Explaining Abortion To Kids
No matter how much you try and shelter your children they will inevitably hear and see things long before you’d like them to. If they haven’t heard the word ‘abortion’ yet chances are they will soon. So how to respond when your child asks you what abortion is?
My biggest parenting tip is to always make a plan, which I wrote about in more detail here. A plan will ensure you don’t mess up when your child lands you in the middle of it.
Added to making a plan, here are some suggested scripts for what to say to kids when they ask about abortion,
For little kids: “Abortion is what happens when someone is pregnant and doesn’t want to be. They takes some pills so they won’t stay pregnant.”
That’s about all little kids need to know (3–7), unless they ask for more info, in which case you should give it to them, but in age appropriate language.
For older kids (8–12):
“Abortion is when someone is pregnant and doesn’t want to be. All human start as a tiny clump of cells that grow and become more like a baby over the 9 months. The person who is pregnant takes some pills or has a small operation to remove the cells so they don’t become a baby.”
It’s a good idea to go into some of the reasons why someone might not want to be pregnant with older kids too, “Sometimes someone just doesn’t want to be pregnant, or there might be something wrong with the fetus inside them that mean it would die once it was born. Sometimes being pregnant can hurt the pregnant person and they might need an abortion to look after their own health. Most people who choose to have an abortion are already mothers, so they might not be able to afford to have any more children. There are lots of reasons why people choose to have an abortion. The important thing is that the choice belongs to the person who is pregnant and no one else.”
I also make sure my kids know that not only women can get pregnant and that transgender men and intersex people will also need and have abortions. I tell my kids that I try and say ‘pregnant person’ when talking generally for this reason.
Older than 12 and I tell them all I’d tell an adult. I try and keep the information non-emotive and factual.
I also let my kids know that there are large numbers of people who are (for some reason still unfathomable to me) fighting to force other people to remain pregnant and birth a baby they don’t want. I was forced to impart this by the people on our Main street with distressing and graphic photos of aborted fetuses. Any teen I’ve discussed the pro-forced birth movement with have found it odd and scary. I’ve taught my kids about consent and bodily autonomy so the idea of someone fighting against bodily autonomy is abhorrent to my children (I’d like to think it’s abhorrent to most children).
It’s a good idea to let kids know how common abortion is. I told my older kids (11+) that I have had an abortion, and I will tell my younger ones when they are a bit older. For now I’ve just told the little ones that loads of women I know have had abortions. With my older kids I said this:
“I was using contraception but it failed and I was pregnant. I didn’t want to have another baby for lots of reasons. One was because I want to have as much time with you as I can and another child would take up too much time. I knew I couldn’t afford to have another baby and I was worried about my health as the last two pregnancies were very difficult for me. So I took some pills and ended the pregnancy. It wasn’t too sore and was just like having a period. I feel good about the choice I made.”
I also explained to my kids that where we live abortion is illegal and I told them about some of my friends who had to leave the country for abortions. My kids were upset that the government would have laws that force women to stay pregnant against their will. My son who is 11 has become very vocal about abortion rights. He wears his abortion rights campaign badge and tells his friends about abortion when they ask about the badge (I think he has informed half his class about abortion at this stage!) Which leads me to another point, if you don’t talk to your kids about this stuff, you can be sure someone else will so make sure you talk to your kids.
Abortion is a normal part of life. 1 in 3 women worldwide will have an abortion at some stage. It is essential healthcare and should be treated as such. Part of the reason abortion rights denied in so many places is the stigma and shame around abortions. As parents we have a part to play by normalising it and informing our children about it.
If you’ve had one and feel comfortable talking about it to your kids I would urge you to do so. The people who have abortions are not monsters, they are everyday women, trans men and intersex people who did what was right for them at the time. In my experience kids are not traumatised or shocked to hear about abortions, they accept it as a part of the myriad possibilities of normal things that can happen in life. Just as they should.