Here’s How Parents Can Talk To Their Kids About Roe V. Wade

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling that offered women a constitutional right to abortion. Roe v. Wade, which had been law for almost half a century, protected women’s reproductive rights and ownership of their own bodies. In overturning the Roe ruling, abortion rights will no longer be legal in nearly half of the United States right away, and there’s the promise of more restrictions in the future, especially in regards to birth control and other civil liberties. If you’ve been glued to the TV listening to this historic ruling, you might be struggling with how to process this information yourself. But if you have children, here’s how parents can talk to their kids about Roe v. Wade, because it can affect them in the future.

To say that the decision to overrule Roe v. Wade was met with dissention is a definite understatement. Even the Justices on the Supreme Court couldn’t agree with the ruling; in fact Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan all disagreed with the decision, stating: “With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent.” The American Academy of Pediatrics also issued a statement, saying: “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this morning reaffirmed our longstanding policy supporting adolescents’ right to access comprehensive, evidence-based reproductive healthcare services, including abortion. Today’s ruling means that in many places in the United States, this evidence-based care will be difficult or impossible to access, threatening the health and safety of our patients and jeopardizing the patient-physician relationship.”

What Does The Roe V. Wade Ruling Mean?

Whether you’re pro-life or not, it’s important that parents can talk to their kids about Roe v. Wade. But first, it’s critical to understand the sweeping changes that have been made in order to give your child the correct information. “The decision expressly overrules Roe v. Wade and determines that the Constitution does not protect any right to abortion care,” lawyers Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland and cohosts of Pantsuit Politics tell Celebrity Parents. “It means any state and the federal government itself can now write legislation criminalizing the performance of an abortion or receiving of an abortion. Courts will uphold those laws as long as the state has a rational basis for passing them.”

As for trigger states, “Several states passed legislation meant to ‘trigger’ a prohibition on abortions should the Supreme Court overrule Roe v. Wade,” explain Silvers and Holland. “Some states’ laws are triggered immediately, some go into effect after the certification by the state’s Attorney General, and some have a 30-day waiting period.” Still, many states are doubling down on their guarantee that women can have access to abortion services. “Many states have moved in the opposite direction and have passed legislation protecting a woman’s right to an abortion,” they continued. “All states will now have new opportunity to consider its regulation of abortion and may expand or contract the opportunity to receive abortion services without guardrails established by the Court.”

How Can Parents Talk To Their Kids About Abortion Rights

Right now, with so many people feeling raw and left reeling, it can be hard to know what to do or say. But there are some tangible next steps that parents can share with their kids. If your kids are older and want to advocate for abortion rights, now’s the time to get involved. “The midterm elections are now more important than ever – both nationally and at the state and local level,” say Silvers and Holland. “The majority opinion cites over and over the people’s power inside the legislative branch. It’s time to seize that power.”

Should You Talk To Your Child About Roe V. Wade?

Having the good ol’ birds and bees talk with your kids is cringey enough, but imagine now having to add information about abortion on top of that? But because having access to an abortion isn’t guaranteed depending on the state you live in, your child will need to know what their rights are — and that goes for both boys as well as girls. “You should 100% inform children of all genders and ages about the change in Roe VWade,” Marhya Kelsch, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker tells Celebrity Parents. “There has been a significant removal of health care options for people who may become pregnant and discussing this risk is important. This not only impacts the future health, welfare, emotional wellness and financial health of the person who may become pregnant but also for the person who impregnated them.”

Take Your Time Talking To Your Child About Abortion

Although the topic of abortion is timely right now, you might need to slow down the discussions, especially if your child isn’t even sure exactly what sexual intercourse is. “I would not suggest that parents give their children the first ‘birds and the bees’ talk and then immediately proceed to talk about this supreme court decision,” Mecham explains. “For a lack of a better phrase, that feels like a bit much to pack into a single conversation to have a successful or desirable outcome.”

That said, your child will need to know the facts concerning conception in order for the idea of abortion and the Roe V. Wade ruling to make sense. “As a mental health professional, I think it’s vitally important that parents play a role in their children’s sex education,” Salina Mecham, LICSW, SUDP, DVP, a licensed independent clinical social worker says. “If parents do feel the need or desire to talk about this ruling with their children, it’s important that the child already has, at the very least, a basic understanding of how sexual reproduction works.”

How Do You Explain What An Abortion Is To Young Kids?

Your child hears a news report on abortion and innocently asks what it is. As a parent, you might feel the need to protect your child from something that might be viewed as unpleasant. But if you stick to the facts, it can make the conversation easier, Dr. Anjali Ferguson, a culturally responsive psychologist says. “Keep the conversation simple and factual,” she says. “Talk about how sometimes when people become pregnant/start growing a baby they may not choose to have the baby for many different reasons, and having a baby is a choice the parents get to make. If they choose that they cannot/do not want to have the baby then they go to a doctor that helps them with medicine or surgery to end their pregnancy.”

But that only explains the medical component of abortion. What about the emotional aspects of it all? “Explain that sometimes when someone decides not to have a baby there may be lots of feelings that come up,” says Ferguson.” Some people may feel sad, scared, angry, and even happy. Sometimes people may feel lots of these feelings at the same time.” Then ask your child if they can think of a time when they felt that emotion as well. This can help them relate and make the idea less scary.

How Do You Explain What An Abortion Is To Older Kids?

Chances are, an older child has an idea of what an abortion is, but might not have a complete picture of what it entails. “For middle and high schoolers, you can be more explicit in discussing what the medical procedures may be and the physical impacts on the individual,” explains Ferguson. “You may even consider discussing these processes in detail so that a child better understands the procedures involved. Part of reducing stigma is demystifying experiences and this is done through knowledge, discussion, and education.”

When you’re talking about abortion with an older child, try to steer clear of judgments so that your child gets the information they’re seeking. “Remind them that an individual can experience a range of emotions when considering abortion. These feelings may be sadness, fear, anger, disappointment, but can also be joy and relief. You can have multiple different feelings at the same time and there are no right or wrong feelings,” says Ferguson.

You might even want to ask your child about what’s happening in their friend group or school. “Ask them what they have heard and what their thoughts are around the topic,” she says. “Many youth may be experiencing fear related to the recent news and may need safe spaces to process these fears.”

But be prepared to meet your child where they are, since they might already have their own opinion about abortion. “Parents ought to consider that their child (especially if they’re a teen) might already feel like they have an informed opinion about what is going on,” Mecham says. “If your child holds a contrary view or simply lacks a fundamental understanding of the situation, leading with questions can help you understand ‘where they are.’ If parents can navigate the conversation in a manner that won’t overlook or depreciate whatever opinions or knowledge their child currently has, it can be a positive experience for both child and parent.” And while you might want your convo to close on a more positive note, be prepared that it could end with neither side seeing eye-to-eye — and that’s okay. After all, when everyone’s viewpoint is heard and respected, that’s the goal.

Offer Explanations As To Why Someone Might Need An Abortion

Once your child understands the medical component of an abortion, they might begin wondering why a person would have one in the first place. You can explain that someone might not have a baby because they aren’t ready to be a parent, or that they might need to save and wait until they’re more settled financially, physically, or even emotionally before bringing a baby into the mix. “And some people may not want a baby at all and that’s ok too,” explains Ferguson. “It is a person’s choice to decide.” You can even use examples that focus on timing (i.e. “You know when you get a really expensive toy? Sometimes we have to save up until we can afford to get it.”) or choice (i.e. “People have choices that they can make with their bodies, just like you can choose to hug and kiss.”)

As for older kids, you can be more direct in your discussions, but they should focus on concepts like timing, desire, family support, choice, medical issues, and even finances to make your child understand that there is so much thought that goes into the prospect of having an abortion. Ask your child open-ended questions that can cause them to potentially imagine themselves in a similar situation, such as “How would you feel if you lost the ability to make a choice for yourself/your body?”

Be Sure To Assess Your Own Emotions About Abortion Before Talking To Your Child

When you’re planning to talk to your child about Roe v. Wade, make sure that you’ve got a good grip on your own feelings first before diving into the conversation. “Make sure you assess and process your own emotions around the events,” says Ferguson. Your teens may ask your thoughts and emotions and having done your own internal work, you may feel more prepared to face their emotions. It is also ok to share honestly your fears and uncertainty around the recent news.” But let your child come to their own decision about how they feel about it first. After all, younger generations might have opinions or thoughts about abortion that might be very different from yours. So listen to what your child has to say so they feel heard.

No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, these are certainly unsettling times. The goal for any parent should be to educate your child so that they can make informed decisions going forward about their bodies — and where to access health care if it’s needed.

Sources interviewed:

Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland, lawyers and cohosts of Pantsuit Politics

Marhya Kelsch, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker

Salina Mecham, LICSW, SUDP, DVP, a licensed independent clinical social worker

Dr. Anjali Ferguson, a culturally responsive psychologist

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.