Thursday, June 24, 2010

Abortion debate should include forgotten dads

Gary Bauer writes:
Anti-abortion advocates have long contended that abortion produces two victims: the unborn child, and his or her mother, who, a mounting body of research affirms, risks physical and emotional injury.

But there is evidence that abortion often involves a third victim, one who is typically dismissed when he is acknowledged at all: the child's father. ...

Studies have shown that some men have negative emotional experiences akin to postpartum depression after the birth of their child.

In an article in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the Eastern Virginia Medical School examined 43 previously published studies involving 28,000 male and female adults and found that at least 1 in 10 fathers became depressed after the birth of their child.

A study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology even found that half of male partners experienced varying degrees of psychological malaise following their partner's miscarriage.

If a man can feel negative emotions after every other type of pregnancy outcome, why not after an abortion?

A 2009 study in the journal Public Health examining the associations between abortion and relationship functioning found that "for men and women, the experience of an abortion in a previous relationship was related to negative outcomes in the current relationship."

It also discovered that an "experience of an abortion within a current relationship was associated with 116 percent and 196 percent increased risk of arguing about children for women and men, respectively."

Men whose current partners had an abortion were more likely to report jealousy (96 percent greater risk) and conflict about drugs (385 percent greater risk). The authors conclude, "[A]bortion may play a vital role in understanding the [causes] of relationship problems."

It may be difficult for some to understand why men would react negatively to a partner's abortion. After all, men are often as much a part of reproductive decisions as the women themselves. Surveys of women who had an abortion reveal that they often feel direct or indirect pressure to abort the child from their partners.

But in a culture that teaches that "it's her body, her choice," men are often excluded from the decision, and thus left to feel helpless. Men have no legal voice in the abortion decision.

In Planned Parenthood of Missouri v. Danforth, the Supreme Court ruled that the state was not required to notify or obtain permission from the husbands of women seeking abortion.

Either way, it is something of a taboo for men to talk about feelings of loss or guilt after their partner has had an abortion. Women, after all, are the ones who carry the physical and physiological burden of pregnancy, and they are the ones who are often abandoned to address the consequences of reproductive decisions.

Many men who have watched their partners go through an abortion, some probably feeling shame over having failed in their responsibility to protect and provide, try to repress their feelings.

To many, abortion has become a normal and acceptable part of reproductive health care.

One abortion takes place about every 25 seconds in America (based on the Guttmacher Institute's estimate of 1.2 million abortions in 2005, the last year for which comprehensive data were available) making it one of the most common surgical procedures. But the effects following the abortion of one's child should not ever be discounted when making that kind of decision. Not for the mother, and not for the father.