In August, the American Psychological Association released a major report that shows a single elective abortion does not increase a woman's risk of developing mental-health problems. (See our coverage of it here.) Not a page of the 91-page document addresses whether abortion affects the mental health of men. The imbalance is hardly unusual: Research looking at how abortion affects the male member of a pregnant couple is scarce.
This week, however, two organizations are speaking up about men and abortion, and their intent seems to be to frame the discussion in a strongly antiabortion context. The Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Evangelization—both staunch opponents of abortion—are wrapping up a national conference today that focused on the reported mental-health effects of abortion on men.
Attendees of the Reclaiming Fatherhood conference heard from men who struggled after going through an abortion, as well as from therapists and other experts who offered men advice on how to cope with the experience. I spoke with one presenter, Bruce Mulligan, by phone. Mulligan, a hospital administrator from Minnesota, decided, along with his wife, to abort an unplanned pregnancy 37 years ago and says he still grapples with the loss emotionally. "Men don't like to admit they have a problem, but there are a lot of guys out there who are really hurting," he says. The Knights of Columbus's supreme knight, Carl Anderson, put it this way in a press release announcing the conference: "There are three victims of every abortion, the child and both of his or her parents."
I'm of two minds about the conference. On the one hand, it's nice to see a clear focus on men. Too often men remain silent about their health problems—be they physical or mental—so it's refreshing to see organizations actively diverting attention to men, especially on a topic where, for obvious reasons, the well-being of women tends to take center stage. On the other hand, men shouldn't have to rely on organizations with a clear political agenda when making decisions with potentially important mental-health consequences. Unfortunately, there's a dearth of unbiased health research on the subject.
In the absence of comprehensive data, anecdote seems like a reasonable place to start. So, I ask: Men who have gone through abortions, how did you react to the experience? Did your experience result in mental-health problems? If so, what helped you overcome them?