At a conference recently, a question was posed, "Anne what about the fathers: do they suffer the same kind of abortion grief as mothers?" This set me on a journey of thought firstly about the meaning of "fatherhood".
Human fatherhood is a concept to be understood as an extension of self, yet it is different.
It is a total gifting away of a whole "self" (sperm) to be united to another different whole "self" (ovum) in order to form a completely new, different and separate "whole self". Fatherhood initiates the process of transmission of the "essence of maleness". Fatherhood is strictly maleness.
It is not only the transmission of genetic material but in essence it is the transmission of what it is to be male.
The terms "father" and "fatherhood" have an ascribed meaning attached to them and universally understood, which describe not only the essence but also the relationship in its unique design.
This relationship has ascribed to itself various meanings e.g., progenitor, provider, protector, but its essence is yet beyond these metaphors because the role also incorporates behaviour, emotions, leadership (both spiritual and secular) and presence.
Fatherhood ultimately means male love enfleshed.
The Father (God) who engenders his own Son (Jesus) does so in order to show humanity an enfleshed love.
He (God) introduced his Son Jesus as the One who was and remains an extended and visible likeness of Himself. The Father has engendered his own Son, watched over Him, and knew Him as only a father and son can know one another.
Indeed the child more than anyone else is nearest to the father's heart. The child awaits the father's breath to animate him, ransom him, rescue him, and ultimately to be given his heritage, that is, his identity as a son/daughter of the heavenly father imaged by the earthly father.
When we compare human fatherhood with divine fatherhood we can see that something has gone wrong.
Human fatherhood is so far removed from the ideal that at times it must appear like a caricature. However, human fatherhood while flawed is still the mandate inscribed on the male psyche.
If human fatherhood is now flawed it still remains the divinely conceived strategy to perpetuate the creative works of God. By his fatherhood the male co-operates and assents to his calling.
Fatherhood is at the core of God's plan for humanity.
Abortion frees and/or denies the man the gift and responsibility of fatherhood and dishonours the very essence of maleness whose design is to be attracted to and receptive towards the one whom he has engendered and who is an extension of himself.
The abortion of his child has meant that his fatherhood or his "essence" was unwanted by her, and/or rejected by him.
This rejection demeans the man whose very design is to be drawn to and protective towards the one whom he has engendered.
Studies into abortion grief experienced by males suggest that only some males are affected. However, even if it is some males who are afflicted with potentially destructive and malignant reactions, these males impact their responses on their environment.
This must then affect those with whom they come in contact and they in turn affect others, so that like the ripple effect, a larger segment of humanity is affected by that one act of violence. One king hit so to speak destroys two young men, two families and friendship circles.
It is important to understand why it is that some men do in fact suffer post abortion trauma/grief while others appear to sail through the experience untouched.
To understand the impact that abortion has had on society, the change in perception and expectations, together with changed mores, may help in some way to explain this new and emotionless "modern man".
This new man takes his spouse/partner to the abortion facility, pays for the abortion (occasionally) and leaves the premises for a time while she is left to undergo the procedure on her own.
This new type of male has had a massive transfusion of abandonment, blindness and loss of compassion. Only this could explain the ease with which a child is delivered to be destroyed.
Why has the male removed himself so far from reproductive responsibility that he no longer wants or needs to care for his offspring?
My thought is that the loosening of moral structures from the 1960s onwards has served to remove former understandings about what men and women intrinsically knew about morality and its effect.
The society which has emerged since is a composite, shapeless one, devoid of guidelines and absolutes. Old structures have gone but new concrete ones have not yet been formed and we are in the middle of a life war without an end result in view.
In its original design the essence of fatherhood presupposed a great honour and a unique relationship based on "sameness".
The father's likeness was reproduced in the offspring ("I and the Father are one", Jn 10:30-33) and the ongoing nurturing of the child and the relationship which developed, presupposed a permanent love bond between the father and the one he has generated, with the ultimate fulfilling of covenant responsibility to take care of and protect the one he has begotten.
For the father of an aborted child, personal suffering, frustration, helplessness and at times destructive behaviour are the results of guilt and regret.
A father's grief, like a mother's for their aborted infant has to be honoured and respected if we are to begin to see this war against each other come to an end. And a new and holy male is needed for our time, one who will cherish both the woman and the child.