Why won’t parents talk about helping their daughters get abortions?

Yes, I tell them, there are lots of good reasons to avoid an unwanted pregnancy in the first place: the potential physical dangers of unprotected sex, the potential emotional complications involved. But none of those should affect our ability to support, without judgment, a woman’s right to choose. I remind them that they are lucky to live in a state with access to safe and legal abortions and that should they find themselves in the position to need to avail themselves of those resources, I will give them the support they need.

I wish that other progressive parents were having the same conversations, but based on my experience, I suspect they’re not. And I get it. It’s one thing to believe in a theoretical person’s right to end an unwanted pregnancy; it’s entirely another to consider your own child’s behavior and its consequences. Perhaps parents are worried a child’s unwanted pregnancy might reflect poorly on their own parenting, implying that their daughter has made the kinds of “bad choices” she’d been dutifully taught to avoid. And talking about your daughter getting pregnant feels almost abstract, a cultural trope akin to joking about “getting out the shotgun” to defend her against unsavory gentleman callers. It’s not real; it’s just something parents say to indicate a general anxiety with watching one’s children grow into sexual maturity. Talking about your daughter getting an abortion, on the other hand, isn’t some common cultural shorthand or reference; it’s a specific reference to a specific procedure performed upon your specific daughter. Suddenly these abstract conversations are brought uncomfortably into the realm of the real and the possible. What would you do, the other parents are implicitly asked by my response, if your daughter had a pregnancy that she and you agreed should not be carried to term? What would you actually do? I think it’s time to stop shying away from this very real question, and its very real answer, and align our parenting with our politics.