photo by Ken Kosakoff

P.T.A. – Mom, What’s Abortion?

Last summer, I was sitting at my mother’s breakfast table talking politics, when my daughter popped her head out from behind the comics and asked, “Mom, what’s abortion?”

I don’t recall how old I was when I first heard the term. I’ve been Pro-Choice as long as I can remember. My litmus test for any political candidate is: how firm their stand on Choice is? I really do believe that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I also believe that sex education and access of birth control are  human rights and the best way to prevent abortion.

With all that, I was unprepared to explain abortion to my daughter. Racism, sexism, rape, testicles, mean girls and so many other things, I’d prepped myself to talk about, but not this.

To begin with for a tween, the idea of having sex for any reason other than to get pregnant is incomprehensible. Her assessment of our very frank where-babies-come-from discussion was “That’s disgusting. I’m never doing that.”

The idea that a woman would willingly engage in sex, get pregnant, but not want to have a baby didn’t make sense to her. Her first reaction to the concept of intentionally ending a pregnancy was, “That’s wrong.”

And my heart sank.

My mother and I spent that next half hour explaining why a woman might not want to continue with a pregnancy and why that choice should be hers alone. We talked about how irrevocably pregnancy and motherhood changes your life and how every woman should make that decision for herself. We talked about why giving the baby up for adoption isn’t a solution for everyone. We talked about how some politicians wanted to make laws restricting our right to make these decisions. “Well, nobody should tell you what you can and can’t do with your own body,” my daughter announced with same absolutism she had when she pronounced abortion was wrong. I breathed a sigh of relief. My daughter understood why we’re a Pro-Choice family. And we piled into Subaru to head off to swim lessons.

But I worried that I had made this decision for her, because it’s so important to me.

This week when Alabama’s abortion ban was signed into law, abortion became lunchroom conversation at her middle school. Fueled by steady diet of NPR, The New York Times and Rachel Maddow, my daughter and the girls at her lunch table are vocally Pro-Choice. But my daughter still struggles with of her personal rights versus the idea of killing a baby.

She’s a science kid, so our discussions have revolved around when does a group of cells inside a woman’s body become an independent human being with rights of its own. We’ve also talked about the fact Roe vs. Wade is based on the implied right to privacy in The Constitution and about the fact that the men who wrote The Constitution weren’t even thinking about women. I’ve told her that if I had gotten pregnant when I was 18 or 20, I would have had an abortion. It wouldn’t have been an easy choice, but it would have been a clear one.

She still believes that abortion is wrong for her.

But she also believes that a woman has to be able to make that decision for herself. It scares her that her rights under attack. We talk about it when I tuck her in at night. I tell her there are many people who believe what we do and we’re all everything we can. But as her mother, I can’t tell her not to worry. My child is growing up in a time of fear.




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Maud Kersnowski Sachs

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