The issue of abortion, never an easy topic, continues to provoke and demand thoughtful discussion.
And during this 10th anniversary year of the Supreme Court decision (Roe v. Wade) legalizing abortion, men are becoming increasingly involved in the debate.
"Abortion is a men's issue," declared Dan Logan, executive director of Free Men, Inc., in a New Progressive magazine article written by D.C. feminst and free-lance writer Judith Paterson.
"The emotional and moral issues," said Paterson, "are as real as the political issues and they are as real for men as they are for women."
However, says Logan, "It [the man's role in abortional] isn't discussed much. When I ask, 'What do you guys think about this?' what I find is they have all though about it and they all have strong feelings about it.
"Abortion is such a loaded subject. Of course, it's a woman's body and I understand that. On the other hand, if a woman decides not to have an abortion it's 20 years of child support for a man."
To provide a forum for men on the subject, the Washington-based Free Men, Inc., will sponsor a panel discussion tomorrow night entitled "Can We Help Men Confronted With Abortion?" It is "not a debate on abortion," stresses Logan, 36, but a place for men to exchange views, feelings and experiences.
How a cople deals with the isuse of a possible abortion in the context of an ongoing relationship indicates a great deal about the level of communication in that relationship, says Drexel University sociologist Arthur Shostak, author with SUNY-Albany teaching fellow Gary McLouth and Temple University counselor Lynn Seng of a forthcoming book, Men and Abortion: Lessons, Losses and Love to be published by Praeger.
Shostak, 46, who will present some of the trio's preliminary findings at tomorrow's panel discussion, has been involved with the issue of men and abortion since 1972. He has conducted an informal survey of about 36 clinics throughout the country and has about 600 completed questionnaires from men in clinic waiting rooms ranging in age from 14-60, with most in the 19-24 age bracket.
Shostak has coined the term, "cobortion," which he says "emphasizes the notion of coupleness. It really urges a new kind of role definition for both males and females where both of them become a little more concerned with the other and a lot more concerned with the couple."
Shostak presents two possible scenarios: In the first, a woman who has just learned she is pregnant says to her partner: "I just found out that I'm pregnant and we've getting an abortion."
In the second, she might say: "I have just learned that I am pregnant and I think we ought to talk about it. By saying it this way," says Shostak, ""she gives him room to muse aloud on what it would be like if they were to take the fetus to full term, to feel ambivalent about fatherhood."
"The single biggest compliant [in 11 years of interviewing scores of men in dozens of American cities] that men have," says Shostak, "is exclusion from decisionmaking. They do not complain about the decision. They complain about being sidelined."
What is of significance in these scenarios, he says, "is the lack of skill that both genders have in discussing heavy subjects with each other. And so this becomes a special case of a larger subject. Most of the people are in this difficulty because they don't know enough to talk about contraceptives with each other."
Shostak, a sociologist since 1961 and author of several books, believes in "consciously, deliberately chosen constructive change. High school classes in 'family life' should utilize role plays in discussing contraception and role plays in discussing news of an unwanted pregnancy."
Among findings from the 264 questionnaires processed thus far:
* 90 percent indicate they will be more careful about contraception (as a result of the abortion experience). "It is a very sobering experience for them."
* 92 percent believe that teen-agers should get more sex education in high school than they are currently getting. This is "reflective of the plight they find themselves in."
* 67 percent believe that during their time in the waiting room men should be offered contraception and abortion-style counseling.
"I would like men to ask for counseling," says Shostak. "For men to find out more about their own feelings. Feelings, unexplored, fester. Lots of men are unresolved about this."
"Can We Help Men Confronted With Abortions?" sponsored by Free Men, Inc., (543-2332) at the Church of the Pilgrims (22nd and Q Streets NW), 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. Panelists: sociologist Arthur Shostak, feminist Judith Paterson, Andre Watson of Planned Parenthood and Free Men executive director Dan Logan.
Single Living: A workshop -- Three consecutive Thursdays, June 2, 9 and 16 from 7:30-9 p.m., Foundry United Methodist Church, 1500 16th St. NW (16th and P Streets, NW).
Workshop co-leaders are family therapist/clinical social worker Jane Fox and the Rev. Ruth Ann Miller, a single minister at the church. "Our society has a long way to go as far as validating and affirming this life style," says Fox, who has offered the workshop previously through the Northern Virginia Family Service in Falls Church.
Among topics to be discussed: statistics on single life; dealing with loneliness in a constructive way; evaluating support networks; choosings/sharing resources on ways to meet people, and building relationships.
Fee: $2; reservations required. Call the Rev. Ruth Ann Miller, 332-4010, or Jane Fox, 522-9187.