Last Wednesday, while many of us were celebrating the 41st anniversary of the historic Roe v Wade decision, the DC streets, buses, and metros were swarming with abortion opponents who gathered here for their annual March for Life. Whenever im unlucky enough to be surrounded by a bunch of anti-choicers, a few things always stand out. Last week was no different. The first thing i noticed was that I didn’t see a single person of color who was an identifiable attendee. No surprise there that white folks have decided to place judgement and condemnation on a procedure that poor communities of color are more likely to need. The second thing was that there were so many young people. And I’m not talking about college freshman – there were elementary school kids there. A bunch of them.
Organized youth within the anti-choice movement have become increasingly visible and have even taken to calling themselves the “pro-life generation.” And from the looks of it, they are doing a good job of bringing up generations after them as well. But how? It has become painfully obvious that abortion opponents have no problem talking to their children about how abortion is wrong from very young ages. When I was in Albuquerque, working on the campaign to block a 20 week abortion ban I came face to face with a little boy who was no older than 10. He had signs and pamphlets and was calling out to the college students who passed to vote for this ballot measure. His language was on point and it was obvious that he was passionate about the “rights of babies.” Looking back on that experience, in collaboration with the groups of kids that were able to miss school in order to be part of the March for Life, I find myself impressed with how the anti-abortion movement has included and uplifted young people and children to be proactive. Their messaging seems to be pretty easy to push: ”Hey little Timmy, some people kill their babies and that is bad. We have to stop them because that’s the right thing to do.”
But this also has me wondering if we, supporters of reproductive choice and freedom, are doing the same thing with our kids? Our issues are obviously complex, situational, personal, and intersectional. There is a shit ton to unpack within a reproductive justice framework, so it can be hard to create language for children that encompasses the values of justice and respecting personal decisions. While there may be some debate as to what age is appropriate to engage with these issues, we can’t deny how important it is to activate and engage young people in order to push our movement forward. This is more than comprehensive sex education. We should be fostering a future that is more empathetic to the fact that sometimes people are pregnant, don’t want to be, and should be able to decide whether or not to remain pregnant.
I don’t have children of my own. But I have a 4-year-old niece, and I often think about what I will tell her about reproductive health and decision making, and when. I’ve played with a few scripts in my head but I haven’t settled on anything yet. I know it will be something along the lines of: “When you’re old enough, you will have to make decisions that are best for your life. That’s called being responsible. Some people might not like the decisions you make and sometimes you might not like the decisions that other people make. But being kind and compassionate means you have to let people decide for themselves. It’s kind of like when I let you pick which book you want to read at night.” Or something like that. I haven’t perfected this, obviously.
Sesali is wondering if she should try her hand at feminist children’s books.