A Child-Friendly Guide to Explaining Abortion Rights

During a recent incident where I, as a mother, was trying to persuade my 6-year-old son to put on a collared shirt for a special occasion, he asserted his rights by stating, ‘Mom, consent!’. His grasp of such a fundamental principle was a moment of pride for me, which could be likened to explaining complex subjects such as abortion rights in a child-friendly guide. Even though I had my intentions, he reminded me that the ultimate decision regarding his body lies with him.

As a caregiver, I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to learn, and this was a prime example. Reproductive rights rely heavily on informed consent. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that we instruct the next generation on their legal rights in regard to reproduction and sexual health.

The Center for Reproductive Rights advocates for a future in which all women have the same opportunities to choose whether or not to have children and whether or not to get married without facing discrimination or pressure. Trans guys and other non-binary people who are able to have children should also be afforded the right to reproduce freely.

There are a few fundamental principles that should underpin any discussion with young people about reproductive rights, including the right to have an abortion: consent, autonomy over one’s own body, and human respect and dignity. Professionals share advice to help caretakers handle difficult conversations.

Get the Ball Rolling Quickly

Asking a newborn, “Can I give you a clean diaper?” is a great way to introduce the concept of permission. Creating a culture of asking can be an effective technique even if your child does not react verbally. My 2-year-old daughter eventually agreed to let me change her diaper, and I quickly discovered that she had definite preferences. She likes to lie on her stomach and have her back scratched on occasion. On her back is her preferred position on those days.

Instill in your children the knowledge that they are not obligated to touch anyone. Young people learn to accept the decisions of others over time when they observe how their own body autonomy is honored. SisterSong says that reproductive justice is the human right to bodily autonomy, to have or not have children, and to raise children in safe and sustainable communities. These lessons are the building blocks for teaching the values of reproductive justice.

Approach the Topic of Abortion Age Appropriately

Sarah Harris, LMFT-S, a trained play therapist who works with children and adolescents, advises using simple phrases when discussing abortion with children under the age of 8. A parent or guardian can explain that a person may not always want to be pregnant and that a doctor can help them make that decision if they so desire. Books are another resource you can use. What’s An Abortion, Anyway? by Carly Manes and Mar, two full-spectrum doulas, is a resource to use in discussions with children about abortion that is non-judgmental, gender-inclusive, and based on real medical information.

Abortion is likely already common knowledge among preteens, thanks to exposure through peer discussion and social media. Inquire as to what they know, and encourage them to share what they’ve learned from their web research. Keep an attitude of open curiosity and non-criticism. Give evidence.

Harris says that young people can develop false beliefs regarding abortion. Use a conversational tone to introduce concepts while leaving room for in-depth analysis. Beginning with a question like, “I wonder what might happen if someone doesn’t feel like they can end their pregnancy safely if they want to,” caregivers can open up the dialogue about the topic of abortion. Tell me what you think.

Evaluate Bias

Communities of color, young people, the LGBTQ+ community, persons living in poverty or in rural areas, and people with varied immigration statuses are disproportionately underserved when it comes to access to reproductive health care. Health professionals can say, “Not everyone gets access to the care they need to make the choices they want for their bodies.”

Look for Opportunities to Teach

Caregivers shouldn’t miss any opportunities that may arise to initiate conversations about these topics. My daughter, then eight years old, witnessed an anti-abortion demonstration this past summer and asked me to help her understand what was being said. In response, I explained that our family values individual autonomy, including the freedom to make decisions pertaining to one’s own health and sexuality. I went on to describe abortion as an option for women who do not choose to carry their babies to term. I answered her questions in an age-appropriate way and offered her the accurate facts she deserved, such as how abortion works and how long it takes.

Remember that you don’t have to learn everything. Do not provide false information or information that you have not verified. You may tell them you need to go back and do some more digging before getting back to them.

Encourage a Free-Flowing Atmosphere

Make your home a place where challenging discussions and inquiries are encouraged. Avoid talking down to or lecturing your child; instead, seek opportunities to ask them open-ended questions. Make sure your tweens and teens know they may talk to you about whatever they see in the news.

Women’s March temporary deputy director Tamika Middleton, a mother of two children aged 8 and 14, incorporates discussions like this into her daily routine. Since they are always surrounded by people who are doing the same, they feel comfortable asking questions whenever they come up in discussion. It’s not that the adults just want to talk about mature topics; they just want the youngsters out of there. They can listen in on the discussions and are always welcome to contribute their ideas.

It’s also crucial to examine your own prejudices. Remember that everyone must have that choice without constraints, even if you personally would never undergo an abortion.

These measures can increase the likelihood that your child will turn to you for support in a difficult situation, including if she or he is considering abortion. Experts recommend that in such a case, caregivers should explain that abortion is a form of health treatment. I think it would be helpful to inquire as to how they are doing and how you may be of assistance. Pay attention, and then link them up with the appropriate services. Those in need might look up local abortion funds and abortion clinics (not crisis pregnancy centers) for assistance with costs and scheduling. Encourage them to follow their own judgment and aid them in gathering any necessary facts. And you should simply be there to lend your support. More than anybody else, young people need to have their choices about their bodies and lives respected and validated.

In Conclusion

Remember that you are laying the groundwork for your children’s beliefs on reproductive freedom and abortion availability through the way you talk to them about these issues. Treat them with kindness, an open mind, and the confidence that they will become the agents of change the world needs if you show them how to fight for justice.

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