As a Baptist church youth leader, Jerry Little had long preached about the evils of abortion. He and his wife, Debbie, repeatedly opened their home to young, unwed mothers-to-be.
But in 1993, his daughter, Candy, 18, revealed her own pregnancy. Shocked, Little convinced himself that his daughter's case was different and that only an abortion could resolve the issue.
Candy, however, didn't want an abortion.
Little drove his daughter 120 miles from their Amarillo, Texas, home to Lubbock for a clandestine abortion. Once inside the facility, Candy became so distraught that the abortionist refused to do the procedure.
But Little persisted, talking her into the procedure. Two days later, Little and his daughter returned. Although Candy continued to cry uncontrollably, this time the abortionist took Little's money.
When Candy returned to the waiting room, she gazed vacantly in her father's direction and said, "Let's go." He immediately knew their relationship would never be the same, but he tried to push that knowledge aside. For the next two years, the Little family nearly disintegrated while keeping the abortion a secret. The guilt and blame nearly overwhelmed Little, who felt he had nowhere to turn.
Although pregnancy care centers began providing post-abortion syndrome counseling for women soon after Roe v. Wade became law, spiritual and psychological healing for men remains rare. Warren L. Williams has counseled 250 post-abortive men in the past 25 years as founder of Fathers & Brothers Ministries International in Boulder, Colorado. Williams estimates that only 4,000 American men in the past decade have gone through any kind of study about how abortion has affected them.
"Culturally, it has been swept under the rug," Williams said.
Huge need, tiny budgets
In the 30 years since abortion on demand became the law of the land, little attention has been paid to the effects on men. Books, ministries, and recovery groups to help men overcome abortion grief are slowly making a dent, but most organizations devoted to the problem operate on shoestring budgets.
With more than a million abortions occurring annually, the walking wounded are plentiful. When a baby's father refuses responsibility, the woman's father, brother, uncle, or friend sometimes steps in to pay for an abortion. Drexel University sociologist Arthur B. Shostak conducted interviews with 1,000 men in abortion waiting rooms in 18 states in 1984. Shostak reported that 75 percent had a difficult time with the experience.
While a first-year Baylor University student, Stephen Arterburn conceived a child with a classmate. Then Arterburn badgered her into believing she had only one option. "I helped pay for the abortion because it was the convenient thing," Arterburn said. "Only afterwards did I realize that I had essentially paid to have my own child murdered."
Arterburn, founder of the Laguna Beach, California-based New Life Clinics, described his subsequent struggles, including 83 life-threatening ulcers, in The God of Second Chances (Thomas Nelson, 2002). Arterburn, now 50, said he didn't fully come to terms with what he had done until 18 years later, after he and his wife, Sandy, adopted a baby.
Sometimes a woman will abort a child without her partner's sanction or knowledge. In 1982, Dave Wemhoff found out two weeks after the procedure that his girlfriend had aborted their son. It took him another 17 years to forgive her—and himself.
Effects on men
Research about abortion's fallout among men is largely anecdotal because of the dearth of major studies. Williams says the repressed angst that men have manifests itself in an array of societal woes.
Williams says that everyone who has gone through the stages of healing with him has expressed "a deep level of anger toward [himself] and others involved in the abortion process."
Many men are in denial, said Wayne F. Brauning, founder of Men's Abortion Recovery in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. "Men will not face painful issues that deal with their emotions," Brauning said. "Men isolate themselves when they are hurt, or they get drunk, promiscuous, or derelict in their work."
Those who have counseled men complicit in an abortion say that other long-term symptoms include inability to form lasting relationships, sexual dysfunction, substance abuse, nightmares, fits of rage, suicidal behavior, and fear of having more children.
Anne Pierson, executive director of Loving & Caring, a crisis pregnancy center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said that men don't want to appear weak, and that they rarely seek guidance without prodding by the woman.
"Men like to keep abortion a women's issue, but it's not," Pierson said.
Many Christian leaders have privately told Arterburn that they once paid for an abortion but, fearing an unforgiving congregation, they won't go public.
In Fatherhood Aborted (Tyndale House, 2001), David Hazard and the late Guy Condon maintained that many churchgoing men spend years estranged from God after an abortion. In fact, Christians often consider church involvement a form of payment for their abortion sin, they said.
Olivia Gans, director of American Victims of Abortion, a branch of the National Right to Life Committee in Washington, says it is a complex problem that is difficult to tackle. "There is not some magic pill to make this better," Gans said. "Emotionally, these men are grappling with a death experience."
Although he steadfastly maintained the abortion's necessity, two years later Jerry Little agreed to his daughter's request to go through a Bible study and counseling at the CareNet Crisis Pregnancy Centers of Amarillo. He grasped the immorality of his actions, admitted his guilt, prayed for God's forgiveness, and experienced healing.
"I had kept thinking those two years that I was supposed to protect her," Little, now 50, told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. "But no one could have abused her as much as [I did], because I took her to get an abortion."
Little, who today is a construction crew manager, has led four men through a 12-week post-abortive Bible study.
Fatherhood Lost (Life Issues Institute, 1998), an eight-step Bible study by Williams, can take up to 16 weeks and often is a one-on-one encounter. The post-abortive man identifies his pain, takes responsibility for fatherhood, deals with the source of anger, grieves the loss of the child, resolves guilt and shame, forgives all involved in the event, reconciles with God, and finds resolution, perhaps through a memorial service.
For Wemhoff, now a lawyer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the healing involved naming his aborted son Matthew Peter and holding a doll as a proxy.
Scott Best, 50, a therapist in Longmont, Colorado, named his aborted son Jedidiah, participated in a burial ceremony, and placed his son's name on a plaque for unborn children in Boulder. "Even though I never got to hold him, I knew he was in the arms of the Lord, and we would one day be reunited," Best said.
Little's daughter, Candy Gibbs, now directs the Amarillo pregnancy center where she and her father found help eight years ago.
Ignoring the pain doesn't make it go away, Arterburn said.
"Whenever you make a decision to kill one of your own species, it's going to have a profound effect on you," Arterburn said. "Men have to accept Christ's forgiveness—and forgive themselves—if they don't want to struggle with this guilt forever."
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Ministries mentioned in this story include:
Fathers and Brothers Ministries
350 Broadway, Suite 40
Boulder, Colorado 80303
New Life Clinics
P.O. BOX 650500
Dallas, TX 75265-0500
Loving & Caring
1905 Olde Homestead Lane
Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17601
American Victims of Abortion
419 7th St. NW (Suite 500)
Washington, D.C. 20004
Other organizations that offer help and counseling include:
109 Carpenter Drive
Sterling, Virginia 20164
Focus on the Family
8605 Explorer Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920
New Dawn post-Abortion Bible Study
1600 Coulter, Suite 203
Amarillo, Texas 79106
Josh McDowell Ministries
P.O. Box 1000
Dallas, Texas 75221
P.O. Box 18376
Boulder, Colorado 80308
National Memorial for the Unborn
6232 Vance Road
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