My name is Matthew. I was in my teens when I supported my girlfriend in aborting our child. I realise now that this event didn’t occur in isolation but was a consequence of my long struggle to discern how to live out true masculinity. I don’t want to blame anyone else for my part in this story but I hope that through sharing it, other men may see they do have a part to play in the debate on abortion and how important it is that they find their voice.
When I was around four years old my father had a breakdown and my parents divorced. After that I was brought up by my alcoholic mother. We had to move to a very rough estate where knives were commonplace. I had three older siblings who were, not infrequently, cared for by other relatives, this left me feeling as if I was responsible for the house and protecting my mum but I became anxious as this was a responsibility I was unable to manage.
At a young age there was a lot of pressure from other schoolchildren to watch porn. I was very uncomfortable with this to the point of being bullied and ended up leaving that school. In an effort to fit in at my next school I gradually got into bad company which resulted in me being part of a gang. To start with the gang was relatively harmless. It was at this time, when I was about 17, that I met my girlfriend, Kelly. By then I’d moved out of my house and I was living by myself. After a year or so Kelly found out she was pregnant. This was unplanned and a shock to both of us – I think we both felt overwhelmed with fear.
Kelly went to the doctor and it was he who reminded us of how young we were and that we didn’t have to continue the pregnancy. That sowed a seed. Suddenly there was another path open to me, one that didn’t require responsibility, a responsibility I was very scared to accept. No one ever modelled authentic masculinity to me and I didn’t really think of the pregnancy as being a child – abortion seemed an easy way out even though Kelly was reluctant. I was aware Kelly was looking to me for strength yet I didn’t have any strength to give and I didn’t know how to love.
After the abortion everything changed for both of us straight away. I’ve heard some people say that they experienced an immediate sense of relief after their abortion – all I felt was dead. I felt a completely different person and although we didn’t discuss what had happened I sensed that Kelly felt the same.
Kelly and I separated soon after this and the gang played a deeper part in my life. This led to more sophisticated, organised crime and I became very seriously involved with drugs – travelling the country collecting money and shipments. At times my right-hand man carried a gun with him since violence was never far away. Eventually the law caught up with me and I was arrested. I was looking at the possibility of a two-year jail sentence. Before the trial my brother spoke to me and suggested we visit a religious community in London called the Franciscan Friars of Renewal. He recommended Confessing to one of the priests as we were both baptised Catholics, although organised religion didn’t really factor in my life at all. Part of me wanted to run away from these religious men, the other part wanted to punch them, thankfully I did neither and instead went to Confession with one of the priests.
Hearing the priest telling me that God had forgiven my sins had a profound effect on me and as I walked into court the next day I knew that I had to plead guilty despite it going against all the advice I’d been given. I no longer wanted to avoid the consequences of my actions. God seemed to smile on me as even though I was expecting, and felt I deserved, a two-year sentence, I was given community service alongside house arrest. This was the start of a new phase in my life and God began to teach me, through the help and witness of good Christians around me, how to live out my masculinity. I understood for the first time how I’d let my ex-girlfriend down, and, of course, my child.
Looking back I can see how fear has played a big part in my life to the point of leaving me completely silenced at times. This has been supported by the media and much of society who all say that men shouldn’t talk about abortion and have no right to grieve. I’m determined not to live by these rules any more. I can see something of the damage that abortion inflicted on my ex-girlfriend and how it took the life of my child but it will never take away my voice. I want to use my voice to encourage other men to accept their role as fathers and leaders. Future generations depend on us speaking up.