New Study: The Meaning of Abortion in Men’s Lives

Catherine Coyle
Vincent Rue, PhD

A recent qualitative study (Coyle & Rue, 2010), published in The Journal of Pastoral Counseling (download PDF), investigated the meaning of abortion for ten men whose partners underwent induced abortion. In-depth interviews were utilized to explore the men’s experience. In addition, clinical assessments of anger, anxiety, and grief were administered. The men’s ages were 21 to 43 years. The time lapse between the abortion and the first interview ranged from 6 months to 22 years. Half of the men were opposed to their partners’ abortions. One man was supportive of the abortion initially and one was not told of the abortion until after it occurred. The rest of the men deferred the decision to their partners.

The predominant theme identified in the interviews was that of profound loss and this was further evident in several subthemes including relationship problems, helplessness, grief, and guilt. Each of the men’s relationships with their partners ended and the men unanimously identified the abortion experience as the cause of relationship failure. All of the men reported feelings of helplessness and grief and a majority of men experienced guilt as well. Clinical assessments revealed clinically significant levels of anxiety and intense grief.

These findings are consistent with those of other studies involving male partners of women who experience induced abortion. However, the body of research concerning elective abortion and men’s mental health is still in its infancy and further studies are needed. Nonetheless, common sense dictates that men, being involved in conception, will be affected by pregnancy and by any decisions concerning pregnancy outcome including the choice to abort.

Coyle, C.T. & Rue, V.M. (2010). Men’s Experience of Elective Abortion: A Mixed Methods Study of Loss. The Journal of Pastoral Counseling, XLV, 4-31.)

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