Laura Hurley of Brook offers some ideas for tackling the topic of abortion with your child, and follow the links to find out further information online
Why should I talk to my child about abortion?
The subject of abortion would probably come pretty low down on a list of ‘fun topics to chat to your kids about’. Abortion is often seen as a controversial, sensitive topic and therefore it’s not surprising that many parents are wary of discussing the issue. But there are strong reasons to include abortion as part of a wider discussion about sex and relationships. Here are some thoughts on how you can do it in a sensitive and helpful way.
A third of women in the UK have an abortion, so we all know somebody who’s been through the experience. And young women are even more likely to make this choice. Jjust under half of under 18s who get pregnant will have a termination. It makes sense therefore to discuss unplanned pregnancy and pregnancy choices, something which may well affect your son or daughter, or their friend or partner, in the future.
Young people want facts
You just need to type ‘abortion’ into a Google search to see the confusing and at times distressing information that’s out there. Harmful myths about abortion causing infertility, breast cancer or mental health problems are spread by groups under the guise of providing ‘education’. By checking out reputable resources you can be a source of factual information. This might give you ideas for questions to your child’s school about what they teach about abortion.
Practical information on rights and services
Talking about pregnancy choices can help young people to think about the realities of pregnancy and may provide motivation for delaying sex that can lead to pregnancy, or for taking precautions if they do. Young women have a right to confidential information about contraception and abortion. Young men are often surprised to find out that they don’t legally have any say over whether their girlfriend has an abortion or not – but they CAN have input when it comes to using condoms. Your kids might not want to talk to you about every aspect of their lives, but it’s good to let them know where they can go if they ever do have questions.
Women of all different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds can experience unplanned pregnancy and abortion. There is no one ‘type’ of woman who has an abortion and it can be useful for young people to know this. Learning more about abortion, here and abroad, provides an interesting case for discussing different moral and religious viewpoints, laws, and hopefully develop empathy for the decisions other people make.
- Brook, the young people’s sexual health charity, is a great place to go for simple, factual information on all aspects of sexual and reproductive health. Brook’s project Education For Choice is dedicated to providing information on pregnancy choices and produces helpful resources like this free abortion FAQs factsheet.
- When we hear that young women under 16 can access abortion without needing parental permission, this can raise concerns. This research from Marie Stopes shows that in fact, the vast majority of young women DO talk to a parent, or another adult that they trust, and are supported throughout the process. The Marie Stopes website also provides factual information on contraception and pregnancy.
A referendum in May 2018 to repeal the 8th amendment paved the way for abortion to be legalised in the Republic of Ireland but it is still illegal to have an abortion in Northern Ireland. Abortion has been legal in England, Scotland and Wales since the 1967 Abortion Act.
The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP.
First published: May 2014
Updated: May 2018