Talking With Young People About Abortion
The recent news that reproductive freedom is under fire at the national level may have you wondering how you can broach abortion access with the young people in your life. But you may also be wondering: are they mature enough to have discussions about what’s going on? We want to use our month-long #TalkingIsPower campaign to assure you that conversations about abortion care are vital and can be given appropriately—no matter the age of the young person you’re talking to.
Preschoolers understand more than some folks give them credit for! Just like how parents and champions can have conversations with small children about new babies and consent, you can talk to your youngster about abortion. For preschoolers, you can keep it simple. Without getting into the details, you can explain that some people don’t want to be or stay pregnant, and that it’s totally okay. Normalizing abortion and decision-making about pregnancy in general from an early age can give your young person a head start in their journey to making their own decisions about their reproductive well-being in the future!
As they get a bit older, the children in your life will want more details. You can explain that just like getting a cavity filled or putting a cast on a broken arm, abortion is a basic part of health care. You can also start to introduce outside materials to paint the larger picture of what being abortion-positive looks like. For example, the picture book What’s An Abortion Anyway by Carly Manes is a medically accurate, non-judgmental, and gender inclusive resource for young folks ages 8+ about abortion care. As the author explained, “Its purpose is to show folks what an abortion is in a way that’s accessible and inclusive of all people’s abortion experience. It tells a story that’s medically accurate, non-judgmental, and gender inclusive in a way that helps champions introduce the topic to the young people in their lives.” Books like this jumpstart conversations and open the floor for any questions your young person may have.
Pre-teens are more likely to have heard about abortion but might not have all the facts. You can start off a conversation by inviting them to share anything they’ve seen on social media, talked about with their friends, or have questions about. By asking them what they know about abortion, you can identify any misperceptions they may have. As they approach the age where pregnancy becomes a possibility, make sure they understand that they are in an open and judgment-free zone with you.
At this age, your young person may also have some deeper questions. If something comes up while talking or if your young person asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, be honest and say you aren’t sure. You can either come back to them later after you’ve done your homework, or you can do research and learn together.
The recent attacks on reproductive freedom could be especially daunting for someone in this age group and cause them to worry about their own futures. What’s most important to tell a young person who could get pregnant is that you support their choices and would be there for them if they needed an abortion. Or, if your young person can’t get pregnant, let them know that you would be a trusted adult if their partner or friend is considering an abortion.
When I was in high school and had my first serious boyfriend, my mom was on high alert. During a morning run together, I started to feel nauseous after skipping breakfast. In the car on the way back, my mom asked me if I was pregnant. Still awaiting my sexual debut, I gasped and said no. After a beat, I asked what she would say if I was pregnant. She told me that she would support me no matter what, and if I wanted one, she would take me to get an abortion and pay for it. I was a little surprised and it must have shown on my face, because she quickly followed it up with, “I know you have big dreams, and don’t want to have a baby any time soon.” From that moment on, I knew that if I did accidentally get pregnant, I could go to my mom, and she would be there with emotional and financial support.
Whether your young person is sexually active or not, it's important they understand how recent abortion bans across various states function and would potentially limit their ability to get access. You can also remind them that the leaked US Supreme Court draft opinion making headlines is NOT final. And no matter what the Court ultimately decides, abortion will still be legally protected in some states.
Right now, young people deserve abortion-positive champions that can serve as a trusted resource for all their sexual health needs. We're committed to making sure that everyone who needs help finding an abortion can access our comprehensive, nationwide database of abortion providers. Visit AbortionFinder.org to learn more and share with a young person you care about.