted sociologist Arthur Shostak [prof, Drexel University, Philadelphia] to research the male abortion experience…

Shostak began a study of "waiting room" men in abortion sites that eventually encompassed 30 centers in 18 states and 1000 interviews.

In most cases, the pregnancy should not have come as a surprise: almost 60% of the men said they and their partners had not used contraceptives or had relied on relatively ineffective withdrawal. Although 93% of the men said they would do all they could to avoid future abortions, 30% were repeaters who had been there before.

These interviews revealed a number of characteristics shared by men in an abortion situation. A majority of these men felt compelled to hide or control any feelings they might have about the abortion. In supporting their partner during her own emotional turmoil, they felt called upon to be stong and unemotional.

Shostak explains:
"many men take full responsibility for their own doubts, hesitations, uncertainties, and even painful, opposing thoughts. They hid all of this from friends, coworkers, and especially from their partners. (Typical is a 1979 survey at a D.C. business that found 77% of the men were convinced the best way to help their partners was by 'controlling' their own feelings.)"11

Hand in hand with this attempt at being the "strong, silent type" Shostak found men resistant to anything labeled counseling. "Only 20% of our 1000 men finally asked to talk with a clinic [sic] counselor, either alone or with their partners present." 12

While Shostak's research was not longitudinal in following up with 1000 interviews, he did have 75 different men volunteer to share their thoughts and feelings months or years after their own abortion experiences. While their responses do not offer valid statistical evidence, they do offer insight on how these men were affected by abortions long-term.

In comparing his "clinic" interviews with the responses of the 75 abortion veterans, Shostak noted a couple of interesting differences. When asked if the abortion would contribute to the break-up of the relationship with his partner, only 3% of the 1000 waiting room males felt that it would. Years later, one-fourth (25%) of the 75 men felt the abortion had been the chief cause for their relationship failures.13

Other research supports relationship failure rates following abortion. In interviews with over 400 males at an eastern abortion site, one researcher found that 70% of the relationships between the man and the aborted woman failed within one month after the abortion.14

Another interesting difference between the waiting room men and the abortion veterans involved thoughts about the abortion. About half of the 1000 waiting room men (47%) believed they would continue to have disturbing thoughts about the abortion afterwards.

But long after their own abortion experiences, 63% of the 75 volunteers were still experiencing troubling emotions and memories about the abortion.15 This 16% increase seems significant, especially since the latter group should have had time to heal and deal with the abortion experience.

"Counselors recognize 'a postabortion syndrome' that is felt by men as well as women: loss, sorrow, depression and anger often lasting many years after the event". 16 S

ince the physical abortion trauma is the key factor in triggering postabortion syndrome in women, why do men also experience these symptoms? How is the father's emotional pain different from the mother's?

Noted psychologist and postabortion syndrome expert Dr. Vincent Rue suggests that the abortion experience can completely undermine masculinity and cause sex role conflict in a man.

Rue states that most researchers and therapists are agreed upon the basic components which are expected and encouraged in the male sex role.

He specifies these 5 components as: aggression/activity; dominancy/power; self-reliance/autonomy; achievement/success; and responsibility/protectiveness.

An abortion experi

ence touches each of these areas, causing confusion, anxiety and role conflict:
Aggression/Activity – While men feel called upon to act, to create, change or influence their environment, in an abortion experience they are forced to be passive. Both the law and society exclude men from taking any action about the abortion.
Dominancy/Power – In a world where patriarchy is still a cultural universal, the abortion arena exhibits complete matriarchal control. The man has no power.
Self-Reliance/Autonomy – A recent national poll pictured the ideal male as one who would "stand up for his ideas". But the man's ideas are negated and insignificant in the abortion experience.
Achievement/Success – Any way it is viewed, abortion represents a failure. It is not something any man or woman hopes to achieve. The achievement drive for success in males is well documented, and often males are less able to deal with failure than are women.
Responsibility/Protectiveness – This male role may offer the greatest conflict in the abortion experience. The man is called upon to care for and protect his family. In an abortion, not only is the man allowing the death of his own child, he is also unable to protect his partner from the pain of the abortion. He may feel responsible for getting his partner pregnant. Instead of protecting his loved ones, he is responsible for pain and death.17

Rue's explanation of the male response to abortion is supported by other researchers, In setting up a counseling program for men at abortion centers, psychologists noted that most men had the following five concerns: anxiety over their partner's well-being and their future relationship; helplessness and a feeling of victimization; a sense of guilt and self-blame; responsibility for the situation; and regret over their "mistake".18

A long-term psychological study of 2,522 males which began when the boys were in seventh grade and finished when they reached 21 revealed the dramatic impact of abortion on the lives of young men. Of the males surveyed, 15% had a girlfriend become pregnant.

In measuring psychological distress, the study found the males who had not had a teenage pregnancy experience to be the least distressed. But of those 15% who did deal with a pregnancy, the psychological distress level was higher for the males whose girlfriends aborted than for those males who became fathers.19…

Men are deeply affected by abortion.

Excluding men from abortion rights does not magically erase their feelings.

In an abortion, a woman experiences both physical and emotional pain. The man's scars are less identifiable. As one postabortive father explains, "It's a wound you can't see or feel, but it exists."20

In general, the men hid their stress and buried their own doubts in an attempt to "do the right thing". One-quarter (25%) even offered to pay the cost of child rearing if the woman decided agaist the abortion, and half (50%) of the single men said they offered to marry the woman.

Some 26% thought of abortion as murder, and 81% said they thought about the child that might have been born, but very few wanted the right to overrule the woman. Many of the men broke down and cried during interviews for the study.

Arnold Medvene [psychologist, University of Maryland Counseling Center]: "Abortion is one of the major death experiences that men go through. It resurrects very important, very primitive issues, memories and feelings."

Shostak believes males almost always approach as abortion decision in an abstract, aloof way, stressing duty, rights and rules. What many women perceive as an infuriatingly cold attitude, he says, is the standard male effort to control emotions and arrive at a moral principle that makes sense; but their feelings don't come out.

Shostak thinks the matter is simple: it takes two to make a pregnancy, and like it or not, both are involved with the result.

After twenty years of legal abortion (1993), abortion fall-out has struck millions of families. Women have only recently begun to speak out against its devastation.

Men are more hesitant to speak up: they often aren't sure they have the "right"… Counseling is needed for all of these "walking wounded"…many doctors and therapists have begun to recognize the damage done by abortion…As long as abortion remains legal and sanctioned by society, it will continue to devastate many of the lives it touches.

1. Terry Selby, The Mourning After, Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1990, p. 78-82
2. Phillip G. Ney, "Infant Abortion and Child ABuse: Cause and Effect", The Psychological Aspects of ABortion, University Publications of America, Inc: Washington DC 1979, p. 31
3. Ibid., p.26
4. Ibid., p.29
5. Nancy Michels, Helping Women Recover From Abortion, Bethany House: Minneapolis, 1988, p.166
6. Ibid., p.164
7. Ibid., p. 165
8. Linda Bird Fancke, "Abortion and Men", Esquire, Jan 1981, p. 60
9. Vincent M. Rue, Ph.D., "Abortion in Relationship Context", International Review of Natural Family Planning, 9:2, 1985, p.96
10. John Leo, "Sharing the Pain of Abortion", TIME, September 26, 1983, p. 78
11. Arthur B. Shostak and Gary McLouth, Men and Abortion: Lessons, Losses, and Love, Praeger Publishers: New York, 1984, p. 37
12. Ibid., p.57
13. Ibid., p. 104-105
14. Rue, op.cit., p. 105
15. Shostak, op.cit., p. 115
16. Tamar Jacoby, "Doesn't a Man Have Any Say?", Newsweek, May 23, 1988, p.74
17.Rue, op.cit., p. 100-103
18. Robert H. Gordon Ph.D, Cheryl A Kilpatrick, "A Program of Group Counseling for Men Who Accompany Women Seeking Legal Abortions", Community Mental Health Journal, 13:4, 1977, p292-293.
19. Mary Buchanan, Cynthia Robbins, "EArly Adult Psychological Consequences for Males of Adolescent Pregnancy and Its Resolution", North Central Sociological Association Meetings, Pittsburgh, PA, April 1988
20. Shostak, op.cit., p. 16
["Sharing the Pain of Abortion", by John Lee, Time, 26September 1983, from Men and Abortion: Lessons, Losses, and Love, by Arthur Shostak, GAry McLouth, Lynn Seng, published by Praefer in 1984; 1991, Human Development Resource Council Inc., Norcross GA 30092, 404-447-1598]


Men Can Suffer a Myriad of Grief Issues Following a Partner's Abortion

Abortion is frequently considered a woman's issue and one where men should have little no role in the decision and likely have little or no ill-effects afterwards. However, one man who regularly counsels men who have been involved in an abortion says that claim is unfounded.

Kevin Burke is the associa

te director of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries, a group that reaches out to those adversely affected by an abortion to provide them hope and healing.

Burke says men suffer from a myriad of problems following a partner's abortion — especially one in which they lent their support or persuaded their partner to have.

"We have all heard the exhausted phrase repeated over the years that 'abortion is a private personal decision between a woman, her health care provider and her God,'" Burke explained. "Men were seen to be peripheral figures in the process, detached and unaffected by the woman's 'choice.'"

"The reality is that men are involved in 95% of all abortion decisions, and they are profoundly impacted by their participation in the abortion of their child," Burke added.

"In our work as counseling professionals, my wife Theresa and I have worked with many individuals and couples who came to us for healing after abortion," he told Zenit. "In the last eight years we have seen a steady increase in men who attended our Rachel's Vineyard Retreats seeking healing."

"Similar to women, when men experience deep healing of post abortion pain, they are freed from the shame and guilt that feeds silence and isolation," he said. "There is a willingness to share their experience with others because they finally recognize that their feelings are normal, they are not alone."

Burke is the co-editor of a new book, "Redeeming a Father's Heart," that he helped author along with David Wemhoff and Marvin Stockwell about helping heal men's hearts after an abortion.

But he isn't alone in thinking that men face mental health problems after an abortion.

Dr. Wayne Brauning, the founder of Men's Abortion ReCovery, knows many men who feel the pain of an abortion that occurred during their relationship with a woman.

"Men have told me that they knew they were guilty of getting the woman pregnant, of pressuring her to get an abortion, or of not coming to the rescue of the child," Brauning writes.

"Participating in an abortion always produces real guilt before God in the person who is responsible for the decision to take the life of the child," he explains.

Dr. Brauning tells men who have been a party to an abortion to actively grieve and express the pain and emotional trauma related to it

"Don't hold back. The reason for this sorrow is genuine and profound," he said.
Related web sites:
Rachel's Vineyard –
[Zenit; 30August2007, Ertelt,, Washington, DC]