Have you had “the talk” with your kids yet? No, I’m not talking about that talk, not the birds and the bees, but the other talk that I think all Catholic parents need to have with their kids, and at a fairly young age at that. “The talk” to which I am referring is the one about abortion. Yes, you read that correctly. I think all Catholic parents need to make a very great effort to have an open, honest, and of course, Christ-centered discussion with their children about one of the greatest horrors our world has ever known, before they teach them about puberty, sex, and where babies come from. If we leave it until then, the world has already had plenty of time to taint them with the ease of contraception and abortion on demand.
Having grown up the youngest of a rather large Catholic family, the sanctity of human life is a topic that was always considered of the utmost importance. My parents never shied away from telling us the truth about the “big issues”, including abortion, and making sure that they explained them to us in a way that both agreed with Church teaching and was understandable to children. It is because of this that I worked in the pro-life movement for many years myself. To me, and to many others, it is not only an issue; it is the issue.
That being said, it’s “the” issue that most, even among those who consider themselves to be pro-life, feel squeamish about when discussing it with small children. It’s understandable. How does one explain to a little one that some in our world think it perfectly acceptable, even to the point of calling it a “right”, to rip another human being limb from limb and destroy them simply because he has the misfortune to still be inside his mother’s womb? It’s not easy. I know, from personal experience. I’ve tried myself as a mother of my own little brood to make my children aware of the horrors of abortion. This might seem rather harsh, considering that my oldest is only seven. I don’t want to taint their innocence or expose them to the evils of the world too soon. I don’t even let them watch cartoons more violent that the 1960s version of Spiderman. If, however, we refuse to expose our children to the sad reality of abortion, in a controlled setting, in a loving environment, where their questions and concerns can be addressed with the love which only parents can provide, then we are only adding to the problem. They will grow up and be as susceptible to the lies of the culture of death as everyone else. Unless we instill in them that “a person’s a person, no matter how small” (thank you very much, Dr. Seuss), they may begin to believe that a person’s a person only if he or she is big, or important, or convenient. If, on the other hand, we begin, in developmentally appropriate language, from an early age, to mold their understanding of what abortion actually is, rather than marring their innocence, we are protecting it. We are protecting their belief in all that is holy and good in this world. We are protecting in them the intrinsic sense that every new life is wonderful and Willed, and precious, with which each of us is born. If we start at an early age, we stand a chance of making a lifelong impression on our children that may help them choose to work towards the end of this evil.
It’s easy to talk about all of this in general terms, but how does one speak to a four year old about murder? For me, it was easiest to start with the simplest truth: abortion is something that hurts babies and mommies. From there, we took it to the next level, and explained that it is something that ends the life of the baby, and that the mothers were still hurt, even though they are involved in it. We always make it clear that the mother is a victim in many cases, even as much as she is a perpetrator, and encourage our children to pray for all involved. We pray as a family for an end to abortion, for the babies, the mothers, the fathers, and, when they’re old enough, we’ll encourage them to take peaceful action. (“Old enough” is very subjective, and that’s why I believe it best for parents to have these discussions with their own children, as we know what they’ll be able to comprehend.) For now though, we’ll just keep taking baby steps until they fully realize what abortion is and why it is wrong, and hope and pray that by starting early, we’re building a solid foundation on which they can build a culture of life.