Reclaiming Fatherhood

From Life Insight, Vol. 18, No. 3 September-October 2007

Reclaiming Fatherhood Conference
San Francisco, Nov. 28-29, 2007

Pregnancy loss due to abortion has long been recognized in medical and counseling literature as an example of impacted grief – grief that cannot be expressed openly through the normal rituals and behaviors of mourning. A large and growing body of literature today describes the emotional and psychological difficulties many women
experience in the aftermath of an abortion, which include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Some of these studies can be found at

But very little public attention has been paid to abortion’s impact on the fathers of aborted children. In light of the standard pro-choice arguments – It’s her body, her choice, her right – many men feel they have no say in the decision. They simply go along with whatever the mother decides, as if she were the only one affected by the decision.

Some men fight to defend the life of their child and feel frustrated and angry that the law and our culture do not recognize their rights as fathers.

Others may actively encourage the abortion, using coercion and even violence to eliminate the child for whom they don’t want to be responsible. Later, some of them may come to regret their selfishness and cruelty.

Obviously, men are spared the direct physical and emotional trauma of an abortion procedure. This distance makes it easier for them to tuck away the event in a mental lockbox, where it can be ignored, for a time, at least by some. But the pain of lost fatherhood never really goes away.

The kinds of reactions a man may experience depend on factors such as his religious beliefs and moral convictions, his relationship with the mother of his child when she became pregnant – whether committed or casual, and his attitude toward the abortion – did he oppose it, actively encourage it, demand it, stand helplessly by or not even know about the abortion until after it happened.

For decades, the Church’s Project Rachel ministry has been the means for women, predominantly, to find healing and reconciliation after abortion. Today, however, increasing numbers of men contact Project Rachel offices in the hope that someone can help them make sense out of the loss of their child, their response to the abortion and experiences in its aftermath, and help them be reconciled with God.

Out of public view, mental health professionals have for many years been exploring the experiences of fathers who’ve lost a child in an abortion. Some have developed successful models of healing and spiritual growth tailored to men.

The Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese of San Francisco are sponsoring the first conference of its kind where these experts will present their findings on the effects of abortion on men and the pathways to healing.

The Reclaiming Fatherhood Conference, organized by Vicki Thorn, foundress of Project Rachel, will take place November 28-29, 2007 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.

The Conference presents a unique opportunity for those who deal with men in pastoral or clinical settings to learn more about these issues, which have impacted the lives of millions of men.

The following topics will be presented: a review of the research on men and abortion; trauma and abortion; the sociology of fatherhood and abortion; understanding male spiritual growth and the process of healing; why wounded fathers come for help; medicating the pain of lost fatherhood; and, forgiveness therapy with postabortion men.

More details and on-line registration are available at, or by calling the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing at 414/483-4141.

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