By David A. Wemhoff
Abortion Is a Human and Family Issue
I remember the day the Chicago radio station announced
the Roe v. Wade decision. There was a sound of shock and
pain from my parents as they both said, "Oh, no!" Little did
anyone know at the time that abortion would strike our
family, and that I would someday lose my son to that evil.
Harry Blackmun and six of his colleagues said the "right"
to "terminate a pregnancy" was guaranteed by the
Constitution. We can believe that they knew what
"terminating a pregnancy" would do to the baby. Yet nowhere
in the 60-plus pages of their opinion does it address what
aborting a child would mean to the relationship between a
man and a woman, and to the child's father. Nor did Blackmun
and the rest discuss abortion's long-term effects.
"Emma" (a pseudonym) and I met when we were in our early
20s. We were crazy about each other. Despite our
upbringings, we lived in a time and place where the books,
magazines, movies, and music told us we could do what we
wanted, as long as it felt good, and it didn't "hurt
anyone." These same voices told us that each of us was the
center of the universe. Heck, they told us we were the
We fell into this stupidity, and when our son was
conceived, we were faced with the question of what to do.
His fate was decided not by a painstaking, frank discussion,
but with two short answers to two questions exchanged in the
middle of the night.
Emma and I did not know what we were doing, and we did not
know what our son's loss would do to us. We did not
understand the feelings we had after the abortion, nor did
we know how to deal with them.
If we tried to discuss his loss there was anger, yelling,
accusations, or outright dismissal of the subject with a
joke or quick turn of phrase. I think that we believed by
ignoring what had happened, the whole thing would just "go
away" and things could go back to the way they were. But
things couldn't, and wouldn't, ever be the same. We drifted
apart, and the relationship ended as most do when there is
For nearly 15 years, I struggled with enormous guilt and
pain over the loss of Emma and my son. Yet I never really
examined what were perhaps the most profound events of my
life. Later I came to understand that down inside, I felt
the best had come and gone, and that I questioned my worth.
This carried over into all that I did. And as time went
on, I grew angry. I did not let anyone else in. For a very
long time I avoided anything that might remind me of what
had happened. I buried the losses and denied they ever
I carried the weight of the death of my child alone until
just recently. That is very common, and there are reasons
A man is not supposed to feel anything for the loss of a
child through abortion, according to the mandarins of
American society. After all, they say, we men can't get
pregnant and the Supreme Court said the choice to abort
belonged solely to women. The court made it clear that not
even a woman's husband has any say in the matter.
While more and more women are publicly admitting their
abortions as part of a healing process, it is almost unheard
of for a man to admit to being a father to an aborted child.
And finally, a lot of our family and friends, as
well-meaning and decent as they are, have trouble accepting
or understanding. Many very good people don't know how to
talk to or be around a man - - or a woman, for that matter -
- who has lost a child to abortion. I remember many comments
that discouraged me from opening up for fear of the
opprobrium I might receive.
The statistics from the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher
Institute show that by the age of 45, 43% of all women, and
hence about the same number of men, will have lost a child
to abortion. Women who abort are sometimes called the
"walking wounded," but there are millions of men as well who
carry this pain in their hearts. We are everywhere, yet
almost all of us remain alone in our pain.
Dr. Theresa Burke is the co-author of the excellent book
Forbidden Grief and founder of the Rachel's Vineyard
ministries for post-abortive men and women. Dr. Wayne
Brauning is the founder and director of Men's Abortion
ReCovery (MARC). Both of them discovered that all of those
suffering from loss through an abortion needed to grieve
this profound loss.
To grieve, we have to face what happened. That can be
very difficult, because it means reliving the events of many
years ago. In my case, I needed to be in a safe environment
where I would not be condemned for what I had done. I am
very blessed because I found this refuge with many people -
- my parish priest, my best friend, and the loving staff at
a Rachel's Vineyard retreat.
I could talk and talk and talk about what I felt and
still feel. I could start to remember everything and
understand what happened and why it happened. I could accept
it all, and I could cry for my lost son and for the pain
that Emma must have felt.
I could begin to forgive not just Emma, but perhaps, most
importantly, myself. I could start to roll away the stone
that had d and crushed me all those years. I could be set
free. Free almost 17 years after his death to recognize my
son by naming him Matthew Peter. Matthew is the first
Gospel, and it means "Gift from God" in Hebrew. Matthew
would have been born on Peter's feast day. So I name my son,
Though he died before birth, I understand that he is
still my son. He is part of the family. Even though I never
got to hold him or talk to him, I was blessed with him. Fr.
John Patrick Riley, my pastor, surprised me one day when he
said my Matthew Peter was in heaven praying for me. What a
wonderful thing to know, what a great comfort. The loss of
Matthew and Emma was the loss of my family, and the sorrow
will remain. But while I shall never forget, I am no longer
incapacitated by that memory nor am I tortured by guilt and
The process of grieving and healing has taught me much,
such as why abortion is in this land, and the importance of
restoring legal protection to our unborn children. I know
that we must also change the culture that allows abortion to
I understand why people mistakenly choose abortion, and
that those who do are hurt people in need of our love and
care. I understand the beauty and value of the gifts that we
all need: healing, hope, rest, and peace.
I am now free to live my life again, fully and happily.
Free to love and laugh, to hope and dream. Free to start
anew and to build better than ever before.
After struggling alone for years with the guilt, shame
and remorse of my involvement with my girlfriend's decision
to abort our child I finally found a ministry that
recognized my need to get help. Rachel's Vineyard provided a
place where I could voice my pain and guilt amongst others
who validated my emotional response to a very difficult
experience. The acceptance of the women there was especially
helpful because I felt I had hurt my girlfriend so badly
that all women would despise me if they knew what I had
done. Their understanding and acceptance helped me to move a
little further in forgiving myself and in being able to love
others in my life in a deeper way. My current wife and
daughter benefited from my willingness to deal with this
deep secret of my past. I thank Rachel's Vineyard for
allowing the unconditional love and acceptance to be present
that was needed for me to release the pain that was
hindering my relationships in the present.
A Couples Story
The couple that came had been to marriage counseling in
the past (they gave me permission to share with you and
others their story). They had separated several times; each
had had affairs during their shaky marriage. The marriage
was still on shaky ground when they came. Emotionally they
remained distant because of the pain. One of the only
reasons they stayed together was because of their children,
born after the abortion. Their shared Christian faith also
helped them continue to struggle to stay together.
They came to the realization that it wasn't so much a
marriage problem between them as it was an abortion problem.
They came to RV, admitting that they do have love for one
another, but didn't know how to get past the barrier that
abortion brought to their lives. Not knowing how to love
anymore. As they put it, "We're empty." And so they came to
The husband said of his rock, "I've been carrying this
rock for 14 years. I've been emotionally dead for that long.
I throw myself into my work, which alienates me from my
wife, and it causes her to be angry, but I don't know what
else to do. She has had some post-abortion help, but I don't
know how to heal. We don't know how to heal our marriage.
Another thing the husband said is that since the abortion
he never knew who he was as husband and provider. He never
knew what he was supposed to be and to do so he threw
himself into his work. He said his identity-who he was- was
all taken from him and he never felt whole...never felt he
was, who he was supposed to be since the abortion.
He said, I know I was never there for her during the
pregnancy, I accept my part of the responsibility, I know
she made the final decision because of me and our shaky
relationship (he was in the service at the time), but that
was the day I died. I've been dead for 14 years.
During the Lazarus exercise, something beautiful
happened. When the team came to wrap a part of their body
they had chosen, the wife decided to have her left hand
wrapped. She said, "This is the hand that my wedding ring is
on, and I want to see our marriage restored". He said, "You
have to wrap my heart . . . it is just broken. It's been
broken ever since I got the call that the abortion was over
and my child was gone".
So we wrapped accordingly. After prayer, when we got
around to the unwrapping, two of the team went to the wife
to unwrap her hand and her husband stopped them, and said,
"No, no, please, let me do it -- I think this is my place as
her husband. I want a partnership to begin that we never
have had. I want to be there for her, not so distant any
And so, he unwrapped her hand. She, in turn, unwrapped
his heart and asked forgiveness for her bitterness toward
him. They then embraced for about 5 long minutes. To see the
husband keep drawing his wife close to him after the Lazarus
exercise, was such a heart blessing. They began to hold
hands as they walked the long horse-trail to our "Mess hall"
for meals. Those of us walking behind them couldn't help but
smile. We all realized that he took back that which was
taken from him as he unwrapped his wife's hand . . . he was
taking back his vocation of being the provider and protector
of his wife. And, as we all know, that is a miracle only God
can work. I was just glad to be there to see it! And his
wife was thrilled too. She said that she was feeling secure
in his love, and protected, and loved. She was enjoying the
by Jason Bair, Founder and President of Fatherhood Forever, Inc.
Over the last decade, I've worked very hard to recover from my abortion experience.
I've done just about everything there is to do starting with visits to a psychiatrist
and a counselor, spending time in the hospital, and taking all sorts of anti-depressants
and other medications. When those things didn't work, I then turned to "alternative means" by first
finding a church, then participating in a 12-step program and various support groups, reading books
relating to my problems, delving into bible studies, and taking time each day to pray.
Last year I determined I was healed and started Fatherhood Forever to help others find hope and healing
as I had. Since then I've met so many wonderful people in pro-life and post-abortive ministries. I've had the
privilege of helping others on their path to healing. I've been honored to share my story before groups of
pro-lifers, churches, youth and the general public.
In February I had the opportunity to attend a Rachel's Vineyard weekend retreat. I attended the retreat
on the basis that I would learn more about this ministry listed in our Men's Recovery Network and to see if it was
something I'd be interested in helping
with. My sole purpose for attending was to conduct "research."
Little did I realize what I had gotten myself into.
When I arrived at the retreat, I put on a big smile and acted as though I had no concerns
about what would happen during the weekend. I'll admit I was a bit nervous, but couldn't put my
finger on the reason why. I was relieved to discover I wasn't the only guy that would be attending.
The retreat location was absolutely beautiful and I was soon at ease with the whole idea of spending
the weekend there. That is until the retreat officially started.
Within minutes of starting, I found myself putting up barriers. I become stone-faced and sat
with my arms crossed in defiance, attempting to resist any emotion the staff might be trying to pull
from me. "I'm already healed," I thought to myself. "There's
nothing they can do or say to make me think
otherwise." My pride got the best of me to the point that I felt compelled to express my "discomfort" with one
of the staff members during a break. Her simple words of comfort and understanding quickly put me at ease. When I went
to bed that night, I told myself that although I was going to be strong, I would at least be more open tomorrow.
And then tomorrow arrived. So much for strong. I cam to realize that I still had a great deal of
unresolved anger toward the mother of my child, who I thought I had forgiven, and guilt for not being able
to prevent the abortion. But my emotional breaking point was when I discovered I still had sorrow and despair
buried deep within my heart. I hadn't cried that had since the day I told my child. I cried not only for the loss of
my child, but for having fooled myself into believing I was healed. I was angry and ashamed with myself.
It was at my lowest point of the weekend that nothing short of a miracle occurred. I was suddenly
overcome with a sense of peace that I had only experienced once before in my life. I embraced these emotions
and let all my pain and anger go. For the first time ever, I was able to see clearly and know that I had reason to be happy
rather than mourn. I was able to put to rest all those thoughts and feelings that were holding me
back from being the
person I was meant to be. My eyes were fully opened.
Since the retreat, I've had new revelations and convictions that have paved the way for a brighter
future. I've discovered truths I had been blind to in the past which have raised me up in faith and hope.
February has always been a difficult month for me, but this year instead of grieving over my loss, I rejoiced
in what I had gained.
If you are post-abortive, I whole heartedly encourage you to attend a Rachel's Vineyard
retreat. There's so much to be gained from it.