A lot of parents and caregivers are thinking about how to talk with the young people in their lives about abortion. As a mom and a sex educator, I know how important and tricky these conversations can be.
Here are our top three tips on how to approach these conversations.
1: Lead with values.
You can center your conversations around your core values related to abortion. For example, maybe you feel strongly that each person has the right to control their own body. You can say something like, “In our family, we believe that everyone should have the right to control their own body. Other people shouldn’t be allowed to tell you what you can and can’t do with it.” Depending on the age of the young person, you might want to add a caveat like, “Except sometimes parents/caregivers need to make decisions for their kids to keep them safe and healthy, like making sure you take a bath or go to the doctor for check-ups.”
Another value you can lead with is empathy. For example, you can say something like, “In our family, we believe that people can make the best decisions for themselves. It’s not our place to judge others for making decisions that are best for them.”
Communicating these values can set the stage for you to talk about the current status of abortion rights. You can talk about how people in power are making it harder or impossible for people to get an abortion, and that this isn’t right. And when we see something in our community or in the world that isn’t OK or hurts people, we can all speak up and say, “That’s not right!” by going to protests, talking to people in our lives about it, and advocating for change.
2: Tell them the facts.
Give accurate information about abortion. You can read up on it to make sure you’ve got the facts straight before you approach your kid, but here are the basics: Abortion ends a pregnancy. It’s safe, effective, and very common. Abortions involve either a quick procedure in a health center, or taking pills and then having the abortion at home.
Depending on how old the young person you’re talking with is, here are a few examples of what you could say:
“Pregnancy is when someone has a possible future baby in their belly. Some people decide they don’t want to be pregnant, and have something called an abortion. An abortion ends a pregnancy.”
“Pregnancy is something that can happen after people have penis-in-vagina sex. Sometimes people get pregnant, on accident or on purpose, and then decide to end the pregnancy. This is called an abortion.”
“An abortion is something a person can do if they don’t want to be pregnant anymore. It’s either a simple procedure in a health center, or taking some pills. Abortion is safe, effective, and common.”
3: Create a safe space.
One of the most important things you can do is to clearly communicate to your kid or teen that you’ll be there to support them and their friends, no matter what. Make sure you tell them directly that if they ever need an abortion, or if someone they care about needs an abortion, you’ll do whatever you can to help them get the care they need.
It can also help to say that you wouldn’t be mad at them or disappointed in them if they ever told you they had or caused an unintended pregnancy. But make sure you can keep that promise. It’s OK to have a range of feelings if your teen is dealing with an unintended pregnancy, but do your best to work through those feelings away from them — with your spouse or co-parent, a friend, or counselor — so you can be the supportive parent/caregiver for your teen that you want to be.
At the end of the day, we know that you care about the young person or people in your life and want them to be safe, healthy, and have honest education and information so they can make informed, thoughtful decisions about their lives. But since most of us didn’t have these positive conversations with our caregivers growing up, it can be hard to know how to have these conversations with our own kids. Planned Parenthood is here to help you talk with your kid of any age about all sorts of topics around sex and relationships.
Julia is Director of Digital Education and Learning Strategy at Planned Parenthood