Many men whose partners have an abortion often experience worsened mental health and express intense feelings of regret, a new study found.
The study, which was commissioned by Support After Abortion and conducted by ShapardResearch of Oklahoma City, found that 71 percent of all men whose partner had an abortion suffered adverse mental health impacts afterward, including men who identify as pro-life and pro-choice. Overall, 83 percent of those men say they either sought help or could have benefited from talking to someone about their emotions following the abortion.
“Men’s grief is often disenfranchised,” report states. “Their grief, a natural response to loss, is often invalidated. Men perceive that their thoughts and feelings are dismissed or not valued, and many remain silently in pain.”
The report noted that men’s pain around abortion “manifests in many ways,” with men in the study reporting “depression, sadness, guilt, regret, anxiety, anger, thoughts of what could have been, emptiness, substance abuse, a sense of lost fatherhood, and other emotions.”
More than half (51 percent) of survey respondents identify as pro-choice and 49 percent as pro-life, according to study data. Thirty-one percent of pro-choice respondents said they experienced an “adverse change” following their partner’s abortion, as did 40 percent of pro-life respondents.
The study’s author told the Washington Stand that realizing how many men shared his personal pain after an abortion led him to investigate the topic.
“After many conversations with my wife and family and the people in my inner circle, I realized that men had to know their pain was real … and that they were not alone,” said Greg Mayo, chairman of the Support After Abortion National Men’s Task Force.
71% of all men whose partner had an abortion suffered an adverse mental health impact afterwards — including many who consented to or suggested the abortion and 55% of men who identify as “pro-choice” on abortion. @help4abortion @ShapardResearch https://t.co/1o8QowGS42
— The Washington Stand (@WSHStand) May 8, 2023
Mayo wrote in the report that he experienced abortion loss himself in 1988 and 1992 and had “no say in either decision.”
“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. I knew something was off, but didn’t know there was such a thing as abortion healing, or even negative experiences from an abortion,” he wrote.
Mayo added that is healing was “delayed another 15 years due to an encounter with a therapist in 1994.”
“When I mentioned the abortions to the therapist, he told me that it probably ‘wasn’t a thing,’ that my feelings and behavior weren’t a result of those abortions, and focused on my family history,” he wrote.
“He was wrong — and likely uninformed himself about the impact abortion can have. So I waded through life like many men — fighting upstream to move forward in spite of the weight around my ankles,” he continued. “There simply wasn’t an area of my life that was untouched by my loss: work, education, relationships (including eventually my marriage and the children I raised). I also engaged in cliff diving and bungee jumping, which for some are simply thrills, but for me were motivated by risking my life.”
The survey respondents, who participated on condition of anonymity, detailed similar stories of dealing with years-long emotional and psychological turmoil.
“I have an emptiness that always lingers. I had no choice. I couldn’t save my baby,” one respondent said.
Some men who even initially suggested abortion to their partners expressed regret.
“When she found out she was pregnant, she got upset and I panicked and looked for abortion clinics,” another respondent said. “But we didn’t talk about what we each wanted. I messed up bad. I wanted our child. I think she did, too.”
The study additionally found that 32 percent of post-abortive men desire clinical care, 77 percent want anonymity, and 49 percent want secular programming, “yet the majority of abortion healing providers offer religious and in-person programs, illustrating the need for more preferred options and trained providers to care for men so they can get the help that they desire and deserve to restore their emotional well-being after abortion.”
Mayo noted that with abortion in the national conversation since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, “it is an opportunity to shine a light on men who are too often overlooked — the millions who suffer emotionally after abortion, sometimes years after the event.”
The report explains:
With the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson returning abortion legislation to the states, many recall the long struggle for women’s rights and equality that led to Roe v. Wade. In the decade before Roe, the Court had granted women equal pay for equal work, legalized contraception, and prohibited sex discrimination in employment and education. In 1973 it was still legal to discriminate against women in many areas such as housing, banking, credit, jury selection, and control over jointly-owned property. The Roe decision was celebrated by feminists as a major victory for women’s rights.
With the pendulum swing in pregnancy decision-making from virtually no rights for women to complete autonomy for women, men lost any right to advocate for the children they helped conceive. Yet some men are deeply impacted by abortion, regardless of their personal views on abortion or whether or not they had a voice in the decision.
“Their grief, a natural response to loss, is often invalidated. Men perceive that their thoughts and feelings are dismissed or not valued, and many remain silently in pain,” the report states. “Men need safe spaces and compassionate support to tell their stories, grieve, and move forward on their path to healing. The study shows that the majority of men want support, but don’t know where to go for help, indicating a need for greater awareness. Currently few resources are available for men.”
ShapardResearch conducted a nationally representative study sampling 1,000 men over age 18 across the United States via online survey. One hundred (100) men met the criteria of having personally experienced abortion at some time and participated in the study with a margin of error of +/- 9.18 percent. Support After Abortion describes itself as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to healing people who have been impacted by abortion.