Father haunted by abortions
By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
We are the stuffed men …
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless …
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.”
T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men (1925)
What should have been the happiest day in Chris Aubert’s life incited a spiral of guilt, shame and anguish. His past crashed forward while gazing into the ultrasound screen at his yet-to-be-born daughter, Christine.
“I want to meet the person who wants to debate with me that this is a not a baby,” he suddenly announced to the ultrasound technician. Unexpectedly convicted, Aubert began to remember. Like a punch to the stomach, he remembered his two aborted babies. Aubert lived a secular life while attending Tulane Law School. After graduation in 1984, he began work at a large law firm in New Orleans, living a carefree social life, partying and engaging in random sex.
“In 1985, I got a girl pregnant,” he said. “She wasn’t a serious girlfriend and we weren’t planning on getting married so when she said she was going to have an abortion, I was happy to oblige. After all, the Supreme Court said it was legal, so I never really thought about it. She went and got it and really, it was a non-issue for me. It was like, ‘Do I want lasagna or hamburger for dinner?’ That was how much it didn’t matter to me.” By 1991, Aubert had a steady girlfriend but because he was so consumed in the secular life and in getting ahead, her pregnancy ended the same as the first, in abortion. Unlike the first time, he accompanied her to the clinic, paid the bill and took her to lunch afterwards.
“We didn’t talk much about anything after that,” he said. “It was strange and silent and we broke up soon after that. The second time I went, there were some protesters there, but I just assumed they were Jesus Freaks and didn’t think much of their presence. Now that I look back, I wish they were more boisterous or something.”
After Christine’s birth, Aubert felt conflicted between the indescribable joy of holding his newborn baby and the fact that he paid to have his first two children dismembered and tossed into the trash.
A year after the ultrasound, Aubert converted from Judaism to Catholicism. Unable to shake his guilt, Aubert shook his wife awake at 3 o’clock one morning and told her he had something important to tell her.
“She didn’t know what to think at first; she thought I was going to confess an affair or something,” he said. “But I told her that I had these two abortions and didn’t know it was wrong. She was great about everything.”
A self described “on fire” Catholic, Aubert, married to Rhonda for 15 years, the father of six children, including one who died, has dedicated his life to spreading the truth about abortion and its effects on men.
“I have my own Web site, give talks, write articles, talk on the radio – whatever I can do to help save babies,” he said. “I always wonder why no one told me that this was wrong; it is an American holocaust. Here I am 51, a lawyer and yet I was ignorant, and ignorant of the fact that I was ignorant.”
Aubert’s grief and shame are not at all unusual, according to Vicki Thorn, head of Milwaukee-based National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation, and Project Rachel. At a recent Chicago conference, “Reclaiming Fatherhood,” Thorn addressed the invisible issue in society and within the Catholic Church – that abortion has a profound effect on fathers whose children are aborted.
Experts, including several therapists, covered topics including men’s healing processes after abortion; abortion’s effects on men’s spirituality and mental health; fatherhood and abortion; and why men who have been involved in abortion come for help. More than 150 people attended from 27 states and four countries.
“If you raise the issue of men and abortion, people seem to be surprised,” she said. “Since I have started Project Rachel in 1984, I have talked to fathers.”
After numerous calls from men seeking help, Thorn coordinated efforts with the Knights of Columbus to offer conferences addressing men’s needs.
“They get it; they understand the need for people to heal,” she said, also noting the mandate from the Holy Father to comfort those wounded by abortion. “We have ignored the men. Take a look at the L.A. Times, a recent article entitled, ‘Changing Abortion’s Pronoun’ and The Nation’s article, ‘The Mourning After,’ a very liberal magazine, but even they recognize the need for this.”
According to a Web-based study by Vincent M. Rue, co-director of the Institute for Pregnancy Loss, Jacksonville, Fla., of 135 men who experienced an abortion, 48 percent of them stated that they opposed their partner’s abortion and 69 percent reported moderate to very high stress following the abortion.
“For women and men, abortion can result in significant symptoms of grief, guilt, shame and trauma,” he wrote in an article titled, “The Hollow Men: Male Grief and Trauma Following Abortion” distributed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as part of their 2008 Fall respect life observance. The article is available at http://www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/rue.pdf.
“Grief involves the many ways people cope with death on both the emotional and cognitive levels. Guilt is the uncomfortable awareness of wrongdoing, usually based on conscience. Shame expands on guilt from wrongdoing and concludes that ‘I am bad,’ resulting in feelings of self-hatred, worthlessness, and avoidance of others. Trauma is the core of psychological injury, usually a result of witnessing or experiencing death, over which a person feels intense fear, helplessness, and horror. For men in particular, suppressing feelings from abortion can both hinder recovery and reconciliation, and decrease their sense of well-being.”
Thorn said conferences like “Reclaiming Fatherhood” could help men deal with their post-abortion reality the way Project Rachel has helped women who have undergone abortions deal with their emotional and spiritual scars.
With an estimated 40 million abortions in the United States, Thorn states that 40 million men have also been affected.
“We have no idea how many people are wounded,” she said. “And sometimes the effects are latent for 15 years and suddenly pop up at the birth of his first child, or sometimes, it is something that bubbles up randomly.”
For Aubert, it is testament to what he and countless others continue to suffer. “I am living proof that I am not the only one on the planet who worries about this,” he said. “I find that men who thought this through overwhelmingly have bad feelings. I gave a talk in my hometown of Houston and this old guy about 75-ish came up to me afterward. He was weeping. All he could say was thank you. Here he was 75 and at some point in his life, probably 30 years earlier he was part of an abortion and has been dealing with this ever since and couldn’t talk about it.”
For more informationor to receive help if you or someone you know has been affected by an abortion, contact:
The National Office of Post Abortion Reconciliation and Healing
Or the “Truth Matters” Web site, by Chris Aubert