Tell Your Story

The following stories originally appeared in a men’s journal written at the clinic.  We urge you to tell others your story too.  We want to hear it.

 

 


First of all, I am the reason why Sally (not her real name) is here. It is hard to believe this is the second time I fathered a child outside of marriage. The first time I did what I thought was right; I married the girl. Our marriage lasted about 10 years but it wasnít built on a solid foundation of love. Rather one of guilt and expectation. Now our 10 year old daughter is the one who suffers.

This time (3 years after being apart from my ex) I am here. I care very much for Sally, but I am not ready to be married. For those out there, both times we used protection, condoms with the first pregnancy, Sally was on the pill with this one.

I worry more for Sally. I know this is the right choice for her, for me, but most of all for our unborn child. I donít want her to feel the same pain my daughter does now.

Someday it will be the right time to be married and have a family.

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Today, for the first time I visited this place. The sadness I have will be a testament to my ignorance. When I sit before God at the seat of judgment I have no thought of what heíll say but God already knows about this.

For my unborn child shall sit at his side while I sit before him. I never thought Iíd be broke to these emotional limits. For life is all we have to give and now I have to take it.

I hope this day will forever change your life as it has done mine.

Keep your heads up for God will forgive you. Youíll just have to learn to forgive yourself.

To my unborn child, your grandmothers will be there in heaven waiting for you. Forgive me my child...

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Iím a 21 year old male. I have a decent job, but a lot of bills. I currently take care of my father also. Iíve been with my girlfriend for about a year now. Unfortunately she dropped out of school her senior year. IĒm in college at the present. Weíve been having unprotected sex for about 9 months, and all of a sudden pow she gets pregnant. It was like I seen my life flash in front of my eyes. I donít have my career started yet. Iím not even finished with my schooling, with her not graduating things just seem more complicated. So we decided to come here [for the abortion]. It was by far the single most hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life. We thought about adoption, but I could never live with myself knowing someone else is raising my child.

For the past 2 weeks since we found out. I havenít been able to sleep, eat, or go out anywhere. When Iím at work the only thing going through my head is this. I love her more than anything else. I would die for her. She is the only one and I know it. So the only thing I figured is that we will have plenty of opportunities later on down the road the winding road of life. The only thing that bothers me is the fact that I have to live with this decision we made. So know how important this decision is. If you are here [the clinic] with your girl make sure you pay more attention to her so she donít think about this too much. Remember guys this didnít happen to you. Itís the ladies that are going to do the most suffering.

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When being male brings nothing but privilege and power, gender-based injustice rarely becomes an issue to be discussed publicly. Without such discussion and critical assessment, male status is rarely viewed by privileged men in a context where they will be able to recognize its negative effect on the lives of others. Consequently, the debate over the role of men in unplanned pregnancy is extremely interesting in that it represents one of the first times in the history of modern man in which he is confronted with a situation in which his power and influence may be deemed less important than that of his female partner. For men to thus band together in creating an anti-abortion movement that polarizes the discussion of an abortion decision into a story of male victimization and loss of fatherhood is very much understandable and even predictable.

A plea for the assessment of male feelings of sadness and regret after being involved in abortions by the public and the scientific community is not unwarranted. However they cannot be appealed for without an understanding of the negative effects that male-dominated decisions can have upon women. To equate male consequences of an unplanned pregnancy with that of his female partner is not tenable. Approaching the issue as one in which people need sympathize with men and give them back their rights is thus not effective. Though men may face difficulty intuiting a woman’s ownership of her own body without having prior been sensitized to any other form of gender discrimination, men may need come to understand a new role for themselves in today’s society.

Affected men have written to an extensive degree about the trauma felt by the loss of fatherhood; however such writings act to reify the oppressive social expectation of men to be fathers, neglecting the possibility of fatherhood itself being more detrimental to a man’s ability to exert his freedom in society than his supposed loss of reproductive rights. Where these men write of traumagenic abortion, they perhaps do not realize the possibility of traumagenic parenthood in which men who become fathers when they are not ready to, are forced to leave their places of comfort and enter jobs for low pay and odd hours, as well as relationships of obligation. A child is thus born to a father who is understandably stressed, his health and his relationship with his child both suffering. Such relationships have been characterized in surveys of men that have described parenting stresses leading to cycles of substance abuse, leading to more conflict situations, reduced joint activities between father and child, feelings of compulsion with engagement, and difficulty including the child in the father’s daily activities. Directed towards teenagers, the compulsion towards fatherhood carries more significant risk in as much as teenage fathers, in spite of their genuine desire to be good fathers, face a high likelihood for financial difficulties, educational barriers, relationship instability, increased involvement in deviant behavior, and a lack of developmental maturity. Faced with an inability to meet the expectations of the archetypal male provider and the lost freedom to develop a sense of identity, unprepared fathers might face difficulties at least tantamount to those faced by men whose partners chose abortion.

However even the men who claim that they have been victimized by abortion are not powerless to have prevented their circumstances. Amidst dual partner birth control, condom use, and sterilization is often missed the best form of contraception—communication. Through communication and compromise, men can become the open partners to whom women are willing to convey and discuss their pregnancy concerns. If males were willing to speak to their partners about the possibility of having a child, understanding that the act of intercourse always entails the risk possibility of pregnancy and subsequent parenthood, then the choices made might not come as such a shock. Furthermore, the assumption made between a couple using a form of contraception is that they are not ready to be involved in a pregnancy—for a man to then rebuke his partner or impart guilt on her for having obtained an abortion and deprived him of his reproductive rights is thus contradictory.

Yet these reasons should in no way delegitimize the suffering that men may feel. Abortion is a difficult experience, but it is not one that people should not be given the choice of having. Though men may not be able to have the final word on their partners’ decisions, this does not mean that they cannot assert their ability to be knowledgeable and supportive both before and after the fact. Having recognized that men do feel pain, health professionals and social workers ought to work towards providing men with options for the prevention of these unplanned pregnancies as well.

As of last year, the FDA approved of pharmacy provision of emergency contraception to men above the age of 18. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether or not the vast majority of men know of this option and its availability to them. Studies on emergency contraception have shown that it has not been effective in reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies; however this may be attributed to the possibility that couples do not always think about preventing pregnancy or that they do not know how to access this option. Consequently, doubling the population of knowledgeable buyers of emergency contraception by recruiting men as advocates could go a long way in preventing the negative feelings entailed by unplanned pregnancy decisions. Yet cases have been reported of males being turned away by pharmacists refusing to dispense to them; pregnancies have often been considered women’s issues, along with the social stigma that comes in preventing them.

If men feel that they have been weakened by the abortion movement, they should feel strong in being able to stand against this type of gender discrimination, a discrimination that prevents them from being able to support their partners and prevent abortion. Men should know about their contraceptive options, including emergency contraception. Rather than feeling as though they’ve been given no choice, men can take agency in the purchase of emergency contraception and/or the mutual support of their partner’s purchase of emergency contraception. Men can thus spread a positive message of partnership in decision making such that masculinity does not have to entail a man giving up his personal aspirations for the care of his child, but instead be the willingness and desire to discuss family planning with his partner such that when pregnancy occurs, he will be ready to support and appreciate the family that he helped to create.

— Brian T. Nguyen

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