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"Some people have the ability to deny its effects and, believe me, denial takes a tremendous amount of energy in our life," she says. "But the reality is that a human being who takes the life of another innocent human being is going to be affected by that."
Klausner, the Project Joseph director in Kansas City, says that when a man comes to her, she goes through the list of post-abortion syndrome symptoms and asks him if he can identify with them. He usually does.
But Claire Keyes, director of the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says that abortion doesn't cause mental illness. "It's not really a syndrome. But that doesn't mean there aren't women who regret their abortions," she says. "There are also women who regret having given birth.
"Most women who regret their abortions, or get fixated on abortion as having ruined their lives, are often people who have had many other difficulties in their lives, and somehow abortion gets picked as the reason that everything went awry or that everything went askew. That loss isn't worse than any other loss and in fact could be less so on its face, because you're not dealing with a known human being — it's more a potential life.
"Sad things happen. And then the question is: And then what do you do?"
If the abortion war has a geographic frontline, it's the Midwest. Last summer, the media fixated on the murder of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller, who was shot in the face as he entered his Wichita church. In 1976, the Supreme Court heard Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, which struck down the state's requirement of spousal notification and consent for an abortion.
Even so, these days, Missouri has some of the country's most onerous restrictions on abortion; many werepassed in the last legislative session. In addition to mandatory pre-abortion counseling, state law now requires abortion providers to supply extensive information about adoption alternatives, as well as literature stating that "the life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being." The first Men's Summit, hosted in 2005 by the pro-life Men and Abortion Network, took place in Kansas City, and Project Joseph's first chapter sprung forth there as well.
Rickie Solinger, a historian and curator who specializes in reproductive rights, says that the focus of the abortion debate shifts with time and culture. Before abortion was legalized, Solinger says, no one was talking about killing babies, but rather about rejecting motherhood.
"It was a woman's responsibility and role to become a mother," Solinger says. "People did not talk about and were not concerned about the fetus. 'Why would she have sex if she wasn't willing to be a mother?' They were questioning her about her sexuality, not about this fetus."
"There was never ever in the courtroom, or in any other venue, a concern for the sperm [or] for the man who produced the sperm," she says. "The father is a social role."
The focus on the father, Solinger says, is the newest strategy of anti-abortion activists in a time when strictly religious arguments rarely sway opinions and "our Oprah-addict culture" laps up personal stories of suffering.
"It's not to say that there aren't men who wish their sex partners would have a baby when they get pregnant, would love the person who got pregnant, would want to make a family with them," she says. "Men have their hearts broken, too."
Solinger says the pro-life strategy of extending post-abortion syndrome to men is clever in this cultural moment, when many people spend most of their time on couches, either in therapists' offices talking about their problems, or in their own living rooms, peering at others' tragedies on TV.
"It's a natural progression from claiming that all women who get abortions suffer post-abortion trauma to saying, 'By the way, the men who are their sex partners also suffer.' This is a domain where claiming suffering is a very important claim for getting popular and legislative support."
Whether this new strategy of male victimhood will work, however, is anyone's guess.
"Historians don't predict the future. Or, we shouldn't, anyway," she says.
Since 2004, long before pro-lifers turned their focus on men, Claire Keyes has used her website, www.menandabortion.com, to fight back against pro-life scare tactics with statistics and straight answers to men's frequently asked questions.
On pro-life sites, she says, men "could be reading all kinds of scary things and thinking, 'Should I stop her from doing this because she could get breast cancer?' Because that still appears on various websites, even on some states' websites, even though it's totally wrong."
Today, however, Google reveals a few new results for a "men and abortion" search, just below Keyes' site — www.menandabortion.info and www.menandabortion.net — registered on back-to-back days in 2006. The organization behind these sites, the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, was a consultant in the formation of Project Rachel and its fraternal twin, Project Joseph. The pro-life sites link to shaky research about couvade, or sympathetic pregnancy, as more evidence that men inevitably suffer after their partner has an abortion — exactly the misinformation Keyes worries about.
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