Many people are familiar with the emotional trauma experienced by millions of women after abortion, but are far less aware of the pain fathers feel after losing a child to abortion. Research shows that men also suffer psychological ramifications. That’s why the Men and Abortion Network (MAN) was established. It consists of twelve experts in the field of helping men cope after abortion, of which I am a founding member. Our goal is to create awareness of why men are affected, what their symptoms are and how to treat these symptoms.
Working toward this goal, my colleagues and good friends, Catherine Coyle, RN, PhD and Vincent Rue, PhD, have developed a set of guidelines and suggestions for pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) to incorporate or enhance assisting men while helping women as it relates to pregnancy, parenting, relationships and abortion. Catherine and Vince are two of our most highly credentialed members of MAN.
Dr. Catherine Coyle is one of the few individuals who has scientifically studied abortion’s effects on men. She was one of the founders of Care Net Pregnancy Center of Dane County in WI and is co-director of the Alliance for Post-Abortion Research and Training. Vincent Rue, PhD, a researcher and lecturer, is a practicing psychotherapist with over thirty years experience, and co-director of the Institute for Pregnancy Loss in Jacksonville, FL.
I want to share with you the highlights of their latest work entitled, Building a Men’s Ministry: A Guide for Pregnancy Resource Centers. It’s my hope and prayer that many PRCs will use this excellent resource to add men to their mission to not only heal grieving hearts from abortion, but also help in other key areas of their lives. Men play a critical role in whether or not a woman chooses to abort her baby. Therefore, it’s important to include a father while in the process of helping the mother.
Adding the element of helping men will impact three significant areas of the PRC: environment, staff and resources.
Once you get inside a PRC, it’s often visually obvious that their priority is on women because of the feminine décor. A few relatively easy and inexpensive ways to make your environment welcoming to men is to have men’s magazines available in the reception area, as well as gender-neutral art and décor. If the budget allows, a flat screen TV is a plus. Men’s brochures related to pregnancy, parenting, relationships and abortion should be easily accessible.
It’s important that the PRC communicate three key messages to a potential male client as he enters the front door:1) he is welcome, 2) he is important and 3) his participation is central.
The authors of these guidelines caution that PRCs should be aware that some female staff or volunteers have a personal history of abortion. It’s vital that they have sufficiently healed so as not to display resentment or negativism toward male staff, volunteers or clients.
Obviously, financial resources will need to be dedicated to this new aspect of ministry work, and PRCs usually operate on very tight budgets. It’s suggested that the center form a ministry development committee that includes a member of the staff and men. This staff member will serve as a liaison between the committee, the staff and board. The committee is responsible for determining which aspects of a men’s ministry will be deployed, recruiting the needed male volunteers and raising the initial required funds. The committee will also need to develop a plan for training these new volunteers.
The center’s mission statement may need to be amended to reflect this expansion of outreach, and the center’s website should also reflect this change. Here’s an example of a webpage describing PRC services for men: http://www.carenetdane.org/for-men/
Just the fact that a male is present in the center when a man enters, communicates a great deal. Men volunteers may feel more comfortable greeting men in the center, while others may choose to be mentors to younger male clients.
Central to the success of encompassing help for men is genuinely and fully including him in counseling with the woman if she so agrees. It means recognizing and respecting men’s legitimate rights and roles. He too will be experiencing insecurity and anxiety, which must be adequately addressed.
Drs. Coyle and Rue point out four areas of focus within a men’s ministry: crisis pregnancy, parenting, sexual health and post-abortion issues. When fleshed out, this may include parenting classes and education on sexually transmitted infections, as well as teaching refusal skills.
The authors also address the need to be aware of warning signs that indicate the need for a professional counselor. A list of these warning signs is included in the guidelines. They have also included a rich list of resources that will help you assist men with these four areas of focus. You can access the entire document at: http://tinyurl.com/BuildingMensMinistry. In addition, if you have questions, you can directly access Dr. Coyle via email:
Please remember that MAN has a website www.MenAndAbortion.net exclusively to assist fathers who have lost a child to abortion. This regularly-updated site includes a number of resources, research and monthly articles addressing the latest developments in this field. Additionally, a hurting father or those assisting him can request and receive a free counselor regardless of his location. This request can be made anonymously if needed.
The pro-life movement has grown to now be an effective source of helping both mothers and fathers facing an unexpected pregnancy or related issue. Let’s use it to profoundly impact the aftereffects of abortion.
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