WAUWATOSA, Wis. — If you see abortion as a woman’s issue, you see it differently than Greg Hasek.
Hasek, 48, a Portland, Ore., area marriage/family therapist and professor of counseling at George Fox University, lectured and led a workshop during the 13th annual Healing Vision Conference Oct. 26-29 in suburban Milwaukee.
The conference drew academics, medical and mental health professionals, clergy and other post-abortion caregivers from the United States and abroad. The National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation organized the conference, which was sponsored by Our Sunday Visitor, the Knights of Columbus and Marquette University.
In an interview with the Catholic Herald, Milwaukee’s archdiocesan newspaper, Hasek, a self-described nondenominational evangelical Christian, noted that, based on a 2008 Guttmacher Institute report that indicates 35 percent of U.S. women had abortions by age 45, likely one-third of the men in the United States have lost a child to abortion.
“Our culture basically hasn’t allowed men to address that issue,” he said. “Our culture hasn’t communicated to men that it is OK to hurt from abortion.”
Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in 2005 show that by age 18, one in four of America’s females (as opposed to one in six of its males) have been sexually abused, said Hasek, who added that such incidents are probably underreported. As the women’s movement, with its choice rather than right-to-life emphasis, took hold about four decades ago, female victims of sexual abuse were being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Hasek said.
Men of the Vietnam era were more likely to receive a diagnosis of the stress disorder as combat veterans. America identified with the aggravation of abused women and male soldiers, but the victims of what has come to be called lost fatherhood weren’t really in the picture, he said.
According to Hasek, the “I have a right to my body” philosophy stems from society’s empathy for the suffering of abused females.
“The women’s rights movement is fueled by emotional pain,” he said. “Culture got stuck in a developmental stage of viewing women as victims and men as the abusers,” he explained, suggesting men don’t generate sympathy.
As products of American culture, the victims of lost fatherhood failed to generate much sympathy for their own predicament, he described.
“The very thing that culture complains about is the very thing that culture creates,” Hasek said.
Cultural icons such as television discourage emotional responses in men — and real-life males tend to follow suit. Unlike their faux media counterparts, however, real men do hurt — sometimes because, as Hasek put it, “men lost the legal right to choose whether their child was aborted.”
In counseling males entangled in pornography and sex addiction, Hasek realized that “oftentimes there was an abortion in the man’s history.” He organized the original Men’s Summit post-abortion conference in Kansas City, Mo., six years ago — having sensed, he says today, “a call from God” — then helped develop the national Men and Abortion Network.
“I represent what culture doesn’t represent,” he said. “What we’re doing is (creating) awareness that men do hurt and (providing) programs of healing.”
While just a few years ago, according to Hasek, three-fourths of the nation’s post-abortion recovery programs did not involve men, “now males are (largely) integrated into the verbiage and into the programming.”
At the Misty Mountain Family Counseling Center, a Christian nonprofit, Hasek and his colleagues counsel couples, not only men, and some of the programming is aimed at “healing between the sexes.”
As Hasek reasoned, “Abortion is not the problem in our country. The problem is the unspoken and unresolved trauma between the sexes. If we as a nation don’t start talking about that, don’t start to address the elephant in the living room of our country, the very trauma that allowed abortion in the first place is the very trauma that will continue to perpetuate it.”
How should one respond to a male friend or relative who confides his possible long-ago involvement in an abortion and subsequent suffering?
“Don’t minimize that (man’s) pain,” Hasek advised, adding it’s important to remember that the man — just as a woman who’s experienced an abortion — deserves to be heard. Be understanding, empathetic, he said, suggesting that friends or relatives stress forgiveness, of self and of others who were involved.
“Forgiveness,” Hasek pointed out, “usually comes after empathy.”