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Abortion has become a top-of-mind issue for Americans in recent weeks as Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that protected a person's right to abortion in the U.S., was overturned.
For many across the country, this new decision had immediate implications, as many states had trigger laws in place, banning abortions immediately. For others, it was a reminder of a deeply personal experience.
People who can become pregnant have abortions due to a never-ending list of circumstances, and some have children before the procedure, or after. As conversations about abortion are building across the country, parents who have had an abortion may be asking, should you tell your kids about your abortion history?
Should you tell your kids if you've had an abortion?
Roberta "Bobbi" Ballard, a psychologist from Atlanta, Ga. is a mother of one. She had an abortion when her daughter, now 23, was 5 years old. Ballard recalls sharing her story with her daughter when she was in high school.
"I told my daughter about my abortion when she was a teenager," she recalls. "I think she was 16 or 17."
"I decided to disclose it to her in the context of talking about sex and birth control," Ballard explains. "I told her the truth: that her father and I had already decided we did not want more children, and when my birth control — the pill — failed and I became pregnant, I chose to have an abortion. I wanted her to know because it was part of my history and I felt she was old enough to process it."
Ballards wants to destigmatize abortion, as she views abortion as healthcare and not a moral or political issue.
"As a therapist, I don't specialize in working with women who are processing an abortion or who are parenting teens, but I certainly have clients in these categories," she says. "A lot of the decision-making around whether or not — and how — to disclose an abortion to your kids depends on the individual. There is no one correct answer."
It's OK if you're not ready to talk to your kids about a past abortion
While Ballard felt at ease about sharing with her daughter, who already identified as pro-choice, other parents say the conversation feels a little more daunting.
April Lisbon is a psychologist and the mother of three children; two sons and a daughter. Lisbon shares that she had two abortions as a young woman. While it's always been a painful memory for her, she feels lucky for the second chance she had to build a better life for herself and her future family.
"My first baby was with a well-known drug dealer in his community," she says. "The other was a college student like me. These abortions were less than six months apart. It's been a long journey of recovery over the years and, to date, I haven't told my children."
Since her children are still young, ranging in age from 8 to 16, Lisbon says she hasn't yet felt like the time was right to open up to them about her past experiences. As her oldest son is growing closer to heading off to college himself, she feels the time is near where she will open up about her experiences with abortion.
"I don't want him to be afraid of having sex and the possibility of getting a girl pregnant," she says. "I want him to feel comfortable telling me his fears while I share my own with him. Then we will make a plan that will be in the best interest of him and the young lady: It's my hope that this is not his story, however, I never thought it would be my story either."
Lisbon says while many have preconceived notions about what the process of getting an abortion is like, being inside of the experience is something totally different. "More times than not, individuals perceive that having an abortion is an easy decision. It's not," Lisbon shares. "It was an extremely lonely experience … I still grieve my angels and wonder what life would have been like if my situation was different. However, I choose not to dwell on them because I was given a second chance. I know that for me, it was the best decision at the right time."
Emma Gordon, a California-based business owner, agrees that when it comes to disclosing your abortion history to your kids, timing is a large part of the decision-making process. When Gordon became pregnant shortly after the birth of her second child, she made the choice with her partner that it would be best for their family if they did not move forward with the pregnancy.
"I still had a [baby] I was caring for," she recalls. "She was barely even crawling and it would have been most crazy to try raising a 6-month-old baby with pregnancy hormones charging through my body. I have not told my kids about it because they are still in their early teen years and there's been no opportunity to bring that up."
While she hasn't shared her personal story just yet, Gordon says she ensures there are age-appropriate conversations about sexual health in her home. "I teach my daughter sex education and try to keep our relationship as liberal as possible so she doesn't hide things as sensitive as a pregnancy from me if that should ever happen," she says. "I don't plan on just calling [my kids] one day and spilling the secret, but if there's ever a need to, I would definitely open up to them."
A therapist weighs in on talking to kids about abortions
Dawn Friedman is a Columbus, Ohio therapist who specializes in assisting people experiencing a crisis pregnancy who are considering their options. She tells Yahoo Life that each situation is different, and the sharing of that experience is as personal a decision as the procedure itself.
"I don't have advice on whether or not someone should tell their children, but I support parents in figuring out if they want to and if so, how," Friedman says. "I do not think we have an obligation to share our sexual or reproductive histories with our children, but I support those parents who do want to find a way to talk about it with their kids."
In her work as a therapist, Friedman helps guide families to what will work best for them and their dynamic with their children. "We explore what it is they want their kids to know about their past," she says. "Do they want them to understand that they have options? To understand that ordinary people often face difficult choices? That we all have the right to make our own best decisions? Is their goal erasing the stigma around abortion or accidental pregnancy? Is it to support a child who is going through or may go through something similar? Discussing that helps us figure out how and when they might want to talk about it."
Friedman says her services also help parents who want to discuss their feelings about their story, free of shame, so they can process their experience before sharing it with their children. Ultimately, no matter what the circumstances of the experience may be, sharing it with anyone — including children — is something that has many different factors and should always be a choice.
Lisbon shares that even though her experience was difficult, she doesn't hold judgment against herself or others looking to share their stories. "In the end," she says, "I believe that only you can determine what is best for you based on your situation."
"No one should make you feel less than because you decided to terminate a pregnancy or give birth," she adds. "The only person who can judge you, is you."
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