Parsing Post-Abortion Syndrome in Men

| 4/4/2008 2:52:55 PM

Tags: The Nation, abortion, post-abortion syndrome, Sarah Blustain,

The Nation Mourning After CoverWith the tired call for “compassionate conservatism” still leaking out of the right, perhaps some liberals are attempting to separate themselves from the progressive ethos they once espoused. Perhaps empathy and compassion no longer hold the value they once did on the left. This seems to be the case with a Nation cover story earlier this year, in which Sarah Blustain examined Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS)—the mental anguish and suffering that can follow an abortion—in men. Not only does Blustain point out that the antichoice movement has begun using these men as poster boys for its agenda—which should come as no surprise, given the nature of politics—she questions the validity of the condition itself, while implicitly accusing the men of wanting to be used.  

The conclusion drawn is that “PAS is a political strategy masquerading as a psychological crisis.” PAS is not a valid condition, Blustain argues, because a) there is little clinical evidence it exists, and b) it is being used as a political tool by the prolife movement. This sounds frighteningly similar to the reasoning behind the dismissal of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in soldiers coming back from the Vietnam War. The government perceived that acknowledging the disorder would be politically damaging, and it mysteriously went undiagnosed. This famous case of political-medical denial, of course, does not prove the existence of PAS. Yet it does show that just because science hasn’t rubber-stamped a condition, doesn’t mean people aren’t truly suffering. Nor does the political perversion of an issue invalidate the issue itself. All claims, whether they suit one’s political inclinations or not, should be taken with a healthy helping of skepticism.  

Which leaves the men themselves. The thought, unspoken but still present, in Blustain’s article is that their suffering and its use by the prolife movement is deserved, or at least self-inflicted. It’s ironic that Blustain holds these men responsible for their predicament and its usurpation by the right, when the other half of the prolife movement—the non-God half—bases their anti-abortion stance on a similar call for personal responsibility: Those attempting to overturn standing abortion laws often proclaim that adult women who willingly engage in sex that results in an unwanted pregnancy should be held accountable for their actions. Blustain applies a similar brand of reasoning in a novel way: She points out that many of these men wanted their partners to have abortions, and all of them willingly engaged in the sex that resulted in the pregnancy. Hence, it’s their fault and they should learn to deal with the emotional fallout.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that, under all the political garbage piled on by interested parties, there is a human element to every issue. And it is possible to acknowledge this element while dismissing its manipulation by those with a vested interest in its political interpretation. The heart of liberalism is empathy, and the core of empathy is a sensitivity for feelings one has never felt. It would be a shame if those of us who call ourselves liberals began dictating who may and may not suffer, thereby allowing our most noble trait to be appropriated for political gain.

Morgan Winters

10/20/2010 12:43:11 PM

Two words:

10/20/2010 12:40:20 PM

8/4/2008 8:54:01 PM Post Abortion Syndrome Symptoms, Healing and Recovery

8/4/2008 8:45:23 PM

How very accurate. This is an awesome article. I am a Christian man that had our child (taken from our lives at the very young age of 17) without my knowledge or consent. I surely have strong emotions about this choice that has dictated in a sense the “me” I have experienced and have become in these past 30 years. This choice has dictated a part of the “me” who I am that will always be there. I had no idea that our choice to have unprotected sex would affect my entire life so strongly, but it has and continues to. I am the epitome of an oxymoron being an extreme left winged conservative. I believe whole heartedly in God and His Son Jesus. I believe that abortion hurts the world as a whole, but I also believe that each and every person should be allowed to make any and every choice that they desire to make for themselves so long as it doesn’t affect another human life in an adverse way. I do not believe as a civilized world we should make it so easy for our LOVE to be taken from us with a simple phone call and a $300 bill. I Love You! Tom

Morgan Winters
4/19/2008 12:00:18 PM

I agree with your assessment of PAS on a general level, LindiB. But it also highlights my objection to Blustain's take on the issue: there is no room for a human element. "Most preferred it to end that way." Probably true. But what about the fathers who'd bought cribs, picked out names, and stenciled animals on walls? Is it fair to just lump them in with the rest of "the guys that accidentally impregnated their girlfriends?" And keep in mind, not all of these pregnancies were necessarily accidental. Things change in relationships. It would be unwise to assume that all of these pregnancies were unplanned. Keep in mind, also, that clinics provide counseling for women following a same-day procedure that, in most cases, is minimally physically invasive. They don't offer these services because of physical trauma (in most cases), but for the psychological difficulties associated with making such a big decision. Why would such a difficult decision be any less affecting to the other party involved, the father? I'd object to anyone saying women don't deserve/need these services, and I object to not offering the same level of empathy and assistance to men. I don't believe anyone should feel wary about seeking professional psychological help because of someone else's (read: the anti-abortion crowd's) political agenda.

4/15/2008 12:16:04 AM

So, some of the guys that accidentally impregnated their girlfriends felt bad about the termination of the pregnancy, even though most preferred it to end that way. Did anyone bother to ask the guys how depressed they would have been if 1)their girlfriends had carried the pregnancies to term, then sued them for child support for the next 18 years, with no guarentee of visitation rights, 2)they watched their former girlfriends marry someone else, then sever all relations with him, 3) they came to be publicly labelled "deadbeat dads" and faced prison time when they could not keep up payments for a child that they'll never see- I could go on from there, but won't. I have tons of sympathy for guys struggling with the real-world consequences of unplanned parenthood- the shotgun marriages from hell, the loss of educational and professional opportunities driven by the financial necessities of sudden family life, the ex-girlfriend who regards him as little more than a built-in babysitter/financial support system at her beck and call. This is not to trivialize the problems of either the female in question, nor the financial and emotional needs of children- but if the article's central thesis is that PAS itself is a nothing but a construct meant to outweigh the obvious psychological and personal trauma of an unplanned pregnancy, then I have to agree with her.

Edith Smith_2
4/10/2008 12:21:36 PM

correction: that was Florynce R. Kennedy

Edith Smith_1
4/10/2008 12:15:25 PM

Whenever this subject comes up, I just defer to Joan Kennedy,"If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."