Once again Planned Parenthood is under attack and at risk of losing Federal and/or state funding. Planned Parenthood has become the ‘face’ of abortion in the United States even as they provide a long list of comprehensive health services for many low-income women.
I have never met anyone who loves abortion. I do not know advocates or women who have received abortions who walk around saying, ‘Yeah! We did that.’ Most women I know agree that abortion should be rare, safe and legal. We know that abortion has been around before it was legislated. This is not a new discussion. Abortion is a decision that women and girls take seriously. But, because there is so much shame surrounding abortion, very few women tell their stories.
I have never had an abortion. When I was in college I went with a friend when she had hers. I remember the escort that had to walk us through screaming people holding up signs and shouting hateful words. The room was packed full of young women of color and their mothers…some with their partners. I felt shame and sadness all at once. I knew even at my young age that some of these pregnancies might have been prevented with access to comprehensive healthcare and knowledge about their sexuality. No one was smiling or laughing. The waiting room was quiet as we all averted eyes and waited for the the name of our loved one to be called.
I know young women who have exclusively used Planned Parenthood for services related to birth control because fear prevented them from using their parents insurance. I know older women who relied on Planned Parenthood for mammograms because they lacked insurance to go to private doctors. Ironically, these same women often shy away from talking about their use of Planned Parenthood services because of the stigma their families and faith communities attach to the organization.
Even as the child raised in a conservative Christian family, I was taught about both abstinence and ‘protection.’ Granted, I did not get much info on what protection was but at least I knew it existed. When I was single and sexually active, I did not have unprotected sex. I knew how babies were created. I new how STD’s were transmitted. And I think because my parents were honest with me I respected my body enough to protect it. I knew protection was never 100% but un-protection was always 0%. [bctt tweet=”I knew that protection was never 100% but un-protection was always 0%.”]
In my late twenties I worked in youth ministry at a large urban church. I was baffled by the lack of awareness that young people had about their bodies and their choices. The whole ‘I’m still a virgin because I’ve only had oral sex’ is common in the church. Seriously. I won’t even get into the myths about ‘pulling out’ and other misinformation I heard youth espouse. And yes, church girls have abortions too.
I’ve been thinking about my experience working with young people and decided to write this post for momma’s and daddy’s. Speak to your children about their bodies. God created us to have the emotions and hormones that we have. Prepare your children for the biological changes they will experience. When my kids were 13 and 11 we did a homeschool exercise where I asked them to write down all their questions about sex. I promised them to answer every question and to find the answers if I did not know them. I thought I would die. Actually, I might have for a quick second. OMG, how in the world had kids this young heard such things?!? I started googling to figure out how to answer some of what was asked. Yep, I died.
I answered each of my children’s questions. I also kept the list as evidence of how my children tortured me! In the months after our Q&A session, my children watched videos about pregnancy, did research on HIV, and talked about sexually transmitted diseases. As Christians in our home the message was always, ‘we want you to wait but if you decide not to, always protect yourself.’
Despite how we feel, parents do not control their children. We train them up in the way they should go and then their free-will kicks in. As parents, I pray that we have prepared our children to make decisions that keep them physically and mentally safe and that they always remain connected to God. How this prayer actually plays out is beyond my control. If parents talk to their children about how their bodies work and how to protect themselves we can reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.
[bctt tweet=”If we will talk to our children about how their bodies work… we can reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.”]
I never want my children to face an unplanned pregnancy but if they do I want them to feel like they can talk to us. In the event that we are not their preferred confidants, I want my children to have a medical facility that can provide them with medically accurate and safe treatment. This means having access to Planned Parenthood and other medical providers who provide access to comprehensive services, including abortion.
So parents, instead of focusing on shutting down Planned Parenthood, I say step up and parent your children on their sexual health. Don’t sit in denial. Acknowledge how God created our bodies and be prepared to educate your children accordingly. Don’t let someone else (mis)educate your children. If your teen is asking for birth control talk to them and their doctor. Don’t make mistakes of the past by kicking them out or saying no. Don’t be self-righteous. Be loving and honest. Help them see the benefit of waiting and the importance of respecting their bodies if they don’t. The truth is if we respect ourselves, we protect ourselves. [bctt tweet=”When we respect ourselves, we protect ourselves.”]
I don’t say any of this lightly. This is hard stuff. These are the conversations that make parents hyperventilate. But they are also conversations that can save lives. Talk to your children, even if they do not want to talk to you.