In order to destigmatize abortion in our communities, we need to talk about it, and I believe many of these conversations must start at home—between parents and children.
The foundations we lay when our children are young pave the way for the development of their ideologies, both good and harmful. Young people deserve factual information on abortion from people who’ve had them. Sometimes that means parents opening up and being honest with their children about their own experiences with family planning.
Actress Michelle Williams—who is currently pregnant and the parent to a teenager—told her abortion story to an audience of millions during her recent Golden Globes speech. She credited her success in life to the fact that she had the right to choose. Williams’ speech resonated with other parents who have had abortions and feel like their right to choose positively impacted their lives in a number of ways.
But how do parents broach this conversation with their children? After having their own abortion talks, these parents want you to know the experience doesn’t have to be difficult, but transformative and strengthening for your relationship. Last names have been withheld for privacy.
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When Amiya found out she was pregnant six months ago, she immediately knew she would get an abortion. At that point, Amiya’s daughter was 12 years old. The abortion “wasn’t something I really wanted to do, but as a parent, I knew it was something I needed to do,” Amiya told Rewire.News.
In the days leading up to her abortion, she was emotional, which her daughter noticed. “I didn’t want to tell her at first, but I decided I would use it as an opportunity to talk about options,” Amiya said. “I told her I was pregnant, but that I’d be having an abortion, and she looked a bit concerned at first.”
When Amiya asked her daughter if she knew what an abortion was, her daughter said yes and “started crying and hugging me for several minutes.” Amiya apologized, thinking she was upset with her. But her daughter said she understood the reasons behind the choice, and that she wasn’t—and would never be—mad at her for something like that.
“During our conversation, I made it clear that she could always count on me to be in her corner during whatever life throws at her, and that she can always come to me for anything. I think that whole conversation really strengthened our bond as mother and daughter,” Amiya said.
Melissa was in an abusive relationship when she discovered she was pregnant in October and chose to get an abortion. She talked about the decision with her 15-year-old daughter.
“When I told my daughter, she started crying and told me how grateful she was that I trusted her with that,” Melissa told Rewire.News. “She feels like she can come to me with anything difficult because of it.”
Her daughter witnessed the abuse Melissa survived, and she completely understood the decision she made. For Melissa, having an abortion gave her back the control of her life that she needed to leave a harmful situation.
Kathi hadn’t planned on telling her 10-year-old daughter about her abortions, but the subject came up one day. Kathi’s husband lived with a debilitating health condition that her daughter was concerned may affect any future siblings she might have.
“I hadn’t planned on telling her that young, but she asked and I told her the truth,” Kathi told Rewire.News. The condition wasn’t hereditary, but Kathi wasn’t prepared to have any more children. She had her first abortion while finishing nursing school, and she had her second abortion at a time when she was busy caring for her husband and her daughter, who was a toddler at the time.
“I was honest with her, and I told her that realistically it wasn’t an option for me to have another child,” Kathi said. “After I told her, I immediately reinforced that she was a wanted pregnancy and a wanted child.”
Her daughter immediately understood her reasons behind each decision, telling her mother she loved her and didn’t want to see her struggle more.
As a nurse, it was also important to Kathi that her daughter received accurate information, so she referred to her abortion as a dilation and curettage (D and C) and explained how it’s performed. “I also told her it was a nine-week fetus, and that it had no functioning brain, heart, or ability to sense pain like her and I have,” Kathi said.
Now an adult, Kathi’s daughter is staunchly pro-choice and advocates for others to have the same choice her mother did.
“I’ve never been ashamed or regretful of either abortion. I had my reasons, my future, and my body to consider,” Kathi said.
Parents know what’s right for their own lives: They understand what pregnancy looks like, birth, and the responsibilities of parenthood more than anyone. And when they decide they want to share their abortion stories, parents are more than capable of having meaningful conversations with their children about it.