It's late afternoon. My kids and I are jostling up the freeway in our minivan to hit a bookstore before dinner. I've already spent the day reading them stories, teaching them to count and cleaning up their sticky little snacks. So it's time for a quick check-in with the grown-up world: 10 minutes of NPR while they eat Goldfish in the back seat.
I forget they are listening. And then, "Hey mom, what does that mean? Reproductive rights?"
It's code for abortion. So I tell them that. The conversation that follows is a good one. Even though they are small, they can handle it. They must handle it, because this is the world they are living in. If I don't tell them what I think, my silence will equal assent. So we are doing this now, swerving around construction cones and looking for the turn-off. My brand of apologetics.
How should we approach this difficult topic, when they are so young?
1. Celebrate LIFE before discussing abortion.
God's ways are good. (Psalm 18:30) If He forbids something, it's because the alternative is better. (Isaiah 59:9) No matter how a woman gets pregnant, God sees, knows and designs every baby that is made, in His image and for His purposes. (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41; Romans 9:11) Even a toddler can delight in these happy truths! It's lovely to be told that you matter to God. So remind them when you're kissing toes, giving baths, handing out crackers and tucking them in at night. God loved you before you were born, isn't He awesome?
The arts are extremely helpful in getting this message across. Children's literature sings LIFE, if you will take the time to enjoy it. When you read, Horton Hears a Who 8 million times, you don't just get better at saying, "Wickersham cousins." You get to remind your child, "A person's a person, no matter how small." When you read Charlotte's Web, you can savor the rightness of Fern's plea: "If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?" Every painting, building and sculpture is a chance to remember that we are the product of a creative God, who delights to protect His workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10) So look around and remind them.
2. Delight yourselves in babies.
Our culture despises children. If you don't believe that, Google the statistics on neglect, abuse and child trafficking. Watch some, "family" sitcoms where you can learn that children are loud, rude, expensive and absent from the best parts of the show. Or just take a trip to the grocery store with me, and hear some snarky lady ask, "are they ALL yours?" as if my cart is full of weapons.
If you want your child to reject this ethic, you've got to impress the opposite. When a baby cries at Target, lean over and whisper, "Oh do you hear that? The sound of new life!" When you see an infant sleeping at church, slow down and admire - his new little fingers! Her plump little lips! Display your child's ultrasound proudly, if you have it. Tell your daughter you're so glad she was born. Tell your son his birth story. Celebrate adoption. (Psalm 68:6)
3. Be frank (but not graphic).
When we want to conceal evil, we keep it in the dark. (John 3:19) In the case of abortion, obscurity is the devil's playground. That is why we say things like, "products of conception" and "a woman's right to choose" instead of, "killing a baby." We file this act away in a neat little pocket called, "Women's Healthcare." We can't expect a better outcome if we won't tell our kids the truth.
So, that day in the minivan, this is what I told my kids:
Not everyone is excited when they find out they're pregnant. Sometimes, it feels like very bad news. Maybe the mother is very young, too young to really be a mother. Maybe she was having sex when she wasn't supposed to, and now people will find out. Maybe she doesn't have anyone to help her and she is scared, or she doesn't want to work together with the baby's father. Maybe she doesn't have enough money for the things a baby needs, or maybe she is afraid she won't be able to do the things she was planning to do, if she has to take care of a baby instead. Maybe she found out that the baby's going to have a disability (like Uncle Dustin). When that happens, there is a procedure she can have called an abortion. Abortion is where the mother gets medication or a surgery to kill the baby that is growing inside her. I know that is so, so hard to hear about. It is very sad to God, too. I'm sorry that I had to tell you about it today. But I want you to know I will always tell you the truth, the very best that I can, and you can always ask me anything. I love you.
Devastation. Discussion. Tears. Silence. Now they know what abortion is.
4. Look for the Helpers.
I've delivered some ugly news. What can I do to comfort them? After their questions that day, I let them just be quiet. They stared out their windows and I prayed for God's work in their hearts. Then I remembered what Mr. Rogers said: when you hear scary news, it's best to look for the helpers. Knowing there is help around makes children feel more secure. So that is what we did. We talked about a family friend joyfully raising a foster child. We recalled our visit to a local pregnancy center. We talked about the church, how it can be a soft landing place and brainstormed ways our family could help. And of course, we talked about Jesus. He makes all things new, and forgives even abortion. In the end, there is no other answer I can give them. Thankfully, He is enough.