I do not wish to belittle the situation in the USA – where it seems any conjecture or new angle on abortion can take on political resonance and significance with disarming speed – but men and post abortion syndrome? I just don't buy it.
Or perhaps I should buy it — as a deliberate and calculated attempt by the anti-abortion lobby to be seen to be representing the previously, seemingly, unrepresented. They have, after all, often sought to be seen to be representing other "unrepresented" groups such as disabled people. Why not men?
According to one abortion counsellor here in the UK, men do sometimes feel uninvolved or ignored when it comes to their partner's experience of abortion. "It may be very upsetting for men," says the counsellor. "But the priority for men and their partner's abortion is for them to be supportive, to be seen to be being supportive at what can be a difficult time for a couple." As for the later, down the line suffering that men may feel, the counsellor admits that she does not see any men for post abortion counselling. "If men are suffering, it is probably more about their own problems than abortion," she says.
Ann Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the UK non-profit which sees over 55,000 women each year for abortion care and thousands more women and their partners for non-directive pregnancy counseling and information about their options, told me, "Men, like women, may have a variety of feelings about continuing or ending a pregnancy, and understandably, both partners may feel they wish they hadn't had to be faced with a complex pregnancy decision. But there's no typical reaction of men — or of anyone else — to abortion…We should shy away from attempts to make political capital out of such intensely personal situtations."
Because they are not involved, because it is not about them, because there is so much deliberate mystification and polarized politicization of abortion, I am sure there are many men who do not know how they should feel about a partner's abortion. There are also definitely some "concerned" groups who would like to give male post abortion syndrome legitimacy. Bring the two together, and you somehow have a body of proof about men and post abortion syndrome? I don't think so. (Men do like to be told how they should feel, I know. But there is guidance, and deliberate trickery.)
Why should the emphasis not be on men? Because it further mystifies and complicates the messages that are needed about abortion: confidentiality, access, the personal before the political, the woman's needs and expectations first. Men need to be more involved in their own and their partners' reproductive health and rights. But not like this. Not as the manipulated after-the-fact victims. They need to be at the time, and every time, enablers and supporters and partners.
At the Reclaiming Fatherhood conference in San Francisco last November, one of the speakers apparently quoted Eliot's Hollow Men ("Remember us – if at all – not as lost/violent souls, but only as the hollow men/the stuffed men.") The final line of the poem goes ‘Not with a bang but a whimper' – which is, I feel, exactly how the men and post abortion syndrome debate should proceed.