Recently, Vox and Slate each ran articles on how to raise pro-abortion children. Alas, both missed the opportunity to use the title Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Pro-Life. News editors are no fun.
At Vox, we have “It’s important to talk to your kids about abortion. Here’s how.” Author Alex Hazlett argues that “talking about abortion with kids and young people is a long-term project that helps secure the future of reproductive justice,” and that you’d better do it early, before “other people” share unapproved ideas. Hazlett recommends connecting abortion to conversations about “bad touch” and bodily autonomy, implicitly comparing unborn babies to sexual predators. Then there’s this gem:
Parents might fear that a child’s likely follow-up question will relate to themselves and their parents’ decision to have them, says [journalist] Wenner Moyer. But it can be a moment to show how important choice is in family formation. . . . You can tell them, “As your mom, I know that being a mom is such an important job, but it is also really, really hard.”
Better hope Mommy’s job never gets too hard, kids!
It’s worth asking why pro-choice parents fear that follow-up question. Of course, Hazlett never does. But when those children are old enough, the pro-life movement won’t shy away from the answer.
Hazlett also recommends telling children that “many very famous and very powerful men have been able to move on in their careers because they paid for, participated in, or know about a woman who had an abortion,” as if that’s a good thing, which just sounds like a recipe for turning sons into deadbeats. Of course, failing that, you can always slander the pro-life position as racist and sexist. The human being in the womb? Best unmentioned.
Slate ups the ante by having an abortionist write the article: “What Mommy Does at Work” by Christine Henneberg. She opens the article by describing her four-year-old daughter’s make-believe, playing at pregnancy by stuffing a doll under her shirt and talking about the “baby in my tummy.” Uh-oh! Can’t have that!
I’m an abortion doctor. This spring, as I watched my kids play, I suddenly felt a new urgency about explaining pregnancy and reproduction to them in terms they could understand. They had already started hearing the word abortion more frequently over the preceding year. In an almost inevitable post-Roe world, I expect them to encounter messages that seek to demonize and even criminalize abortion providers like me. I want them to be able to make sense of those messages when they come.
Her strategy is to (1) teach her children that pro-life laws are “unfair,” and (2) misleadingly compare abortion to having a period or early miscarriage. But she realizes that can only take her so far:
If the point is to introduce my kids to abortion in terms they can understand, then baby seems like the right word to use, at least for now. As they get older and start learning higher-level concepts—think basic elementary school science like tadpoles and frogs—I’ll introduce the words embryo and fetus. But I know these words are not going to protect me from the hard questions that will come eventually: Is it really a baby? Is the baby alive? Is abortion the same thing as killing a baby?
Henneberg never answers those questions. She cops out, saying:
It’s OK to answer these questions with “I don’t know” or, even better, “What do you think?” It’s not my job to help my children land on one side or the other of the morality of abortion. I will be absolutely fine if my daughter eventually decides that abortion feels morally wrong to her, as long as she understands that she gets to decide only for herself—not for anyone else.
The problem is that if abortion is killing a baby, then “to each their own” is a nonsensical and deeply immoral position to hold. What’s more, in the Dobbs era, the children of pro-choice parents are bound to make friends whose lives have been saved by pro-life legislation. Even the Washington Post just featured twins who escaped abortion in Texas! There’s no hiding from those stories. Good luck explaining to your kids that their classmates should have been dismembered and incinerated as medical waste.
If you’re a pro-life parent, you can relax. There’s no need for Hazlett and Henneberg’s mental gymnastics. Just give your children an accurate understanding of prenatal development, and teach them that all human beings are equal. They can take it from there.