Jean-Paul Noel Cephise was thrilled when his girlfriend announced that she was pregnant. He was young at the time and his pregnancy wasn’t planned, but he knew he wanted to become a father and was confident that they would be great parents.
He had a great job and was financially secure with his home. They were also in love.
‘I’d had a happy childhood and couldn’t wait to recreate it with my own child,’ says Jean-Paul. ‘I know some young men would’ve been horrified at the prospect of having a baby but I really wasn’t — quite the opposite.’ Sadly, though, his partner wasn’t on the same page.
‘At first I thought she was worried I didn’t want a baby,’ says Jean-Paul, now a college lecturer. ‘So I went into overdrive, reassuring her how much I loved her.’
Jean-Paul Noel Cephise (pictured), 51 years old, from Croydon in south London is trying to raise awareness about the fact that many men struggle with abortion.
Jean-Paul lost his will to convince her after trying for weeks. She had an abortion. It is still a difficult subject for him to grapple with years later.
‘Ultimately, I had to respect that her decision was final,’ he says. ‘Even though it happened a long time ago, I’ve lived with the guilt and grief ever since.’
Despite the fact that as many as one in three women will terminate a pregnancy, it’s still very much taboo, with few daring to speak out — as illustrated in a recent Femail article where a mother and daughter revealed their differing attitudes to their own abortions.
And it’s even less likely men will dare to open up about their experience of abortion, which is largely considered a women’s issue. It’s often assumed men are either absent or relieved for the pregnancy to be over.
Jean-Paul, who is now 51 years old, wants to make it clear that both men and women can experience the same struggle. While, rightly, the 1967 Abortion Act states that the decision to terminate a pregnancy rests with the woman, this can mean that there’s a tendency to airbrush men — and their emotions — from the picture.
Jean-Paul says: ‘Even though it’s something that has never left me, it’s only now I feel I can talk about it. And I’m doing so because I’m sure other men will have internalised these feelings too.
‘What I needed was someone to open up to about it — but there wasn’t any professional help.’
Little data exists on the impact of abortion on men but according to a 2015 report in The European Journal of Counselling Psychology, qualitative studies consistently find that men who aren’t in agreement with an abortion suffer in the aftermath. In one 2007 study, 69 per cent of men reported moderate to very high stress following their partner’s abortion.
Jean-Paul (pictured), who had just been together for four months with his girlfriend when she fell pregnant, tried his best at reassuring her that they were able to have a child.
Catherine Coyle (educator) is the author of Men And Abortion. A Path To Healing. According to Dr. Catherine Coyle, men are more likely to suppress their emotions in order to make their partner feel calmer and more reassurance. This can lead to symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr Coyle adds: ‘Elective abortion may lead to intense grief, regret, anger and guilt. Emotions after abortion may be confusing, with a man feeling both anger and compassion towards his partner.’
Jean-Paul is able to attest to this. When he fell pregnant, he and his girlfriend were only together for four month.
‘She wasn’t using contraception and, to be fair, neither was I. We decided to have her take a test after her late period. It took her a while to get up and walk out. She then handed the test to me, telling me how unhappy she was.
I so wanted our child — a daughter or son, it didn’t matter to me
‘She told me she was not going to have our child. I honestly thought she was saying it to make me feel better about the situation.’
Jean-Paul lives in Croydon (South London) and has two teenager sons. He says that he really struggled to accept the idea of ending the pregnancy.
‘When I take myself back to the young man I was back then, I can appreciate quite how naive I was in thinking that if a woman falls pregnant it automatically means she’d want to go ahead with the pregnancy and become a mother.
‘I tried my absolute best to reassure her we could do this. I really wanted our child — a son or a daughter, it didn’t matter to me.’
In fact, they even visited different pregnancies advisory organizations together to seek advice.
Jean-Paul paid for the abortion at a private clinic and accompanied his partner on the two appointments to assess and then carry out the procedure at 11 weeks (file image)
‘They offered counselling and presented other options to us — adoption for example. I could not believe the way we’d gotten to this point.
‘While I was glad these other options were being presented to us, nothing had any impact on her and I increasingly felt powerless to do anything about it.
‘After having daily conversations about how she was feeling and if there was a way through this, she told me she was terminating the pregnancy regardless. She was uncompromising in her decision and did not accept any compromises.
‘I had to choose between fighting for my child or our relationship — I chose her because I didn’t want to lose her. As much as it pained me, I agreed to stop talking about what great parents we would be and accepted her decision.’
The “what ifs” are still seared on my heart
Jean-Paul paid the private clinic for an abortion and was with his partner at the second appointment to evaluate and perform the operation at eleven weeks.
‘I got a shock at the first assessment because I wasn’t allowed in with her,’ he says. ‘I was made to feel very unwelcome.
‘The clinic had a policy of seeing women on their own to ensure they weren’t being forced into having an abortion. That was a real low point — that and the fact that there was zero regard for me or my feelings.
‘There I was fighting to keep my child and yet the blanket assumption is that you’re forcing a woman into this.
‘It’s so hard to explain the anger and frustration I felt. There is no regard for us men — our wishes or feelings are unimportant.
Jean-Paul stated that anyone who mentioned abortion was assumed to have experienced great relief and closed the discussion (file image).
‘My girlfriend was depressed afterwards and needed emotional support but there was none for me.
‘The guilt I felt coursing through me was horrific for months. Now I realize that I was actually grieving. Afterwards, we tried to carry on our relationship but we never recovered as a couple and split up three months later.’
Jean-Paul tried to make friends, but was unsuccessful.
‘A lot of the time men think it’s a lucky escape and just get on with their life. Everyone I spoke to thought it was a relief and they ended the conversation.
‘For a while I was angry that women can make the final decision when two people were involved in creating that life. While I’d never want a woman not to have control over her own body I have really tussled with the fact that ultimately she gets to make the choice without my input.
She was unwavering in her decision and did not negotiate
‘I saw my GP because I couldn’t sleep properly for months afterwards. I was offered sleeping tablets and antidepressants, but I didn’t take them because I knew they weren’t the answer.
‘I grieved silently and, while I knew I had to forgive her, for a long while my body and brain wouldn’t let me.’
Jean-Paul experienced completely normal feelings of guilt and sorrow, according to Dr Catherine Coyle.
‘Findings suggest that men ought to be routinely included in both pre- and post-abortion counselling,’ she says. ‘They have a stake in pregnancy and its outcome. And involved men are more likely to support their partners.’
Although now a father, Jean-Paul says: ‘I still feel sad about it — the “what ifs” are still seared on my heart. Five years ago I wrote a book about relationships and one of the dedications was to “Joseph”. Everyone asked who he was, and I’ve kept it a secret — until now.
Jean-Paul acknowledged that it took him a while to grieve and it is still a painful experience to not know the kind of child he would be (file photo).
‘To me, he — and don’t ask me why I believe it was a he — had the potential to exist and that’s good enough. I would never want to live in a world where women don’t have control over their body, but if you’re equals in the relationship then you should be involved in the decision-making process to create and also end a life, too.’
Laurence Danziger understands this sentiment. He was 38 years old when he met his wife Sophia.
‘I was absolutely floored because I genuinely thought she was the one,’ says Laurence, a gardener. ‘The previous Christmas I had proposed, we were living together and I’d already mentally earmarked our spare room as a nursery.
‘We were a happy couple and all that could add to it was to become a family, too.
My guilt lasted for many months.
‘We hadn’t overtly discussed it but I’d made it clear on more than one occasion that I’d love to become a father. I thought she’d be a great mum. So when she informed me she was having an abortion, to say I was devastated would be an understatement.’
Laurence claims that Laurence was shocked when Laurence’s partner left him for a month to evaluate her feelings. Her text message stated that the termination of her pregnancy was confirmed.
‘Apparently, she had been seeing a work colleague on the side. I suppose I should think I had a lucky escape and, while it might have been horrible having a baby with someone who had cheated, the truth is I know that I’d have made the best of the situation and loved that child because I loved her, too.’
Laurence and Laurence parted ways after that revelation. After five years, he said that he was extremely cautious about entering into another romantic relationship.
Jonathan Barkham (55), an accountant is yet another victim of the psychological scars from abortion. His then-fiancee had an abortion in their pre-wedding days ten years back.
‘I was over the moon when she said she was pregnant — but she wasn’t.
‘Her mum, sisters, and friends had spent over 18 months planning the wedding and, she feared, would ridicule her walking down the aisle with a bump. Two months were left before our wedding and she was afraid of what it might look like if she carried a bump or had to refashion her dress.
‘While I said everything I could to reassure her, and, to be fair, her closest friends did, too, she zoned everyone out. She just wasn’t going to go through with it.’
After 12 weeks of pregnancy, they ended it and their wedding was scheduled. Jonathan left the marital home less than one year after his first child and now resides in another union.
‘I just couldn’t create a life with this person who wasn’t able to consider my feelings when it came to our potential child.
‘I understand when women are in dire circumstances or are at a stage in their life when it just isn’t safe or financially a good idea — but there was no reason for us to have done this.
‘Was it her vanity, or insecurity? I don’t know. Even though it may seem harsh, ten years later I still love her. It was as simple as that.’
Even when a couple are in agreement about a termination, the man — and woman — can experience feelings of distress that would benefit from emotional support.
Adam Day, an integrative therapist is one example of a professional who aims to restore this balance in men’s lives. ‘A man may feel completely isolated and unable to talk to his partner about the pain he feels for fear of sparking off strong emotions in her and himself,’ he says.
‘Ultimately, support and validation for his feelings are essential in order to understand and grow from the experience, and in the absence of clinic support, individual counselling can be a powerful way of expressing locked-in emotions within a safe environment.’
Jean-Paul agrees: ‘It took me a long time to come to terms with the loss. It still pains me that I’ll never know what kind of human being that child would have become. Those thoughts have never left me — and I suspect they never will.’
- Some names were changed to comply with legal requirements.