Death and Choice: Men and Women Healing After an Abortion

Death and Choice: Men and Women Healing After an Abortion January 26, 2011

(Updated with link to a Pagan perspective on abortion at Patheos. 10:20 AM Central)

Last week was the 38th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. This historic case was decided by the US Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. It gave women in the US the right to consult with their doctors and make informed decisions concerning abortion. Abortion, however, isn’t simply a legal issue. It is a process that needs to be approached (by men and women) with full knowledge of the medical procedure and health ramifications both spiritual, mental, and physical.

The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over by Starhawk, M. Macha Nightmare and The Reclaiming Collective. (1997, Harper San Francisco) has a chapter on abortion.

    “Abortion is, as we all know, one of the most painful and controversial spiritual issues of our day. The Goddess religion has no hard-and-fast ruling on when a clump of fetus cells becomes a being.”

There aren’t any decrees or dogmas concerning this issue in Paganism in general. The Pagan world view is that life isn’t in black and white, good or bad.

    “In fact, I (Starhawk) was taught that the moment varies greatly with individual pregnancies. Some women have a sense of new life even before conception. Others may not feel that the fetus in the womb has taken on a soul until the time of the quickening. This is one of the mysteries. It is in our encounter with the mysteries of birth and death, growth and suffering, pleasure and sorrow, that we meet the Goddess.”

The book also offers rituals and prayers (for the woman and child’s spirit). I was unable to find a specific ritual for men on-line. However, I found a Jewish community healing ritual for partners who’ve terminated a pregnancy. It focuses on purification with water, releasing, and spiritual nourishment from the community. It could be used as inspiration for writing such a ritual for the Pagan community.

The website has many resources and articles for men concerned about making pregnancy decisions with their partner or friend. It offers advice for such questions and issues as “I feel so guilty.” “I feel bad because I am not a good provider.” “Will we break up?” “What do I do if she keeps blaming me?” “I wanted this baby.”

“No, I am NOT a “Rock.” On Abortion and Waiting Room Men”

    “Were I asked to name the single pop tune that had the most to teach us, I would name “I am a Rock,” even though it requires a keen grasp of irony. On the face of it the Simon and Garfunkle tune offers a pernicious stereotype, a caricature of sealed off, bottled up males. Allowing for how this fits far too many Conon-like dunderheads, I contend it does not fit most American men- and the more we can do to move “many” to “most,” the better.

    If you want in-your-face evidence that a good many guys are not “rocks,” spend a little time with over 500,000 males annually found in the waiting rooms of the nation’s nearly 400 abortion clinics (about half of all abortion-seeking women generally have a man sitting by in the clinic or doctor’s waiting room). And if you want to help move “many” out and into the ranks of most (feeling) men, please join me in an on-going effort to reinvent the clinic experience of the waiting room men.”

    “Feminists could model a deep-reaching improvement by encouraging guys to seek counseling immediately on learning of their part in creating an unwanted and ill-timed pregnancy… rather than seal their lips, as is common today. Men need an opportunity to explore what might be hard for them. To get over a loss of control. To discuss religious and spiritual thoughts. To deal with a feeling of helplessness, and to define a role that helps normalize the experience. Few can deal well by themselves with the enormity of the situation, though many have learned since childhood how to bit their lip, and focus outside themselves on bravely “doing the right thing.”” by Arthur B. Shostak, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Department of Culture and Communication, Drexel University, Phila., PA,

“What Should I Expect After and Abortion” by the National Abortion Federation offers some advice for women.

“These resources and activities may help you work through any concerns you might be having after an abortion. However, if this information does not fit your personal needs we recommend that you seek the help of a trained, unbiased counselor who can help you work through your own feelings.”

Get a Post-Abortion Checkup
Talk to Someone You Trust
Write Down Your Issues
Envision Your Future
Stay Mentally Positive

“Most women believe that they made the best decision they could at the time given their resources, their obligations, and their values. Some find it helpful to repeat that positive statement to themselves at times when they feel sad or doubtful or worried. Some people have other kinds of mantras, or poetic lines, or statements, as simple as “Peace,” that they find give them comfort and reduce anxiety when recited.”

Stay Mentally Active
Heal Spiritually

“Some women find that performing a ritual or some kind of “letting-go” ceremony helps them to complete the resolution of their feelings. This might involve:

* lighting a candle and meditating;
* writing down words or symbols of the loss involved and then burying or burning the paper; or
* offering a prayer to God, Nature, the Divine Truth, or Inner Spirit, as is appropriate for the woman herself.

For some, a ceremony or ritual can transform the loss so that peace and healing may ensue.”


Patheos article “Not the End” by Cory Ellen Gatrall

Roe v. Wade

Reclaiming: a Community of People, a Tradition of Witchcraft

NAF National Abortion Federation

Planned Parenthood Planned Parenthood is America’s largest provider of reproductive health care.

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