The demonization and criminalization of abortion through Zimbabwe’s Pregnancy Act aides an illegal underground abortion operation which serves 70 000 young women yearly, as reported by Unicef.
The secrecy and the veil of shame attached to abortion alienates those who undergo the procedures. This systemic and institutionalized culture creates abortion as an individual problem, leaving victims to suffer alone. Some women and men have a sense of relief while others are emotionally and psychologically affected. Leading women and men to silently deal with regret to more serious complications such depression and suicide. However, very little has been reported about how men are indirectly affected.
In cases of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, most Zimbabwean men are becoming involved with the abortion procedure on a personal level. Whether it’s financing the procedures or experiencing trauma.
In countries where abortion is legal, the abortion decision is solely a woman’ decision. In a study by Arthur B. Shostak, a professor of sociology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, geared at recording men’s reactions to abortion. Shoshak’s research highlights that 56 percent of men “subsequently had dreams about the child they might have fathered. Eighty-one percent of his respondents favoured some kind of abortion counselling for men.”
Save One Europe, a christian organization which helps individuals to recover from abortion trauma states that;
“Through denial, some men block the natural process of grieving and dealing with the death of their unborn children. They may deny their responsibility for the abortion, and in so doing block the natural recovery process that must take place before healing can occur.”
The severity of the trauma dealt by men varies from feelings of guilt over neglecting their biological role as protectors of their girlfriends, wives and child to be. In situations where the man pressured or even coerced his partner into having the procedure, the feelings of guilt have been reported to be more severe. Post-abortion some men are reported to suffer from increased anxiety, difficulty expressing affection toward loved ones, including his girlfriend or wife. Some cases men have been reported to experience erectile dysfunction after their child was aborted.
Other symptoms experienced by men include grief. Consequently society has conditioned men not to cry, they suppress grief. Ultimately resorting to coping mechanisms which include remaining silent, alcohol abuse, addictive behaviour and engaging in solitary mourning or “secret” grief.
In a study of the unconscious mind by Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. Suppressing trauma is a defensive process where the mind forgets or places events, thoughts and memories we cannot acknowledge or bear elsewhere. Freud suggested that “if these memories weren’t recalled, it could result in physical or mental symptoms”. He argued symptoms of a “mental disorder can be a return of the repressed memories, or a symbolic way of communicating a traumatic event.”
Save one Europe states that the connection between the abortion and men’s pain is real.
“it is possible for men to be released from the harmful consequences of an abortion.”
Save one Europe ‘s argues that in order for men to deal with the shame, anger, ill-defined anxiety, and rage that manifests from the abortion experience. Men need counselling services that rebuild their confidence as a protector, provider, and preserver of the family. Contributing from a christian lens, Save one Europe states that men also need to rebuild their trust in God, woman, and others.
In mainstream conversations regarding legalizing abortion in Zimbabwe men continue to stagger behind the dust. Leaving pro and anti-abortion groups to battle over women’s health and reproductive rights. Zimbabwe’s anti-abortion laws also highlight a class struggle.
Most rich people can afford to access pre and post abortion wellness services. While majority of the country which is poor cannot. Giving rise to unsafe abortions which contribute to high mortality rates in Zimbabwe. And a continuation of culture where both women and men experience and suppress trauma silently. Therefore, legalizing abortion protects both men and women’s lives and health.