The event was publicized as a first of its kind and made news across the nation. It inflamed pro-abortion activists and has been billed by the media as a “new” concept in the debate over abortion.
Pro-life leaders, counselors, clergy and other interested individuals gathered in San Francisco, California for a history-making event. It was the first ever conference examining the issue of men and abortion. The gathering, called Reclaiming Fatherhood: A Multifaceted Examination of Men Dealing With Abortion.
Never before has such an impressive list of speakers and experts congregated for the sole purpose of assisting the fathers of aborted babies – dads who will never be able to hold their babies or some day teach them the fine art of hitting a baseball. These may be men who supported the decision to abort their offspring, opposed the abortion with every fiber of their being, or were never even aware of the pregnancy until after their unborn baby had died in the abortion mill.
Vicki Thorn, the Executive Director and founder of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, organized the conference. Vicki has a long history of providing hope and healing to women who have chosen abortion. She has also become involved with reaching men. The event was co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Funding for the conference was secured just months before the gathering. The fact that Vicki and her staff were able to assemble such an impressive faculty was a testimony to their diligent efforts and the dedication of the speakers. Attendees came from throughout the nation, as well as various other countries. The excellent level of participation underscored the need for such an event.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the conference was at the beginning when a few fathers briefly shared their stories of pain and grieving. During this time, the only sound in the cavernous room was the words of each father’s testimony and tributes to their unborn children lost to abortion.
With four abortions in his past, and immediately after finding out his wife was pregnant, Mark Morrow confessed, “I suddenly realized that I had four dead children. I hadn’t given it a thought. Now it all came crashing down on me—look what you’ve done.”
Another father, Jason Baier, spoke of the visual image he had of his child – a boy with blond hair, green eyes, chubby cheeks and a sweet smile. Jason found out about the abortion afterward from his fiancé’s sister. He said, “I couldn’t get the thought out of my head about what I had lost.” At first, Jason struggled with emotions he didn’t understand. “How can I miss something I never even held?”
The list of presenters was a who’s who of experts in the field of men and abortion. Some of the speakers included:
Vincent M. Rue, Ph.D. who, as a practicing psychotherapist, provided the first clinical evidence of post-abortion trauma and has testified before Congress. Dr. Rue and Dr. Coyle reviewed the limited research on the effects of abortion on men. In an additional presentation entitled, Trauma and Abortion: When Men Hollow, Vince eloquently spoke to a post-abortive father’s pain and suffering.
Catherine T. Colye, RN, MSN, Ph.D. has developed a healing program for men who have been affected by abortion. She is also the author of the book Men and Abortion: A Path to Healing, which has become a valuable tool for those who counsel men. Her presentation called Forgiveness Therapy with Post-Abortion Men highlighted proven counseling techniques for an often-thorny aspect of healing for men.
Tom Golden, LCSW teaches mental health professionals around the world about the unique male path to healing from stress, grief and trauma. He authored the book, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing. Tom explained the unique methods of effective male grief counseling and how they differ from women. His gentle demeanor, peppered with humor, was a popular part of the conference.
Warren L. Williams, MBA is one of the nation’s most experienced counselors of grieving fathers. He authored a manual to teach others how to counsel post-abortive fathers called, Fatherhood Lost, and has written a companion Bible study for men, Missing Arrows—both available at no cost through Life Issues Institute. Warren shared his knowledge with helping men face their abortion experience and enabling them to ultimately move on.
Gregory Hasek, MA/MFT, LPC is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a professor at George Fox University. Greg, who counsels men for sex addiction, said it is often linked to a past abortion experience. His presentation, Medicating the Pain of Lost Fatherhood, explained how men frequently seek relief from the pain of abortion in all the wrong places.
These speakers, as well as others at the conference, share a passion for helping fathers who have lost children to abortion. They understand the human toll these men, and society as a whole, are paying for abortion-on-demand. Attendees undoubtedly left with an increased knowledge and zeal to minister to men.
The conference has aroused the curiosity of the media and ignited an expected angry outcry from feminists and the abortion industry. The first day, a local San Francisco TV station covered the event and interviewed various speakers and attendees. We held our collective breath, wondering how this outreach to men would be portrayed to people throughout the city. To everyone’s pleasant surprise, the coverage was relatively positive and fair. Since then, many newspaper and Internet websites have given the conference attention. A recent addition to the list was the Los Angeles Times with a January 8 article entitled, Changing Abortion’s Pronoun, which has generated considerable awareness and discussion.
Not all the responses to the conference have been affirming. Many of the bloggers representing the views of hard-core, pro-abortion sentiment spewed hatred and obscenity-laden vitriol, far too inappropriate to replicate here. It’s possible that many who expressed rage and anger are in their own minds desperately seeking to defend a prior abortion decision. If and when the emotional wall of denial crumbles, we will be there to help them pick up the pieces of their lives.
It’s not a surprise that the LA Times article referred to the plight of grieving fathers as “a new voice.emerging in the abortion debate.” Most of the public has never even considered the fact that a father of an aborted baby might suffer negative psychological effects. For that matter, a good percentage of the pro-life movement has yet to experience this revelation.
However in reality, work in the field of men and abortion has been ongoing for some time. In the June 1996 issue of Life Issues Connector I wrote about the reasons for post-abortion stress in men and its common symptoms. In addition, the article conveyed some practical guidelines for counseling these hurting fathers. At the time, awareness regarding this issue was nearly non-existent.
Life Issues Institute’s decision to explore this growing crisis was precipitated by contact from several post-abortive men over a period of months, who poured out their heart and soul in letters and emails. It occurred to Dr. Willke and myself that we had been missing a very important victim of the abortion process.
During early anecdotal research, I crossed paths with some of the true pioneers of those working to help men cope with the loss of a child through abortion. Several of them seemed to be operating as islands of hope, loosely networked to others of the same passion. There are two individuals who deserve much credit for helping to establish a foundation on which to build awareness and assistance to fathers after abortion.
Rev. Wayne Brauning wrote his doctoral thesis called Men and Abortion a Search for Understanding and Recovery. It was later published as the first guidebook on the topic and set the bar for a thoughtful and professional approach to answers and action. Wayne also established MARC Ministries (Men’s Abortion ReCovery) and published additional informational and counseling materials.
Warren Williams was also an early pioneer who has honed his counseling skills and techniques over the years and now shares them in printed publications. Warren founded Fathers & Brothers Ministries International to help men overcome the losses of fatherhood. More information on both these individuals and others is available at our website.
Life Issues Institute began a concerted effort to create awareness, both within the pro-life movement and the public at large, to the plight of these hurting fathers. With the considerable help of others, these efforts have begun to bear fruit. Most crisis pregnancy centers now acknowledge post-abortion stress in men, and many have incorporated outreach efforts to them. Another new development has been the Men and Abortion Network (MAN). It is a group of national leaders and experts on the issue of men and abortion. Our goal is to create additional awareness and to connect more men with the help they need. Several of the conference speakers are members of MAN, which is an excellent source of experts to speak on the issue in your community.
More information on MAN and other resources available to assist grieving fathers is available on our website at www.lifeissues.org. In addition, Life Issues Institute has a nationwide referral network, which will connect men with counselors in their local area. In almost all cases the help is free. While there you can be directed to other organizations and individuals who also offer resources.
The LA Times article Changing Abortion’s Pronoun had a creatively provocative title. However, a more accurate reality is that we aren’t so much changing a pronoun, but adding one to the abortion equation. Fathers are an undeniable part of the picture. Growing widespread attention to the daily struggle of post-abortive fathers is long overdue. And hopefully the attention generated by this first of its kind national conference will produce a sequel.