Catholic at Home: Talking to your Kids about Abortion
I went to church and grade school across the street from a third-trimester abortion center. Back then, the pro-life movement was more angry than merciful, and, as a small child, I saw protesters on the sidewalk holding up graphic posters of aborted babies. I heard them yelling horrible accusations at anyone going into the facility.
I was 8 when I went with my mom to a peaceful life chain; people drove by screaming angrily at us, making obscene gestures, and displaying graphic images. This was my exposure to the abortion debate. I saw identical behavior on both sides of the fence and didn’t know what to think or feel. I knew that killing an unborn child was wrong, but the examples I witnessed told me that the women making that decision were malicious in their intent and should be condemned, or at the very least hated.
A GUIDING LIGHT
Like my own children, I needed my parents’ guidance. I needed their voices to rise over the cacophony and give me clarity. It’s my task as a parent to escort my children through this world. That means I walk with them as they encounter the good and the bad. I can shield them for a while, but, ultimately, if I don’t give them the Christian perspective on hard topics, the world will offer its own – which, more often than not, fails to represent Jesus.
My kids are young. A couple of our five are mildly aware that there’s evil in the world, but they’re more concerned with Legos and the Tooth Fairy over matters of injustice. Still, at a certain level of maturity – notice I didn’t say age – it is good to slowly open their eyes to such things, since doing so also opens their eyes to the depth of God’s mercy.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
For young minds, addressing abortion can be very simple. In my experience, knowing the details of “where babies come from” isn’t necessary. Children identify with emotions even if they don’t understand the reasons behind them, so I’ll say that sometimes a mama with a baby in her tummy might be scared to have her little one. She might be afraid of not having enough money or help because having a baby is hard work. “Have you ever been scared to do something hard?” I ask them. No, they don’t share the same fears as abortion-minded women, but pinpointing this common emotion teaches them empathy over judgment; mercy over condemnation.
RESPONDING LIKE CHRIST
Children have a way of getting straight to the point even when we sugar-coat or gloss over the unfortunate details of evil. Be honest with the young, curious minds in your home. While we cannot forever shield them from the wrongs in the world, we have the incredible, God-given power to teach them how receive those wrongs and respond to them as Christ does. St. Isaac encouraged prayer over condemnation, “so that [we] may resemble Christ, who was not angry with sinners but prayed on their behalf.” Even in the face of something as abhorrent as abortion, we can nevertheless teach our children that abortion doctors and facility workers are loved by Jesus, who desires their conversion. We can teach them that mothers need our consistent prayers for courage not just in choosing life for their unborn children, but well after birth. We can teach them that every pre-born baby is made in the image and likeness of God and deserving of protection and care.
Pope St. John Paul II said, “The human person is a good toward which the only proper attitude is love.” This is the very concept we must convey to our children in our speech and actions. Abortion is wrong because it violently ends a life made in the image and likeness of God, so feelings of injustice, anger, sorrow and incredulity are all justified. Abortion is wrong because it takes a mother, a role renowned for its power and love, and renders her both victim and offender; she falls prey to the lie that she must abort in light of her circumstances and in so doing, consents to her child’s death. What is paramount in our address now is that we treat both with love and mercy.
This article appeared in the October edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.