By Phil McCombs, Washington Post Staff Writer
This year's March for Life in which 45,000 abortion opponents
picketed the Supreme Court, didn't have the emotional impact on me that these
events often do. I was on my way out of town on business, and scarcely noticed.
Looking at reports later it seemed that everyone had been on his or her best
behavior. The abortion opponents were making it plain that they oppose the use
of violence to close clinics. And counter-demonstrations by abortion rights
advocates as we're careful to call them were rare.
I like prayer. It's all I have left. And pain.
When the abortion was performed I was out of town on business, too. I made
sure of that. Whatever physical, emotional and spiritual agony the woman
suffered, I was not by her side to support her. I turned my face away. My
behavior was in all respects craven, immoral.
For some instinctual reason, or just imaginatively, I've come to believe that
it was a boy, a son whom I wanted killed because, at the time his existence
would have inconvenienced me. I'd had my fun. He didn't fit into my plans.
His name, which is carved on my heart, was Thomas.
My feelings of responsibility and guilt are undiminished by the fact that the
woman had full legal authority to make the decision on her own, either way,
without consulting me or even informing me. In fact, she consulted in an open
fashion, reflecting our shared responsibility and I could have made a strong
case for having the child. Instead, I urged her along the path of death.
And skipped town.
It's not a lot of help, either-emotionally or spiritually-that the high
priests of the American judiciary have put their A-OK on this particular form of
what I personally have come to regard as the slaughter of innocents. After all,
it's the task of government to decide whom we may or must kill, and not
necessarily to provide therapeutic services afterward. In the Army I remember
being trained at public expense in the "spirit of the bayonet," which is, simply
put, "to kill." The spirit of abortion is the same in my view, though the enemy
isn't shooting back.
I feel like a murderer, which isn't to say that I blame
anyone else, or think anyone else is a murderer.
It's just the way I feel and all the rationalizations in the
world haven't changed this. I still grieve for little Thomas. It is an ocean of
grief. From somewhere in the distant past I remember the phrase from
Shakespeare, the multitudinous seas, "incarnadine."
When I go up to the river on vacation this summer, he won't
be going boating with me on the lovely old wooden runabout that I can't really
afford to put in the water but can't bring myself to discard, either.
He won't be lying on the grass by the tent at night looking
at the starry sky and saying, "What's that one called, Dad?"
Because there was no room on the Earth for Thomas.
The latest numbers show abortions in America have been
running at about 1.5 million annually. That's a lot of pain.
Secular men's groups have tended to be focused on the "no
say, no pay" issue.
"These men feel raped," says Mel Feit of the National Center for Men. "They
lose everything they worked for all their lives. In many cases they had an
agreement with the woman not to have a baby and when she changes her mind they
call me up and say, "How can she do this to me? How can she get away with it?"
Feit plans to bring suit in federal court.
I'm more interested in the traumatic pain that many men, as well as women
often feel after an abortion. A healing process of recognition, grieving and
ultimately forgiveness is needed.
"There's a lot of ambivalence for men when they get in touch
with their pain," says Eileen C. Marx, formerly communications director for
Cardinal James A. Hickey of Washington and now a columnist for Catholic
publications. "They didn't have the physical pregnancy, so often they feel
they're not entitled to the feelings of sadness and anger and guilt and loss
that women often feel."
She tells of one man, a friend, whose wife had an abortion. "He pleaded with
her not to have it. He said his parents would raise the child, or they could put
it up for adoption. The marriage broke up as a result of the abortion and other
issues. He was really devastated by the experience."
Marx has recently written about a post-abortion healing ministry called
Project Rachel in which more men are becoming involved-husbands, boyfriends and
even grandfathers. There are 100 Project Rachel branches, including one in
I found it helpful just talking with Marx, a caring person, on the phone: though
it was a little tough when she mentioned being pregnant and hearing the
heartbeat and feeling "this wonderful celebration of the life inside you."
She said not to be too hard on myself, that healing is about forgiveness and God
I said sure, that's right but some things are still hard.
Like looking in the mirror.