How to talk to youth about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade
Girls Leadership opposes the overturning of Roe v. Wade because we believe that the path to leadership begins with self-awareness, self-respect, and the ability to make decisions and choices for ourselves.
It is critical that we talk with our kids in an age-appropriate way about the Supreme Court ruling last Friday. To not talk about what happened could either minimize the significance of this news, erase it, or contribute to the idea that sexual reproduction is too shameful or taboo to discuss. By talking about what happened we can help our young people have awareness of political decisions that affect their futures and the lives of others, understand how gender and racial inequality is maintained, and know what they can do as leaders to make the world more fair and equal for all.
Make space to hold their feelings; don’t ask them to take care of you.
Given how enraged and devastated many parents, caregivers, and educators are, it can be hard not to lead with our own feelings. While we can and should bring our feelings into the conversation, it is important to remember that it is our job as adults to take care of the feelings and experiences of our young people, not to ask them to be taking care of us. This might mean that we need to give ourselves the time and space to process our feelings, experiences, and thoughts with other adults first. This can look like venting conversations, exercise, or checking in with a professional to help us through this time.
Before you start using terms, make sure the foundational understanding is there.
Regardless of the age of your young person, it is important to talk about the most simple and clear terms possible. If you’ve already discussed with your younger kids about consent and boundaries for safety and protection, this can be an extension of that conversation: people are in charge of their own bodies and no one else should make decisions on what happens to them. For younger kids, start with making sure that they understand all the vocabulary, such as sex, abortion, miscarriage, and Supreme Court. Also there is now a non-judgmental children’s book on the topic, What’s An Abortion Anyway?
Make sure the youth that you are talking to have the age appropriate facts, which for older youth might include conversations about birth control, rape, incest, abortion, and childbirth. Other possible information to share:
- As of Friday, June 24, 2022, girls, women, and gender-expansive individuals have fewer rights than they did in the previous 50 years. Five individuals on the Supreme Court took away an individual’s right to choose when/if to have a baby. They gave the power of that very personal decision to state governments.
- Like other medical procedures, abortions are essential health care. People have abortions for many reasons, ranging from personal choice to medical reasons, such as when the life of the mother and/or the baby are in danger.
- This Supreme Court decision creates very different options for different individuals depending on which state they live in, how much money they have to travel to a place where they can get an abortion, and/or if it is safe for them to take time off of school or work to travel for an abortion. The people who will be forced to give birth against their will will be from low-income families, and mostly people of color.
- Because safe abortions aren’t available, some pregnant people will turn to the next alternative — unsafe abortions — and some will die from these.
- Many of those who can’t afford abortions also can’t afford childcare and the other costs of parenting, and being forced to become a parent will force them deeper into poverty.
Ask questions and listen. Being able to process this news will give young people the ability to formulate their beliefs and leadership on this issue. You can start the conversation by meeting them where they’re at and asking them what they’ve been hearing about the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. They may not have heard much, so here are some questions that could start the discussion:
- What feelings are you having about the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade?
- What questions are coming up for you from what you are hearing from friends, on social media, and in the news?
- (For parents and caregivers) Given our family values, what do you think are some things we could do in response to this news?
- If this is a long-term fight, how can you both be in active solidarity with everyone fighting for reproductive rights, and sustain the work for years or decades?
- For those who aren’t directly impacted, such as men, or people with access to abortion because of the state in which they live or their income level, what could it look like to be an ally?
- What are the rights that you think everyone should have that can never be changed or taken away?
- How does the phrase, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free,” apply to this ruling?
Model leadership. Come up with actions that you will take with the young people in your life. Some possibilities include:
- Volunteer to get more people to vote, especially in swing states and other states that really need support. There are elections happening all year, starting with local and statewide elections. Every election counts and every vote counts. Sending “get out the vote” postcards is something you can do as a community.
- Donate to and volunteer with All-Options, the only national organization that provides free, non-judgmental support across pregnancy experiences (abortion, miscarriage, infertility, parenting). Planned Parenthood is another vital resource that not only provides abortion services, but many other reproductive and life-saving services to people of all genders.
- Go to a protest together to connect with the collective experience of using the power of your voice.
- Call your senators and representatives together. Google “state name senator” and “find my representative” to find contact information on their official government sites. Sample scripts are available online (check out @emilyinyourphone for some) or write one together.
We define leadership as making others and situations better as a result of your presence, and making that impact last in your absence. Even more important than our apologies, this generation of girls deserves our leadership right now. If we are lucky, it will last in our absence.