My daughter was 2 years old the first time we talked about abortion. While this might seem shocking to some, it was a part of a very conscious decision on my part to raise my children with pro-choice values. Starting young seemed like the best approach, and the opportunities for discussion came early and often.
It was election season 2004, and every day, my daughter joined me at work where I ran a small store that carried a large selection of punk clothing, hair dye, political t-shirts, and bumper stickers. Some of my customers were students at the local middle school, but many were parents, teenagers, and others who came in to browse and stayed to talk about politics once they saw our vast selection of pro-choice, anti-war, Bush-bashing liberal gear. Often, the conversation turned toward politics, and it wasn’t long before my little girl was asking me, “Mama, why do you say you’re scared of Bush?”
Though I explained many reasons to her that day and in the days that followed, his stance on abortion was a critical one that bore repeating time and again. In simple terms, I told her: “When a woman gets pregnant, she can either stay pregnant and have a baby, or she can go to a doctor and have him or her get rid of the fetus so that she doesn’t have a baby. That’s called abortion, and our president wants to stop women from having that choice. He wants to force women who get pregnant to have babies even if they don’t want them.” She was used to hearing accurate pregnancy-related terminology, and she was about as disgusted by the anti-choice position as you could ever expect a pre-schooler to be.
As my daughter has grown older, our discussions about abortion rights have continued to evolve, catching her younger brother up on the subject and adding in more information about the actual procedure and the opposition, always with an emphasis on just how important it is for women to have the ability to control what goes on within their own bodies. Even young children can understand that concept; your body is your property and no one else should have a say over what happens to it.
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Building on that basic rule, I am doing everything I can to ensure that my children grow up with a healthy respect for reproductive freedom. Though I know some other pro-choice parents shy away from the subject of abortion with their own children, I wish they wouldn’t. There are myriad important reasons to have that conversation – and to keep having it as your pre-schoolers become big kids, tweens, and then teenagers who will soon be facing reproductive decisions of their own.
It should go without saying that mothers and fathers who believe in reproductive freedom should want their children to share those beliefs. Perish the thought that otherwise, our babies will become the next generation of forced-birth bullies! What better way to avoid that tragic fate than to talk early and often about abortion as a reasonable, respectable decision that millions of women have made?
Anti-choicers will argue that young children are horrified at the thought of abortion, but that has never been my experience nor the experience of any other pro-choice parents I know. Instead, kids who learn about abortion in a straight-forward, fact-based manner tend to accept it completely. There isn’t anything frightening about terminating a pregnancy, but even a child can comprehend the atrocity in forced gestation. Through open and honest discussion, children learn that women they love – their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and family friends – have made the choice to abort without shame or guilt.
When these children get older and are presented with an election ballot, they won’t be thinking of nameless, faceless women losing the right to choose if they check the wrong box. They will think of the women they know, who once needed that right, and they will vote to keep it legal.