In recent decades, the conversation surrounding abortion has primarily surrounded women and as a result of societal expectations, men might be less likely to express their true feelings about an unplanned pregnancy or abortion, but research shows they have strong emotions regarding that choice.
A national men’s abortion study commissioned by Support After Abortion (SAA), a nonprofit focused on after-abortion healing research and education, found that the majority of men who experience abortion loss also experience some kind of negative impact on their lives including depression, anxiety and anger, but because of societal pressure, their voices have been “stifled” and their grief is “often disenfranchised.”
Nearly half of pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unintended and about two in five of those unintended pregnancies end in abortion, according to a study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute. While some men expressed relief as a result of an abortion, the majority experienced a negative impact on their life with many left deeply impacted for years, the study found.
SAA believes the study reinforces the need to validate men’s experiences and the feelings they might have following an abortion. The author of the study, Greg Mayo, who is a men’s healing strategist and chair of the Support After Abortion National Men’s Task Force, has a personal connection to men’s issues and abortion healing because he experienced abortion loss in 1988 and 1992.
“I had no say in either decision,” Mayo explained in the study. “At that time few people were talking about abortion healing … especially for men. The decades that followed, until I found healing in 2009, were mired and muddled by the fallout of lost fatherhood.”Mayo explained that his healing was delayed by 15 years when in 1994, a therapist told him that his pain due to the abortions probably “wasn’t a thing” and that his feelings and behavior weren’t a result of those abortions, but his family history.
This feeling among men has been dubbed “disenfranchised grief,” which leaves men questioning their feelings and asking themselves “Is it really a thing?” or “Do I really feel this?”
Dr. Mary C. Lamia, who has written about the idea of “disenfranchised grief,” believes that whether you are pro-choice or pro-life doesn’t matter when you consider the feelings people have in response to an abortion.
“Especially men, they wouldn’t dare say they have feelings about it, because that might be interpreted as they don’t support the choice of the woman or pro-choice beliefs in general,” she said. “I think not having a say gets confused with not having emotions.”
“You may not have a say, but you still have emotions about it,” she added. “I don’t think many men feel it’s appropriate to announce how they feel.”
Support After Abortion (SAA) CEO and licensed clinical social worker, Lisa Rowe, said that in her experience serving vulnerable populations over the past two decades, the mental effects of abortion are rarely talked about among women, much less men. But, she has learned that men do want to talk about their pain.
“What I hear Greg saying and [is] echoed in our culture as well, is this mentality that ‘Real men don’t cry’ [or] ‘Pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ and I feel like that is adding to the separation that Greg’s talking about from men and grief,” she told Fox News Digital.
Over 70 percent of men said they experienced an adverse change in themselves after their abortion losses, while 82 percent said they did not know where to go for help over their abortion grief, according to the SAA study. More than half of men who experienced abortion loss sought help, while 32 percent didn’t seek help, but said they could have benefited from talking to someone.
Rowe said that because women and men have heard the “my body, my choice” message their whole lives, they are disconnected from “the humanity of the issue,” but she said SAA exists to bring compassion to the conversation beyond speaking about abortion as a political or a religious issue.
Of the 71 percent of men who reported adverse changes in themselves after an abortion, 31 percent identified as pro-choice and 40 percent identified as pro-life.
“The narrative is that ‘it has nothing to do with me, but I feel this way,'” she said. “There’s lots of confusion and a lot to sort through on the male end of this.”
“These are people that have experienced vulnerable situations that are making at risk decisions,” she added. “They don’t understand there are different options.”
Mayo told Fox News Digital that for him, this study was an effort to validate other men who have gone through what he experienced and help them understand they are not alone in the way they feel.
“Once I got into abortion recovery and started talking to men’s groups … I realized that there was a really, really big need in this country to get men out of the darkness, so to speak, to get them talking about their abortion experience and then to help them find healing.”
“We have all these data points and every single one of them validates what I experienced,” he said. “I think it affects millions of men and I want to help.”
In the study, nearly half of men, or 45 percent, said they did not have a voice or choice in their partner’s abortion decision and almost three out of five men, 57 percent, said they did not make the decision. Mayo said he hears similar stories time and time again, no matter a person’s race, economics, demographics or political views.
“The narrative for over 50 years now has been: ‘Men need to be quiet and stay out of it'” and, as a result, abortion has become a hot-button political issue, which he feels is unfortunate because “any kind of mental health healing shouldn’t be a political issue.”
Some men experience emotional pain around an abortion immediately, but for others, their suffering surfaces years later that can lead to emotional distress and lasting feelings of loss and grief, according to the study.
Mayo said many men will come to therapy with substance abuse or porn addictions, but once they get past that, they realize the “trigger” to their problem was an abortion.
“It’s a human issue, but it’s become such a political issue that people have become afraid to talk about it at all,” he added. “Which is unfortunate because there are a lot of people that need healing that aren’t going to get it.”
As a therapist, Rowe said she has seen how secrets lead to shame that can manifest in someone’s life in different ways, including suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, porn addiction, anger or relationship issues.
“When there’s not a place to release it and when it’s not socially acceptable to release it, men continue to harbor those secrets and that shame,” she said. “Oftentimes when they hear Greg or someone like him speak and they see themselves on stage or in a conversation [and] there’s an essence of them that finally realizes they’re not alone.”
Rowe believes that when it comes to human healing, abortion should be dealt with through the same lens as “other human conditions like divorce, homelessness, domestic violence and sex trafficking” because “we’ve been programed to see abortion only as a political or religious issue.”
“We need to see the human behind the experience,” she said. “We have not talked to one man or one woman that hasn’t experienced a painful past, that has led to vulnerable decision-making that leave them at risk of making an abortion decision.”