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Post-Abortion Men, Natural Consequences

[Today’s Christian, January-February, 2004]

Q. If a woman commits the sin of abortion, people say that she can be forgiven. But if the father of the child wanted that child, and had absolutely no say in the child’s fate, and afterwards wanted to commit suicide, would he be forgiven? I understand that a person can be forgiven for murdering an innocent life, but can a person be forgiven for murdering his own life? —a grieving father

A. First and most important, do not kill yourself. Do not go on thinking about killing yourself. This is not what you want to do. You want release from the crushing guilt and pain, and that can be had on this side of the grave.

Suicide, however, offers no such guarantee. When Sheldon Vanauken was devastated by the death of his wife, he played with the thought of going to "join her," as he recounts in his memoir, "A Severe Mercy." His friend C. S. Lewis pulled him up short by asking, How do you know you would go the same place? It’s a chilling thought-sufficiently chilling, I hope.

I can hear a lot of bitterness in your question, and you have good grounds for it. The official "line" on abortion says that a man has no right to an opinion on whether the mother of his child chooses abortion. He’s supposed to keep silent and let her decide for herself, even if his heart is breaking. Tragically, this silence sometimes increases the chance of abortion; it may be that all the woman is waiting for is an assurance that the man loves her and their child, and will bind himself to them in love. When she hears only "It’s up to you," she feels abandoned, and makes the abortion appointment.

But even in cases like yours, where the man urgently wants to save the child, he is pushed aside. There is no impulse stronger in a father than the drive to protect the life of his child. Our laws take that right away from you, and then our culture expects you to shut up about it. The expectation is that men want to play around and don’t want responsibility for children, and that abortion suits their plans. Men like you, who feel such profound grief, are not only disempowered, but invisible.

You need someone to listen to you personally as you completely ventilate this anger and grief. I would urge you to contact your local pregnancy care center (look under "Alternatives to Abortion" in the yellow pages); most centers have resources for post-abortion counseling. You may also benefit from books like "Healing a Father’s Heart: A Post-Abortion Bible Study for Men" by Linda Cochrane, and "Men and Abortion: A Path to Healing" by Catherine Coyle.

Finally, you can look to the example of King David. He had a son out of wedlock-a particularly shady event, where he seduced another man’s wife, and when she turned up pregnant, arranged for the man’s murder. When the baby grew ill David was stricken with remorse, and prayed desperately, fasting for seven days and lying on the ground. Still, he was not able to save his son’s life.

David’s servants were afraid to tell him when the child died, seeing how distressed he had been while it was living: "He may do himself some harm," they said. But David heard them whispering. "Is the child dead?" he asked, and when they answered yes, David washed his face and went in to worship God. David explained to his puzzled servants, "Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."


Q. Here’s something a lot of adults are confused about. The pendulum has swung from hell-fire-brimstone all the way over to cheap grace. Everywhere we see those claiming the "grace" of our Lord and living a life that is not in concert with his laws. How can we live according to the world’s standards and take his grace for granted? Are we making our laws to fit our chosen lifestyles, or do we stand by those that have served humanity so well, if practiced in LOVE? —Jackie H.

A. But for many people, the least persuasive part of our argument is that these laws come from God. They think God isn’t watching, or is too busy to care, or will be indulgent because he knows we’re only human. It’s not the divine imperative, but a human one, that makes the average non-Christian choose the straight-and-narrow. Look, for example, at the recent turn against tobacco. Many preachers railed against the "devil weed" decades ago, but it wasn’t going to have any impact on sophisticated people as long as smoking was cool. When they learned that smoking was deadly, it went out of fashion fast.

At present, everything associated with the sexual revolution of the 1970’s is considered cool. Anyone who reasons against promiscuity is dismissed, especially if they do it from a standpoint of God’s laws. But these laws are like the law of gravity-they predict the outcome of certain actions. Promiscuity has brought in a tidal wave of sorrow-abortion, disease, children in poverty, and heartbreak. Eventually people will realize that they don’t have to go on having fun if it hurts this much. The voice of hard experience is the only voice some people can hear.

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