Men Got Them Post-Abortion Blues

Oakland, Calif.

While I might agree with some of Sarah Blustain’s points and premises, I found the tone and structure of “The Mourning After” [Feb. 4] offensive, demeaning and polarizing. My own work on men and abortion is smack in the middle of this growing debate, and I take great issue with people in the so-called Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS) movement. I’m deeply concerned that they are using the movement as a guilt-laden recruiting tool for Christianity and as a bludgeon against women’s reproductive rights. But an article like this doesn’t help.


Delmar, N.Y.

Why is it that when a man is prepared to undertake a decades-long journey of support and protection through fatherhood that we do not extend to him the same respect given a woman for bearing children? Why do we discount his grief if a pregnancy ends? When will we learn as a society that gender equality does not have to be a zero-sum game?


St. James, Mo.

What a farce! Post-Abortion Syndrome for men. This would be hilarious if it weren’t so appalling! Ever since Adam, men have been blaming women for their own inability to keep their zippers shut. We need no better proof that the true agenda of the “right to life” movement is the subjugation of women to the whims of insecure and neurotic men. Bah!



Men with PAS: if you didn’t care enough to reach for a condom, how can we have any sympathy for you when you reach for a tissue?


Somerville, Mass.

Sarah Blustain says men’s rights activists are “in a muddle” about the “double standard” of reproductive rights. Someone should remind them that prevention is better than cure, and that there is no double standard on their right to petition for better male birth control.


Brooklyn, N.Y.

What’s next–PAS for pets? Sarah Blustain is correct in her analysis that all of a sudden this turns into making society as a whole a “victim of abortion,” opening the door to laws that “protect” us from ourselves.

NICOLE [last name withheld]

Oregon City, Ore.

Sarah Blustain’s observation that “it’s hard to get past the sheer fabrications–of data and emotions–that are going on in the men’s PAS movement” would be equally valid if she were writing about the other brainchild of the fathers’ rights movement. Curiously enough, it too is known as PAS. Is this just a bizarre coincidence, or is it efficiency in propagandizing? Did Fathers Forever forget to consult with their brothers at America’s Dads, or is this their two-for-one marketing strategy?

Repudiated by the American Psychological Association, “Parental Alienation Syndrome” is also based on junk science. It has nevertheless been contaminating our courts of family law for ten years. The charge of PAS is thrown at mothers seeking to protect their children from physical and sexual abuse where the abuser is the children’s father. These PAS adherents–fathers guilty of intimate violence and the attorneys who defend them–submit that angry, vindictive women often fabricate abuse charges to alienate their children from their fathers. Valid scientific studies show that women and children very rarely fabricate charges of abuse. Studies also demonstrate that intimate violence is in most instances male violence against women and children. Never mind. Men will soon be able to cry “PAS!” whenever they wish to shift blame for their own bad choices, making women out to be the source of all their woes. Their new slogan might be, “Can’t blame it on her PMS? Try PAS!”


St. Louis

Sarah Blustain states that Post-Abortion Syndrome “does not exist” and cites the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, whose cautious studies show no proved link between abortion and PAS. She concludes that “if the science on women’s PAS is bad, what exists on men is junk.”

But bad science does not mean the feelings aren’t there. In 1972 my girlfriend, against my will, had an abortion. For more than thirty-five years now I have had despairing, helpless dreams about that abortion. In one recurring dream, out on a vast plain covered with dead babies, my own baby is dead and rotting. I am wanting to find my baby. I am sure it is out there, somewhere, among all those other decomposing babies. But I cannot get up and look for it because my own body is dead and rotting.

Sometimes it is a different dream: I am at an abortion clinic and my child is going to be aborted. I am following the mother around, wanting somehow to take my child out of her womb and hold it–comfort it, before it is killed by the abortionist.

For more than twenty years I had one of these dreams at least once a month. Now they occur every three to four months. Blustain states that PAS therapists “are leading men to blame their abortion experiences for pre-existing and subsequent problems.” Did that abortion become an excuse for self-destructive, or socially destructive, behavior on my part? No. Do I have problems because of that abortion? Yes, because I still feel the raw pain. Time, talking to other men about the experience and writing about it have helped. But I am angry that I had no legal recourse for preventing that abortion.

And I am disappointed that Blustain, after all her pretense of demanding rigorous scientific evidence for the existence of PAS, when defending her thesis cites only one example: a man who “flipped” after his child was aborted and killed an abortionist. On the basis of this token exercise in empiricism, Blustain concludes, “Now we understand. Pity the man.” This is man-hating sarcasm. Women have the morning-after pill, but men aren’t even allowed a mourning-after period. Blustain obviously prefers it this way.

I am opposed to abortion, not for religious or political reasons but simply because I find it emotionally upsetting. And I detest any right-winger who would try to co-opt my feelings into support for a “prolife” agenda. Too many of these prolifers fervently favor capital punishment. And while they oppose aborting an 18-week-old fetus, they have no qualms about sending an 18-year-old boy off to be killed in a war.

While the agenda of these right-wingers revolts me, I am also revolted by Blustain’s condescending sophistry, blithe pseudoscience and man-hating sarcasm. PAS may not yet be recognized by those postphrenology practitioners called psychiatrists and psychologists, but the post-abortion feelings are there. Ignoring them is perilous, because ignored feelings often engender other feelings–helplessness, anger, even violence–all potential fodder for the perverted aims of ideologues.

FRANCIS BAUMLI, editor, Men Freeing Men:
Exploding the Myth of the Traditional Male

Blustain Replies

Alexandria, Va.

It is a sad journey Francis Baumli has had to take because of someone else’s choices–choices over which he had no control. I am not passing judgment on his experiences, except to express my sympathies.

There is no part of my head or my heart that would deny such feelings. Indeed, there is a growing awareness even in the prochoice community that ambivalence may be a common part of the abortion experience (as it is with any major life decision). I have long opposed strident my-body, my-choice language and am heartened by the new sensitivity and empathy of abortion providers, support people and prochoice activists and politicians regarding these complicated emotions.

My judgment and harsh language are reserved wholly for those who would politicize Baumli’s story. There is no evidence that experiences like his are widespread. And yet antiabortion activists would like us to create policy on the basis of just such individual narratives, and it is with this opportunism that I take issue. Would we be a more moral society if, based solely on such narratives, we coerced all women, of any age, situation or station into continuing unwanted pregnancies? And if the effort to end such pregnancies led women, as it has historically and currently in other countries, to dangerous and desperate measures? And if such pregnancy, allowed to progress, created similar trauma or distress in the child’s mother? Would those be happier outcomes?

I am not idealistic about legal abortion. In it I see myriad shades of gray, for women and for men. But I have no patience with political activists who look at those shades and see only black and white.