MENtal Health & Abortion: It’s Time to Shatter the Silence & Stigma

By Jess Meeth, DFLA National Communications Director

As we head into the last week of Mental Health Month, it’s important to highlight a Whole Life issue: men and abortion. Men are often silenced and stigmatized when it comes to abortion and mental health. 

A moderator of a podcast I was once on opened up and said that while he is pro-life, he’s hesitant about being outspoken about abortion and having men as guests. This broke my heart.

Since the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, abortion has been highly debated and contested, particularly in the realm of feminism. As a result, men have generally been excluded. Currently, in the U.S., fathers have no legal rights to hinder the abortion of a pregnancy for which they are involved. State laws requiring that a father be given a say in or even notified of an abortion have been struck down by the Supreme Court. 

As we continue our battle against abortion, we cannot forget about men who are hushed and brushed aside. Men (and their mental health) are essential in the abortion conversation. They should never have to earn a place to speak up, especially for their child, the mother of their child, and fatherhood. We must give men a safe space to speak up about their fears and concerns with pregnancy/parenting and abortion. The silence is shattering and stigmatizing.

Abortion is not and cannot be a “women’s issue” only. Pregnancy includes three lives: the mother, the father, and the child. Although men do not carry a child during pregnancy or give birth, they are still fathers, and the child is just as much theirs. Abortion can leave men just as traumatized as women, especially if an abortion occurs against their wishes. 

Men process the difficult emotions of abortion. Each child killed in an abortion has a mother and a father, many of which have lasting mental health struggles as a result. The decision to have an abortion does not affect women only. Men may grieve privately and suffer alone. But it shouldn’t be like this, and it can’t be like this. Men need to be able to express and not repress emotions. 

Before I joined the team at DFLA, I worked as a Pregnancy Counselor at Let Them Live, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance for abortion-minded women to carry, birth, and raise their children. I occasionally was paired with the father of the baby, who, in some cases, was struggling with past post-abortion trauma. These men wanted to be heard and understood. Although I’m not a man and will never know what it’s like to be one, I want to do my best to empathize. And my experiences working with these men has galvanized me to provide a safe space for men to vulnerably share about their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 

There’s little to no data available on how abortion affects men and their mental health. And only recently have pregnancy resource centers started implementing initiatives and programs for fathers and men, especially for those who are grieving an abortion. There even is a pregnancy resource center in Alaska that is solely for men and fathers. And in February, DFLA hosted a Town Hall: Black Preborn Lives Matter Too. Gary Chapman, founder of Major League Dad, was a panelist speaker. Major League Dad is a nonprofit built to serve and build phenomenal fathers. 

The importance and influence of men when it comes to abortion is critical. By supporting men on their journeys with mental health, especially when it comes to abortion, they may feel better supported to support women, mothers, and their children. At Let Them Live, I worked with many women who felt like abortion was their best and only option because they were either abandoned or pressured by the father of their baby. They wanted men to step up and fight for them, especially when it’d be easier and more convenient to avoid responsibility. Most of these men did not know how to support them because they themselves lacked support, especially mentally. But when given the support, they were equipped to support their baby and the mother of their baby.

There is also a stigma associated with men and sidewalk counseling. Rarely do I see men sidewalk counseling, and I hope to see this change. Some women are escorted by men into abortion facilities, even by the father of their baby. Other men can engage with these men and urge them to fight for their baby and the mother of their baby. If a woman is alone, he can still engage with her. Some of these women have never had a man fight for them. Their fathers or the fathers of their babies may not be physically or emotionally present. They may have never been treated with dignity and respect by a man. When she sees a man who will fight for her and her baby, she may be empowered and encouraged. And this can save lives. I’ve watched it happen before. 

To all men reading: We need you. And you matter in the discussion of mental health and abortion. I’m sorry if you’ve been shut out and shut down. I’m sorry if you’ve lost a child to abortion. You are allowed to express your thoughts and feelings on abortion and how it affects your mental health. And never forget that there is help, hope, and healing.