Why I Talk to My Kids About Abortion… and Why You Should Talk to Yours


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.

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. 

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  • eskhemo

    You can choose to not have a baby after and it ripped to shreds……..or wait you are the baby who had no choice. Pro choice equals no choice fir half the people involved.

    Teach your kid math instead

  • eskhemo

    You can choose to not have a baby after and it ripped to shreds……..or wait you are the baby who had no choice. Pro choice equals no choice fir half the people involved.

    Teach your kid math instead

  • prochoiceferret

    You can choose to not have a baby after and it ripped to shreds……..or wait you are the baby who had no choice. Pro choice equals no choice fir half the people involved.

     

    Yes, the fetus does not have the “choice” of using a woman’s body against her consent. Do you seriously believe that it should?

     

    Teach your kid math instead

     

    Instead?

  • jennifer-starr

    Pro-choice says that the choice either to continue or terminate a pregnancy should be the private decision of the woman who is pregnant. I support that choice. 

  • ack

    I think you’re operating under the assumption that all abortions are performed in the third trimester. 90% of abortions happen in the first 12 weeks, when the fetus is no larger than an orange. There is no fetus to “rip to shreds.”

     

  • arual

    Why not inform your children of ALL the choices surrounding pregnancy? The CHOICE to have sex when a baby is not welcome….the CHOICE to kill a baby, keep him, or put him up for adoption.

     

    What would a two year old think if you told him you would not have minded killing him before he was born? Would he so willingly agree with his mamma’s pro-”choice” opinions then?

  • arual

    Jennifer Starr – I support the CHOICE whether or not to have sex. I do not support the CHOICE to kill a baby after he has been created.


    ack - I beg to differ. An unborn child at 12 weeks gestation is about 2 inches long (the sixe of a lime). If you look at any pregnancy website, you will see that at that point the child has had a heartbeat and functioning brainwaves for weeks. Almost every bodily organ is fully developed, and he will soon have fingernails and toenails. He is a perfect little person. He can feel pain, and even recognize his mother’s voice. He sucks his thumb, sleeps, and even hiccups! An unborn child or “fetus” (latin for “little one”) certainly exists at 12 weeks, and is ripped to shreds during a surgical abortion. 


    ProChoiceFerret – A baby/fetus does not “choose” to be created, or to be dependant on his mother. The “choice” belongs to the man and woman who had sex. If a woman consensts to sex, doesn’t she also consent to the fact that sex creates babies? 

  • saltyc

    I have spoken to my daughter, but I’d stop shy of saying I did it to promote human rights, rather I did because I want her to be as strong, stable and happy person as I can. I did for her. I realize that she may turn out with very different values from mine. For instance she eats mammals, I don’t. She says she believes in God whereas I don’t. 

    I think talking about abortion is part of talking about sex. It’s one of the foundations of value and human understanding. So my reasons are not political but parental.  I have told her that before she was born that there was another embryo inside me that I chose to not continue. She has repeated this story to other people, though with different words that make me think she didn’t really understand. For instance when I took our dog to get spayed, she looked pregnant and my daughter asked what if she had puppies in her, I said in that case the vet would take them out she said “you mean kill them??” I said but they’re not really all there yet. (turned out she wasn’t pregnant) 

    Anyway, my point is, I don’t expect that she will agree with me politically, but I DO wish that she develop healthy and sane attitudes toward sex that aren’t the neurotic anxiety-filled impulsive ignorant ones that the patriarchy purposely wants children to have. And abortion is a secret looming behind a lot of fear and ignorance around sex so the sooner the better to be open about it.

  • prochoiceferret

    Jennifer Starr – I support the CHOICE whether or not to have sex. I do not support the CHOICE to kill a baby after he has been created.

     

    Good for you! No one here supports infanticide, either. Now, can we get back to the subject of abortion?

     

    ack - I beg to differ. An unborn child at 12 weeks gestation is about 2 inches long (the sixe of a lime). If you look at any pregnancy website, you will see that at that point the child has had a heartbeat and functioning brainwaves for weeks. Almost every bodily organ is fully developed, and he will soon have fingernails and toenails. He is a perfect little person. He can feel pain, and even recognize his mother’s voice. He sucks his thumb, sleeps, and even hiccups!

     

    Great! So this “perfect little person” doesn’t need to stay in the uterus of a non-consenting woman, then. Out he goes!

     

    An unborn child or “fetus” (latin for “little one”) certainly exists at 12 weeks, and is ripped to shreds during a surgical abortion.

     

    So all that you would need to support a woman’s right to abortion is for the fetus to be removed intact?

     

    ProChoiceFerret – A baby/fetus does not “choose” to be created, or to be dependant on his mother. The “choice” belongs to the man and woman who had sex. If a woman consensts to sex, doesn’t she also consent to the fact that sex creates babies?

     

    Nope, she just consents to the sex. Kind of like how when you get into a car, you’re not exactly consenting to the fact that you may end up flying through a windshield at 75 miles per hour.

  • prochoiceferret

    Why not inform your children of ALL the choices surrounding pregnancy? The CHOICE to have sex when a baby is not welcome….the CHOICE to kill a baby, keep him, or put him up for adoption.

     

    Why are you so obsessed with infanticide? Is it a fantasy of yours?

     

    What would a two year old think if you told him you would not have minded killing him before he was born?

     

    Probably the same thing if you told him you would not have minded failing to conceive him in the first place.

  • beenthere72

    At first I thought – a 2 year old – what?!?  But now I understand the context of the conversation.   I’ve had the discussion with my step daughter and admitted to my own abortions.   My point to her was that she can be prolife for herself, but she should not force her opinion on others.   I want her to be successful and independent, and an accidental pregnancy should not have to interfere with that.

    While on a 4 hour car trip with her best friend, who I suspected would be in the forced birth camp because of her church involvement, I was surprised to learn that she had a change of heart after her grandmother told her she had been raped at age 14 by a number of men and was pregnant as a result.   She had had an abortion.   

     

    I agree these conversations need to be had.   My own mother’s conversation with me went like this when I was 16:  if you get pregnant, you’re having an abortion!  Nice, mom.

  • ladybug

    It seems to me that the majority of Pro-Choice people don’t take into account the mental affects an abortion could/would have on a person that has an abortion.

     Some people are depressed for days, months, weeks because of the substantial guilt they feel.

     Some people just want nothing more in the world than to hold that child in their arms.

     Having an abortion is having a death in a family.

     That child is alive, no matter what you want to say to convince yourself that it isn’t. It is.

     Life doesn’t come from non-living things… it comes from other life…

     I think we should be teaching our children abstinence, rather than teaching them that they can have sex as much as they want because if they do get pregnant there are NO CONSEQUENCES you abort the child and life goes on.

     Sadly…. it just goes on…not a second thought…

    Have sex…. it’s okay, we’ll just kill the baby because you weren’t taking into consideration the consequences of your actions… it’s fine…

     

    The other thing I find common in most Pro-choice women is that they think the father of the child should have no say so because it’s their body

    Commonly I hear, I don’t want to mess up my body and get stretch marks and all that because I have a baby that I’m too young for a baby in the first place.

    Well, my what a vain society we live in…. kill the baby prevent the stretch marks… haha wow…that’s almost unbelievable…. oh but it’s true.

  • crowepps

    “Commonly I hear, I don’t want to mess up my body and get stretch marks”

    Commonly you hear this?  Really.  I have NEVER heard anyone at all EVER say anything about stretch marks when discussing abortion.  You need to find a better class of people to hang out with, LadyBug.

    Although considering the negative stereotypes you’ve collected and insist apply to “most Pro-choice women”, perhaps the better class of people wouldn’t have you.  You come across as judgmental and nasty minded.

  • ks

    <i>Well, my what a vain society we live in…. kill the baby prevent the stretch marks… haha wow…that’s almost unbelievable…. oh but it’s true.</i>

    That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time. You must be talking to some really animated straw-people, or be a great big giant liar, because the number of people who belive that shit is vanishingly small.  I already have kids, and believe me, I have plenty of stretch marks to go with them.  But if I were to get pregnant again, I’d be at the clinic so fast heads would spin–and my husband knows this.  He isn’t thrilled by it, but he knows it and he supports my desire to absolutely, positively *never* be pregnant again.  Ever. 

    I was pro-choice before I had kids, of the “it isn’t what I’d choose, but it isn’t my place to say what anybody else does” variety.  But being pregnant made me almost militantly pro-choice.  Being pregnant sucks–it is difficult, painful, and all around unpleasant.  It also permanently changes one’s body, and not for the better (and I’m not *just* talking about stretch marks here; there is the fact that I can’t laugh or sneeze without peeing a little, the extra 50 lbs that will not go away no matter the diet and exercise, the screwy hip, the lingering sciatica, the tendonitis that didn’t go away after I wasn’t pregnant anymore, etc., etc.).  So anybody who says that I consent to pregnancy when I consent to sex, nevermind that I’ve been married for 13 years and both the husband and I very much enjoy non-procreative sex, can kiss my extra large, shiny, white ass. 

    I do talk to my boys about abortion.  They know how much I love them and also how much making and having them hurt me.  They know that “mommy made them with her body” and they know that the decision to do so was mine and I made it because I wanted to be a mother and I wanted them.  They understand, as much as 9 and 6 year olds can, the concept of bodily autonomy and that everyone gets to consent to the use of their body by another.  I agree that it is important to have these conversations so that they will grow to respect their own autonomy and, equally important, the bodily autonomy and decisions of the women (and/or men) that they grow up to love.  And I think it is especially important to have these conversations with boys, because we unfortunately live in a society that teaches boys that they *don’t* have to respect women’s bodies and lives and decisions and I want to counteract that message as much as I can.

  • wendy-banks

  • equalist

    How about spelling and grammar?  Looks like you missed a couple of lessons on that one.

  • equalist

    I think a woman’s right to choose is an important concept to teach children.  If we teach them that a woman does not have the right to decide what happens to her body, then how can we then expect them to completely understand that an adult predator has no right to decide what hapens to theirs?  In our family, the topic of abortion has come up (although not often, but it HAS come up) during the conversations about good touch/bad touch, and strangers.  My daughter understands (and her younger sister will as she gets older) that no one has the right to do anything to her body without her complete consent, and that includes (when she gets older) anything growing inside it.

  • wendy-banks

     there is the fact that I can’t laugh or sneeze without peeing a little, the extra 50 lbs that will not go away no matter the diet and exercise, the screwy hip, the lingering sciatica, the tendonitis 

    Tell me about it *XD*! I just hate those parts…

  • ks

    Seriously.

     

    And that was with two relatively normal pregnancies with no complications.  Imagine how much worse it would/could be if there had been issues.

    • wendy-banks

      I was sicker than shit during my pregnacy. I almost croaked durning my first trimester. Hyperemesis Gavidarum sucks. I’m comisurating with you. And my hips just killed me during the last three months. 

  • ack

    A. I find it interesting that the fetus in your fantasy is a boy. The 5th month of pregnancy is generally when ultrasound techs feel comfortable declaring sex.

    B. No, “he” can’t feel pain. No reputable medical studies support this.

    C. You can give fetuses, regardless of whether they’re the males you seem to value, the rights afforded to born individuals while also keeping abortion legal and safe. If I need a kidney, and my mom is a match, she can kill me if I try to take it from her. Both the law and public opinion would be on her side. We cannot track down the biological parents of any born child and demand a 5 minute blood donation. So, from a legal perspective, why do you think pregnant women and girls should be forced to donate their bodies for nine months? (And, of course, childbirth is the single most excruciating pain a person can experience…)

     

    Pregnancy and childbirth are amazing processes, but the presence of a fetus doesn’t negate the rights of a pregnant woman or girl.

  • ack

    This conversation about boundaries is incredibly important. We need to be talking about CONSENT with young children; it opens doors to talk about predators, coercion, rape, and intimate partner abuse, all of which are vital talks with kids and adolescents. It covers tickling and kissing Grandma.

     

    You may consent to one act, but that doesn’t mean you consent to any others. This goes for hand holding vs hugging, hugging vs kissing, kissing vs groping, groping vs digital sex, digital sex vs oral sex, oral sex vs PIV sex (in het couples), PIV sex vs pregnancy (in het couples), etc…

     

    And with rape, this is ESSENTIAL. You can consent to getting drunk, and talking to a guy, and making out with a guy, but the second that guy decides to assault you while you’re either too drunk to know what’s going on or you’re passed out, THAT is the choice we need to be examining.

     

    Engaging in one act =/= consent to engaging in another

  • elburto

    You’re not ‘pro choice’ Jessica. You take your little kids to anti-adoption rallies and make them hold up signs about how adoption hurts women and kids. You’ve said that women should have the right to kill neonates for up to 48 hours after birth, rather than surrender them.

    You tell women who are happy with their choice to surrender a child that they are too traumatised to think for themselves. You tell adoptees who were raped and beaten by their genetic parents that they are “brainwashed” if they say their adoptive families treated them better. You have even said that if you found out tomorrow that your own child had been swapped at birth, that you’d surrender her without a backward glance because biology is the only way to make a family.

    Oh and you’re a homophobe to boot, because you believe that children can only be parented by the one woman and one man who provided the genetic material to make them. You’ve said many times that you would be sick and angry to hear of a child calling someone “mommy” or “auntie” if they weren’t genetically their mother or aunt.

    You may be a different kind of antichoicer, but you’re one nonetheless. You even use the same tactics as the “pro life” crowd, insisting that women don’t know their own minds, getting your children to carry banners intended as one giant guilt-trip.

    RHRC – are you aware of this woman’s book, and her past? Every word she’s allowed to say here removes credibility from what is an amazing resource.