My oldest son has always shown an aptitude for math and science. (I blame his father.) He’s fascinated by the human body, too. At the tender age of 4 (he’s now 7 years old), my partner and I bought him a book detailing the ins and outs of human anatomy, and he’d more often than not fall asleep with it across his chest, open to some page on the cardiovascular system. He uses the correct terminology for both a penis and a vagina, understands that sex can result in a pregnancy, and, to the surprise of many, what abortion is — and that his mom has had one.
The explanation my partner and I gave him was simple enough: “Before you were born, mom was pregnant when she didn’t want to be and a doctor helped her not be pregnant. Then, one day mom was pregnant when she wanted to be and eventually you were born.” Our conversations regarding pregnancy and abortion have always been straightforward, age-appropriate, and rather boring. Still, while my partner and I had avoided spoon-feeding him (and later, our youngest son) a pacifying story about a magnanimous stork when it came to “where babies come from,” we were surprised by how easily our son understood abortion. At age 4, he simply accepted that straightforward explanation, understanding that mommies and daddies have “a big job” as parents — to him, it simply didn’t make any sense to force someone to become a mom or dad.
That’s the thing about abortion: It’s not difficult to comprehend, regardless of age. And like other concepts deemed “inappropriate” for children — be it consent, bodily autonomy, racism, gender, sexual identity — arguing that it’s not pertinent, or worse, somehow “harmful” to talk to kids about the commonality of abortion will not only allow abortion stigma to fester, but can leave our own children believing that their bodies are not their own.
Abortion was also an easy concept for Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, an OB/GYN and abortion provider in both Texas and Oklahoma, to explain to her young child. “My husband and I taught our kid what abortion is at 3 years old,” she tells the Cut. “People are really shocked about that, but it’s really not that hard. We say, ‘Mommy helps people who want to have their babies, and mommy helps people who are pregnant and do not want to have babies.” And as her child has grown older, those conversations have included the ongoing attempts to curtail abortion access. Dr. Moayedi says that her child, now 6, understands the repercussions of SB 8, the six-week abortion ban in Texas that effectively outlawed abortion care before most people know they’re pregnant.
“They told their first-grade teacher, ‘My mom’s job is becoming illegal this week,” she adds. “I wish I could have been there to see the teacher’s face.”
Paige Alexandria, who works at a national abortion fund and sits on the board at The Lilith Fund, says her son has always asked her about abortion and her job, but at age 6 has really taken an interest. “When he was 4 or 5, I asked him what someone could do if they were pregnant and didn’t want to be,” Alexandria tells the Cut. “He said, ‘Get someone to take care of it?’ Now he knows that having an abortion is one of the options a person has when it comes to pregnancy. He also knows I had an abortion because I didn’t want a third child. He told me, ‘I wouldn’t have wanted a third child, either.’ Alexandria recorded her son’s initial response and uploaded it to TikTok, and says she “likes to quiz him every now and then to make sure he remembers” what abortion is.
For my partner and I, discussing abortion wasn’t just about teaching our two sons, now 7 and 2, important concepts like self-sovereignty and the reality that they’re never “owed” a birth, a baby, or a say in a pregnant person’s personal and medical decisions should they get someone pregnant. It was about adding to the ongoing conversations we have with them that’ll help keep them safe as they navigate the world, help them better understand sex, and help ensure they grow up to be respectful of other people’s bodies. They know that because no one is allowed to touch them unless they say it’s okay, that it is wrong to touch someone else without their explicit permission. And because they know that no one, not even grandma or papa, can make them hug or kiss someone when they don’t want to, they understand that no one should make someone else give birth. At a young age, they can connect the dots, and given that only 13 states in the country mandate sex education to be medically accurate, my partner and I realized early on as parents that if our children were to obtain factual information about sex and reproductive health, including abortion care, it had to come from us.
We also wanted to be honest with our sons about their birth stories, which in no uncertain terms includes abortion. Our two boys would not exist if I was not able to access affordable and legal abortion care when I wanted and needed it. Abortion is as much apart of their existence as the pregnancies that brought them into the world. They’re not alone, either — the majority of people who have abortions have at least one child at home, and 66 percent of women who’ve had abortions say they plan on having children when they’re older, financially able to provide for them, or are in a supportive relationship.
So we will continue to talk about abortion in our home — openly, honestly, and without shame or stigma. My older son is gaining a better understanding of the nefarious forces working to curtail abortion rights, and what his mother and others have done and continue to do to protect it. I have held him while giving a speech at a rally in front of the Supreme Court. He sat with me in a room inside the U.S. Capitol Building as I read over remarks before speaking alongside Sen. Mazie Hirono. And as our 2-year-old comes ever-closer to turning 3, we’ll once again introduce the concept of pregnancy and abortion to our son — in the same age-appropriate, easily understood way his brother grasped.
And we will celebrate the freedom abortion care gives the people who seek it, and the family abortion has given us. And one day our sons will take those conversations out into the world and into their own homes, ushering in a new generation of (if they decide to become) parents who talk to their young kids about abortion.