Reproductive freedom might not have been on your radar as a priority to discuss with your tween or teen. But following September’s controversial restrictive Texas abortion ban, the Supreme Court battle over whether or not it should stand, other states’ attempts to undermine or restrict reproductive rights, and the ensuing rallies, marches, and protests involving thousands of concerned citizens across the country—the topic is likely on your kids’ radar.
It’s important to talk to them early and often about the importance of protecting reproductive freedom—everyone’s right to determine how and when they’ll start a family, learn about sex education, and gain access to reproductive health services. The fact is, educating kids about sex and reproduction, and keeping the lines of communication open in your family, is proven to reduce unplanned pregnancies and STIs. But how do you approach such a thorny subject?
Stick to the facts
Abortion is an issue that carries a lot of charged emotion for lots of people. When talking about it with your kid, try to present the facts in an unbiased way.
“An abortion is when someone decides to end their pregnancy instead of continuing with it until birth. There are lots of reasons people do this, including health issues, financial reasons, already having other children to take care of, or if they become pregnant by accident or by assault.”
Abortion is healthcare
Explain to your teen that abortion is a reproductive healthcare issue, like cancer screenings, birth control options, pregnancy and postpartum care.
“If someone needs an abortion, they can go to the doctor and set up an appointment (though this can be difficult if they live in a place with restrictive abortion laws). Depending on the situation, they may get pills to take at home that end the pregnancy, or they may receive an abortion at a clinic.”
Give the controversy context
It’s impossible to talk about abortion without addressing the controversy surrounding it.
“People have very strong opinions about abortion, and there are people who are totally against it. Others may feel they wouldn’t want an abortion themselves, but support laws that protect the rights of others to make their own choices. You may see things like angry comments online or anti-abortion protesters outside reproductive healthcare clinics. However, we can disagree without being disrespectful. No matter how you feel about abortion, it’s important to remember that it’s a deeply personal and complex decision.”
Create a judgement-free zone
The most important thing that should come out of this conversation is your child’s understanding that they can always come to you if they need to.
“If you or a partner ever become pregnant, you can always come to me without worrying that I’ll be angry or upset. If that ever happens, we can explore the options together and I will be right by your side no matter what.”