Growing up, my family always had open and candid conversations about sex, contraception and abortion. It was a point of pride for my mother to pass information down to me and my siblings because that was not her experience with her mother.
Even though my grandmother never told her daughters anything about sex, my grandfather was a physician and armed his daughters with a year’s supply of birth control when they went to college. The contraception was there but the openness and frank discussion about sex wasn’t there for my mother. She was determined to have an open, frank relationship with her children and I am so grateful she did.
However, I quickly realized that other families, especially in the Black community, did not have candid conversations sex and abortion. I experienced numerous awkward moments when I started talking with friends about what I thought were normal topics, but other people considered taboo subjects.
Even in college, one of my first jobs was to give young women resources on an abortion hotline. Many of the women I spoke with were in crisis and did not have anyone else to talk to about these issues and choices. It was eye opening and made me even more grateful for my family’s openness.
When I joined the Planned Parenthood of Illinois Board, it was with the goal of making abortion and contraception a normal part of health care for all of Illinois. And I am so proud of the work Planned Parenthood does, especially around sex education.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of sex education, reaching 1.5 million people a year. In Illinois, its educators cover a broad range of age appropriate topics related to sex, reproduction and birth control. They also go in-depth about consent and how to have healthy relationships with partners as well as friends.
With my two sons, my husband and I are open and honest about sex, contraception and abortion. We talk to them about sex in everyday conversations rather than having “the talk.” We discuss consent and what it takes to have a healthy relationship. We chat about birth control and a woman’s right to have autonomy over her own body. We want our boys to be armed with the knowledge and awareness to be respectful and engaged in and outside the bedroom.
We as parents, especially in the Black community, must overcome our discomfort with having conversations about sex, birth control and abortion for the health of the next generation. Planned Parenthood of Illinois can help navigate those tricky waters.
For more information about Planned Parenthood or to schedule a sexual health appointment visit www.plannedparenthood.org
Donna Miller is the County Board Commissioner, 6th District and a member of the Planned Parenthood of Illinois Board of Directors.