I was not a Christian when my daughter’s mother became pregnant. Although she and I were not together and I had no idea of what the future held, I was simultaneously ecstatic about becoming a dad and terrified of the unknown. I remember a conversation she and I had early in the pregnancy. Although I did not believe in (or at least understand much about) abortion, I had to at least ask her if it was an option. To my relief, she said “no.” Nine years later, my daughter’s birth is still one of the most significant moments of my life.
Over the past year, I have begun to ponder what sort of influence a man plays in a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy early, the effect it has on him, and how we as a nation can educate and invest in these men, if in fact they should find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy situation.
WHAT MEN DON’T KNOW
According to a summary of research done by the Alliance for Post-Abortion Research and Training (APART), men are likely to have observed or experience any of the following scenarios:
• Most men whose partners undergo elective abortion do not perceive it to be a harmless experience, with many men describing it as one of the worst experiences of their lives.
• Men tend to defer the abortion decision to their partners.
• A man's relationships may be strained by abortion.
• Men may experience sexual problems following abortion.
• A man's masculine identity may be threatened by abortion.
• Men who experience abortion may be more stressed than men who experience unplanned pregnancy and fatherhood.
• Men may experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and relationship problems following abortion.
Though the research is "limited, but growing" -- in any of the examples listed above, we can clearly see that failure to educate men properly (and ahead of time!) about an abortion can have serious physical and psychological effects on him, and even wreak havoc on his soul. According to Beverly Zahl, LBSW at the Pregnancy Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a father DOES play a major role in a woman’s decision of whether or not to give birth. Almost every mom Bev has spoken to in the past 14 years indicated that it would make a big difference in her decision if she knew the father supported her and supported the pregnancy. But what does that look like? Emotional support? Financial? God’s plan from the beginning was for men lead women - but only in a way that he has ordained, nothing else. As was the case in the Garden of Eden, when the roles are switched, the Creator’s design becomes man-made and potentially disastrous.
HOW WE CAN DO A BETTER JOB
It starts at the foundation: knowing God’s Word and bringing the Gospel into the world. The “Christianity vs. Culture” war rages forward at a greater pace and with more components than ever before. Yet, we find ourselves in seemingly futile debates and arguments when we really should be focusing on the root cause (in this case, sin and failure to prepare men for fatherhood) and applying biblical truth as the main source of reversing the trend. John tells us in both John 15:19 and 1 John 4:5 that the world loves and listens to its own - so why don’t we go to “one of their own” who has experienced the heartache of abortion?
Back in 1975, Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler and his girlfriend Julia Holcomb conceived a child. A friend of Steven’s convinced him abortion was the only solution, and Steven convinced Julia. The months that followed were anything but the “solution” Tyler had expected. In his own words, Steven said, “I was pretty devastated. In my mind, I’m going, Jesus, what have I done?” The post-traumatic stress sent him into a years-long tailspin of dangerous and reckless behavior that included an affair and near-fatal doses of drugs and alcohol. Even years later after Tyler married and his wife became pregnant, he was still haunted by the abortion. “It affected me later…I was afraid….the real life guilt was still traumatic for me. Still hurts.”
Steven Tyler’s experience is only one example of why we, the Body of Christ, must continue to speak up and speak out to help bring our family structure back around. It goes beyond abortion. As in Steven’s case, this traumatic experience was the catalyst for more destructive behavior. Despite the initial reason for the depression, far too many men do not reach out for the help they need, nor do they treat depression in a healthy way. What follows can produce reckless and addictive behavior, extra-marital affairs, and alienation. Thus, the end game can be far worse than the beginning cause, and our families are torn further and further apart from each other.
So let’s say someone does manage to convince a father (and mother) not to have an abortion. What do we have in place after that? Take this for example: almost every church in America will attempt to talk a pregnant single mom out of an abortion, but only 1% of churches have a ministry for single moms set in place once the baby is born. We could make the same case for the men, perhaps even fewer resources for single dads. My guess is that if he is pressuring her to go through with the procedure, there probably isn’t a good foundation in the relationship in the first place. Perhaps he doesn’t want to be “condemned” to paying child support. Or maybe he is worried a baby will mess up his social life and bind him to the mother. Or perhaps, he simply isn’t prepared to be a father, for whatever reason. Nevertheless, if someone is able to talk him into the amazing experience of being a dad, then there should be established programs and individuals ready to help him attain that goal! Whether it is a weekly men’s ministry or a fathering group (married and/or single fathers), these are good places to begin helping with guidance.
For you men who have been around the church a while, please be on the lookout to intentionally step up and offer to mentor a young dad. And for the rest of us, let’s be sure to keep our hearts softened for how to present the Gospel to a man in this circumstance, instead of placing a premature label on him. Look for the potential, not the flaws. Our investments start now so that today’s potential fathers can be prepared to raise their children tomorrow. Once we can grasp this concept, we gain the upper hand in beginning the restoration process of our family structure the way God intended for it to be all along.
Matt Haviland is the founder of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry and the author of A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He coauthored The Daddy Gap. Currently living in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, Matt is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo, and is a single dad to a beautiful daughter himself. For more information on the ministry and how to form a single dad small group in your own church, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
This article first appeared on Crosswalk.com and is used by permission.