Childless Fathers

Childless fathers are growing at a rapid rate in today's society. The woman's right to terminate a pregnancy not only affects the woman, but her partnerChildlessFathers as well. The subject of abortion rarely includes a consideration of the rights or feelings of the man who brought a baby into existence. This review of literature will examine some journal articles, books, and websites dealing with the effects of pre-abortion issues. These issues include a male's reproductive health, his views on contraception, the scope of the abortion issue, and the influence that male partners have in the outcome of a pregnancy. Post-abortion issues, including the effects of abortion on men and post-abortion resolutions, will also be addressed.

Pre-Abortion Issues

A study conducted by Arik Marcell, Tina Raine, and Stephen Eyre examines the question: "Where does reproductive health fit into the lives of adolescent males?"This study was motivated by the lack of focus many health services provide in regard to males.Traditionally, the focus has always been on females' reproductive health in relation to childbearing and other issues of sexuality. The study consisted of adolescent males recruited from two San Francisco high schools who participated on a first come first serve basis.

A total of 32 males participated in six focus group sessions. Half of the students were African-American, 25 percent were Hispanic, 6 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander, 3 percent were white and 16 percent were of mixed race. All participants provided parental consent as well as their own verbal and written consent, and all were provided a fifteen-dollar stipend. A series of group interviews, free-listings, and focus groups were methods used to collect data. Five health classes from two participating high schools were administered a series of short group interviews in order to identify research domains, topics, and terminology for use in the focus group discussions. After these group interviews, the researchers identified three main research domains including masculinity, life priorities, and life responsibilities. Six open-ended questions were developed for each domain. The participants responded to each of the questions after the focus group discussion. The responses were then categorized and analyzed by a method known as emphasis of response.

The results indicated that the adolescent males in the study emphasized importance of education as the highest priority in their lives at that time. The health issue that concerned the majority of them the most was cancer, followed by sexually transmitted infections and then HIV and AIDS. The group discussions and responses to questions on male responsibility focused on many issues, but especially on sex. The majority of the participants agreed with the idea that a male can improve his manhood by engaging in sex, having a girlfriend, and getting involved in fights. According to the section of the data about relationships, the majority of young men believed that the role of the male in a relationship with a female was to be loyal and committed, and to have sexual relations with her.

Concerning the topic of pregnancy, the group's answer varied. Some of the participants viewed pregnancy prevention as an important issue. Others said that they did not specifically think about the subject.The final section of the data was about healthcare-seeking behavior. The participants stated that what they feared most about seeking medical attention involved receiving bad news of a sexually transmitted infection or HIV diagnosis.The data collected from this study supported the idea that more services should be offered to adolescent males concerning reproductive health issues.

The previous review discussed male adolescents' views of the fears involved with acquiring a sexually transmitted infection or HIV. Another study conducted by six researchers investigated adolescent clinic visits for contraception and to what extent mothers, male partners, and friends support the adolescent in contraception decisions.Data from a 1994-1995 prospective cohort study of 399 sexually active teenagers using the implant, the pill, or a condom as their primary method of contraception was used to help these researchers determine how contraceptive decisions are made among low-income teenagers at high risk of pregnancy, and to see the extent that their mothers, male partners, and friends were involved in their clinic visits for contraception.This study also examined whether or not the support received was associated with the selection of a more effective method of contraception.

The study included women from five clinicsites in the San Francisco area, aged from 13 to 19 years. The women had to initiate the use of the implant, receive a prescription for the pill, or plan to use condoms as their primary method of contraception to be eligible to participate in the study. A one-year follow-up interview was conducted at the original clinic site or by phone. The participants were assessed using a baseline questionnaire. Social and demographic characteristics as well as sexual and behavioral risk factors for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases were considered. Descriptive, chi-square, and logistic regression analysis was then used to assess the information from the questionnaire.

"Increase male involvement in family planning efforts."

The demographics of the results showed that 41 percent of the participants reported having had more than one sexual partner in the past year, 22 percent had a sexually transmitted disease, and more than three-fourths had used alcohol or drugs in the past year. The social support for the adolescents' visits to the clinic showed that 77 percent of male partners knew about the visit, and 92 percent of male partners were supportive of it.Twenty-two percent of the participants stated that a male partner had the greatest influence on their choice of contraception. The study found that the majority of male partners who are informed about their partner's contraception efforts are very supportive; thus, the study urges the clinics and programs to increase male involvement in family planning efforts.

Cicely Marston and John Cleland conducted a study to show the relationship between contraception and abortion. Marston and Cleland used parts of a study by Bongaarts and Westoff that concluded, "Abortion rates are related to the prevalence and effectiveness of contraceptive use, and the probability of aborting unintended pregnancies." They also used a variety of data from many different sources and countries to achieve their conclusions.

Using data from seven countries, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,Bulgaria, Kyrgyz Republic, Tunisia, Switzerland and Turkey, the conclusion was that the number of induced abortions declined as the prevalence of modern contraceptive use rose in these countries. However, in Cuba, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United States, there was a rise in abortions with the increased prevalence of contraceptive use. Marston and Cleland concluded that a simultaneous increase in induced abortion and contraceptive use occurs when fertility levels in a population are changing.They related that when fertility levels are consistent, there may be an increase in abortion and a decline in contraceptive use, or vice versa.

The study by Marston and Cleland examined the increases and declines of abortion in the international community, but Lawrence Finer and Stanley Henshaw examined the extent of induced abortions in the United States. Theirstudy was conducted using data collected from three versions of a questionnaire modeled after the Alan Guttmacher Institute national survey of 1997, which was administered to clinics, physicians, and hospitals. The questions pertained to the number of induced abortions performed at the provider's location in 1999 and 2000, the minimum and maximum gestations at which both surgical and medical abortions were performed, and the number of inpatient and outpatient procedures performed.

This survey was sent to 2,442 facilities nationwide (excluding Puerto Rico and U.S. territories). A total of 1,624 responded, and health department data were used for another 4. The survey found that abortions reported from 1996 to 2000 declined from 1.36 million to 1.31 million. Finer and Henshaw suggested that the decline may be due to an estimated 51,000 pregnancies being terminated by emergency contraception in 2000, as well as legal restrictions pertaining to abortions in some states, increased use of contraception methods, and a decrease in medical providers administering induced abortions. The study also found that 24.5 abortions per 100 pregnancies were performed in the year 2000.

California, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois accounted for 55 percent of all abortions in 2000. In 2000, a reported 1,274 abortions performed were by dilation and extraction; the rest of the abortions were early medical abortions. The researchers suggested that increasing information about effective contraception options to women and their partners could continue to decrease the number of unintended pregnancies in the United States.


Male Partner's Influence on the Outcome of a Pregnancy

Do men and women differ on the statement, "Abortion is strictly a women's issue"?This is one of the questions that Eileen Nelson and Priscilla Coleman set out to answer in a study they conducted in 1997. They predicted that women would endorse lower levels of men's involvement in abortion decisions than men would and that women would agree that abortion was strictly a women's issue. They administered a survey consisting of 11 items concerning a man's level of involvement in the abortion decision to 366 undergraduate college students from a midsize southern university. Of the participants, 98 were men, and 266 were women. The majority of students ranged from ages 18 to 23. Most of the students had some religious preference (83.1%) including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and other.

The results showed that men endorsed a higher level of involvement in abortion decisions than women. The male students that completed the survey agreed more strongly than the women with the statement, "Abortion is a decision in which the male partner has a right to assume an active role." This finding supported Nelson and Coleman's first hypothesis. Their second hypothesis was not supported by the research they conducted. It showed only 33.1 percent of women and 28.6 percent of men disagreed with the statement, "Abortion is strictly a women's issue."

Another study conducted by Dr. Marcelle Holmes asks the same research question that Nelson and Coleman's study addressed on whether or not abortion is simply a "woman's issue." Issues that arose while Dr. Holmes was counseling a post-abortion male client initiated this research project. She addresses two issues in this study. The first was the kind of psychological reactions that clinicians might expect to encounter in preabortion or postabortion men, and the second was how a counselor might address some of a postabortion male client's dynamic issues in a context of psychotherapy.

Holmes conducted her study by using information from various sources, including the research of Nelson and Coleman [which has been] previously presented. She also incorporated information from the Ryan and Plutzer study, "When married women have abortions: Spousal notification and marital interaction."They found that 83 percent of married women did not inform their husbands before terminating a pregnancy.This statistic found that single and married women did not vary statistically in their decisions to not inform their partner before an abortion.

Holmes incorporated this information and used a case study of a 25-year-old international student to address her two questions. Holmes' case study found that the kind of psychological reactions that clinicians might expect to encounter in pre-abortion or post-abortion men include reliving traumatic childhood experiences and struggles with hopes and fears for families of their own. She also reported that counselors might address some of a post-abortion male client's dynamic issues by having a client become aware of his verbal and nonverbal behavior and exploration of feelings, such as guilt and fear.

"They believe that excluding men in the life of a fetus is an issue of sex discrimination."

The National Coalition of Free Men (NCFM) does not agree that abortion is simply a "woman's issue." This group is a non-profit educational organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that helps men obtain resources and aid in areas such as divorce, child custody, father's rights, and many other issues pertaining to men's lives and experiences. They offer many resources for men who experience post-abortion issues. The NCFM has a "Declaration of the Father's Fundamental Pre-Natal Rights" posted on their website, adopted by the board in 1992, which states that the man has the right to be informed about a pregnancy resulting from the union of his partner and him, the right to be included in the woman's decision to continue or terminate a pregnancy, and the right to be notified by health care providers of any relevant information. They believe that excluding men in the life of a fetus is an issue of sex discrimination.

Ann Evans conducted a study among Australian teenagers to determine if mothers, male partners, and friends influence a young woman to terminate a pregnancy. She used information from the1998 Young Women's Pregnancy Survey (YWPS), which was administered to 1,324 adolescent women in New South Wales, the most populous state in Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory, Canberra. The participants were divided into two groups, those who chose to mother a child and those who proceeded with an induced abortion. Among the motherhood group, 15 percent of their male partners influenced them in that decision, whereas 34 percent of male partners in the abortion group influenced their partner to terminate her pregnancy.

The majority of teenagers in both groups reported that they made the decision to mother or terminate the pregnancy on their own.Evans' study concluded by stating, "Direct influence from partners, either toward abortion or motherhood, was significantly associated with teenagers' pregnancy resolution decisions."Teenagers who reported that their partners influenced them toward abortion had significantly increased the odds of choosing abortion, and those whose partners influenced them toward motherhood had significantly reduced the odds of choosing abortion.

Madeline Zavodny conducted a study from data collected in the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) to examine the effects of male partners' responses to pregnancy and its resolution. The NSFG was an individual-level survey of 10,847 American women aged 15-44. The survey contained detailed questions for each participant to complete on her pregnancy history. The participants were paid twenty dollars for completing the survey.The questionnaire also included extensive questions about the women's sexual partners. Zavodny limited the research of the NSFG to unmarried women between the ages of 15 and 19.

While conducting her study, Zavodny found that there was a large discrepancy in the accurate reporting of abortions. She found that underreporting of abortions was most common among women aged 25-29, never married at the time of the abortion, Catholics, African Americans, and women with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level. Zavodny corrected the under reporting of the data she collected by comparing the number of abortions reported in the NCFG to women aged 15-19 during 1982-1994 with other counts of abortions among teenagers during that time to obtain accurate results.

From the data collected, Zavodny found that a teenage pregnancy will most likely be terminated if the male partner is younger, and the likelihood of a pregnancy being terminated decreases as the partner becomes older. The woman's age at the time of conception had no significance on the pregnancy resulting in abortion or not. This study also showed that unmarried Black teenage women are more likely to have an abortion than Caucasians. Hispanic teenagers are less likely to have an abortion but are more likely to have a nonmarital birth as compared to Caucasians. The research also stated that a man's religious affiliation and education are influential factors on the outcome of a pregnancy. It is more common for a woman to terminate a pregnancy if the male partner has no religious background and more education.

Post-Abortion Issues

In South Africa,November 1996, legislation passed that allowed women as young as 12 years of age to decide to terminate a pregnancy without the consent of parents or male partner before twelve weeks gestation has occurred. The lack of research that exists on the effects that abortion has on these girls prompted Poggenpoel and Myburgh to conduct this study. The first issue is the exploration and description of [an] adolescent girl's experience of having an abortion and her partner's response to it.The second issue is the description of the developmental implications of abortion for educational psychologists to empower adolescents.

This study was conducted by using phenomenological interviews, written personal stories, observations and field notes.Information was gathered from adolescent girls who had an abortion, her parents if they had been informed, and the male partner who was informed before or after the abortion took place. The data that was collected from the interviews were analyzed using Tesch's method of descriptive analysis.

Poggenpoel and Myburgh's research found that the participants experienced different dimensions of pain, including physical, psychological, spiritual, and social pain. They experienced different consequences from the abortion experience, including varying perceptions about abortion, psychological defense mechanisms,and psychological aims. The data reported that male partners not involved in the abortion decision experienced feelings of guilt and helplessness.There was also a reported feeling of social pain among male partners after the abortion due to not being acknowledged as the father and exclusion from the decision to terminate the pregnancy.One of the male participants interviewed stated, "We could have gone through that together, decided together."The research concluded through observation that most male partners experience loss over the relationship with the girl who had the abortion, lack confidence to face challenges in the future, and doubt their ability to form lasting relationships with women in the future.

The research of Poggenpoel and Myburgh confirmed Guy Condon and David Hazard's claim that abortion can have devastating effects on men. In their book, "Fatherhood Aborted," they examine the effects of abortion on men and ways that men can receive healing after an abortion. Their book is written from a Christian perspective.

"They can accept His love and grace in their lives"

They mention that relationship struggles, rage, addictions, sexual compulsions, inability to trust friends, loneliness, depression, sexual dysfunctions, sleeplessness, and nightmares are some of the symptoms that post-abortion men may face (28). They encourage men that God sees them as initiators, protectors, having authority, compassionate with weaknesses and failures, loving and lovable, teachable, and teachers of others (78).When post-abortion men see themselves as God sees them, they can accept His love and grace in their lives. Guystated, "The healing of our masculine soul will only come when we learn to reconnect with God" (69).

The Elliot Institute is an online resource founded by David C. Reardon. It is designed especially for post-abortion resources and treatment. Dr. Reardon is a psychologist who has specialized in the after effect of abortion since 1983. He believes, as do the researchers previously mentioned, that men are affected negatively from a partner terminating a pregnancy. His website has many resources for post-abortion men and women who suffer from difficult emotional, physical, social, and spiritual issues.

Forgiveness intervention has been used with many diverse groups of people, but Coyle and Enright wanted to apply these strategies to men who whose wives had experienced an abortion. Ten men identified themselves as hurt by the abortion decision of a partner who participated in this study. The participants ranged in age from 21 to 43 years. The time span between the actual abortion and this study ranged from six months to 22 years. Seven of the participants had experienced one abortion, and three had experienced two abortions. There was no control group used for this study.

The first test administered to the participants was the Enright Forgiveness Inventory (EFI). This test consists of 60 questions dealing with interpersonal forgiveness. The State Anger Scale, a 10-item self-report scale, the State Anxiety Scale, a 20-item self-report scale, and a short version of the Perinatal Grief Scale, a 33-item symptom-based self-report scale, were administered to each participant as well. The men were administered these sets of three pretests before the intervention procedure occurred. The intervention program addressed issues of helplessness, guilt, grief, anger, and relationship problems in individuals, and forgiveness was offered as the alternative to heal each of these issues.

The results showed that a significant reduction in anger, grief, and anxiety was accomplished when the individual obtained forgiveness in these areas.Coyle and Enright state that men who have had a partner terminate a pregnancy, with or without their knowledge, have been excluded from scientific literature. This is an area where men need to receive healing through forgiveness intervention.

Dr. Coyle also wrote a book entitled "Men and Abortion" that incorporated the research from the study on forgiveness intervention as well as many other studies and research. The book was written to help men work through their feelings of possible helplessness, anger, grief, guilt, anxiety, and relationship problems through a Christian point of view (31). She strongly encourages men to look at all aspects of themselves, including their spirituality. The postabortion men that she interviewed were more likely to forgive themselves of the abortion when they knew that God forgave them (107). Dr. Coyle stated,"If the post-abortion man can receive God's forgiveness and also forgive himself, he can experience psychological healing and perhaps foster the healing of others as well" (113).


This review of literature has shown that childless fathers are growing at a rapid rate in today's society. The woman's right to terminate a pregnancy not only affects the woman, but also her partner. More research is needed in the subject of how abortion affects the rights and feelings of the man who brought a baby into existence. This review of literature has examined resources dealing with the effects of pre-abortion issues including a male's reproductive health, contraception views, the scope of the abortion issue, and the influence that male partners have in the outcome of a pregnancy as well as post-abortion issues including the effects of abortion on men and post-abortion resolutions. Abortion does have negative consequences on men, and more research and action needs to be taken on this issue.

Christina Hunt. 2005.


     Condon, Guy and Hazard David. (2001).Fatherhood Aborted. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House.

     Coyle, Catherine T. (1999).Men and abortion: A path to healing. Lewiston, NY: Life Cycle Books.

     Coyle, Catherine T. and Enright, Robert D. (1997). Forgiveness intervention with postabortion men. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65 (6), 1042-1046.Retrieved September 22, 2004, from EBSCOhost database.

     The Elliot Institute http://www.afterabortion.

     Evans, Ann. (2001).The influence of significant others on Australian teenagers' decisions about pregnancy resolution. Family Planning Perspectives, 33 (5), 224-230. Retrieved September 24, 2004 from

     Finer, Lawrence B. and Henshaw, Stanley K. (2003). Abortion incidence and services in the United States in 2000. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 35 (1), 6-15. Retrieved September 24, 2004 from

     Holmes, Marcelle Christian. (2004).Reconsidering a "women's issue": psychotherapy and one man's postabortion experiences. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 58 (1), 103-116.Retrieved September 13, 2004, from EBSCOhost database.

     Marcell, Arik K, Eyre, Stephen L., and Raine, Tina. (2003). Where does reproductive health fit into the lives of adolescent males? Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 35 (4), 1-11. Retrieved September 24, 2004 from

     Marston, Cicely and Cleland, John. (2003). Relationships between contraception and abortion: a review of the evidence. International Family Planning Perspectives, 29 (1), 6-13.Retrieved October 2, 2004 from

     National Coalition of Free Men

     Nelson, Eileen S. and Coleman, Priscilla K. (1997). Attitudes toward the level of men's involvement in abortion decisions. Journal of Humanistic Education and Development, 35, 218-226. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from the EBSCOhost database.

     Poggenpoel, M. and Myburgh, C.P.H. (2002). The developmental implications of a termination of pregnancy on adolescents with reference to the girl and her partner.Education, 122 (4), 731-742.Retrieved September 13, 2004, from the EBSCOhost database.

     Zavodny, Madeline. (2001).The effect of partners' characteristics on teenage pregnancy and its resolution. Family Planning Perspectives, 33 (5),192-199 & 205. Retrieved September 24, 2004 from