“Do you want me to read to you?” my oldest asked his almost 2-year old sister recently.
She nodded eagerly. “How about this one?” He was holding up one of her current favourites, a sturdy Usborne book entitled Where Do Babies Come From? My heart warmed as they snuggled on the couch together. “A tiny seed from the father, called a sperm, joins with a tiny egg from the mother,” he read, while she lifted the flap to see a small human growing in-utero. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Can you tell we’re pro-life?
Raising our children in a pro-life way is the theme of many questions I receive from parents, especially after presentations. “How do we start?” they ask. “What do we tell them? What do you tell your kids?” I’ve spoken to thousands of teenagers, engaged in countless sidewalk conversations, and done several formal debates on university campuses, but I’m still stunned at times about how many people possess such little (accurate) information about human development. Surely there are multiple factors at play—one could blame public education, the media, and the abortion lobby—but what if we start at home?
This is not to say that providing children with a proper upbringing will guarantee a perfect outcome. My oldest is only eight, but I’m under no illusion that a certain kind of parenting warrants a certain kind of outcome. That’s not all. I know young women from solidly pro-life homes who’ve had abortions and the reason is not because their parents failed to teach them about the value of human life before birth.
But what if pro-lifers begin to speak about children before birth in the same way as we do about children after birth? What if we recognize that parenthood begins not at birth, but as soon as a child exists? Could it be that we’ll begin to value pre-born lives as much as born lives?
What if children learn from a young age that their lives began at fertilization? What if the facts about our first nine months are seen as fun, fascinating, and awe-inspiring ways to build a solid, scientific base which informs the belief that all human beings have human rights? Could it be that they’ll be less susceptible to the soothing voice that says an early, unintended pregnancy is just a bunch of tissue?
What if children in pro-life homes feel, hear, and see that abortion weighs on their parents’ hearts, something they’re seeking to address in whichever way they can? Could it be that they’ll grow up thinking that inaction in response to injustice is simply not an option?
What if teens and pre-teens learn about pro-abortion arguments—and how to refute each—before they come across them? Could it be that fewer young people will be confused or convinced by catchy slogans, faulty philosophical theories, and straight-up lies?
What if teens and pre-teens know for a fact that their home is a place of unconditional love and support to turn to, especially when one’s in trouble? Could it be that they’ll bring their pregnant friend home or reject abortion in their own lives because mom or dad will be there, no matter what?
While we seek to reach the culture and engage young people who never had or perhaps rejected a pro-life upbringing, we must also build from the ground up. Otherwise, a dozen years or so from now, we can start street outreach all over with the next generation. At stake, however, aren’t only the choices and consciences of our children. If pro-life values are not passed on, the increasing number of corpses of aborted babies will, without a doubt, include our grandchildren.
The alternative and the solution is that those who recognize the very lives that are at stake become invested and actively involved in instilling pro-life values. This may mean educating ourselves first—by reading Love Unleashes Life, for example. There are also helpful children’s books (to use with discretion), such as Wonderfully Made and The Baby Tree, but especially with little ones, it doesn’t have to be difficult.
(For those who consider this the brainwashing of innocent children, is it any different when pro-choice parents tell young children—as I’ve heard—that “an embryo is just a bunch of cells”? Yes, actually; it is different. I’m simply encouraging parents to incorporate scientific information into a worldview that respects the human rights of all human beings.)
Imagine a child pretending to be a doctor and walking over with a stethoscope. After she has listened to your heartbeat, you could say, “Guess what? Your heart started beating when you were only three weeks old in mom’s tummy. How amazing is that?” When her feet have grown and she needs new shoes, you may point to your baby feet pin and say, “Can you believe that when you were 10 weeks old your feet looked like this?”
Imagine an older child asking about Down Syndrome, as one of my boys recently did. “Remember how the sperm and egg fuse into a tiny embryo?” I asked. “Each of them brings 23 chromosomes, or little pieces of information to form a new human being. Here, let’s look it up in our Lennart Nilsson book. See? You get 23 from the mom, 23 from the dad. Someone with Down Syndrome doesn’t have two but three copies of the 21st chromosome. And that changes a lot because your chromosomes or genes are in every cell of your body.” “Jeans?” one said. “Haha,” another replied. “G-E-N-E-S, silly.”
Imagine a pre-teen who has recently met identical twins and thinks this is so cool. “Isn’t it?” you say. “Do you know how that happens?” After exploring this process during prenatal development together, you introduce the pro-abortion idea that an embryo is not a full-fledged human being until the moment that twinning can take place. “What do you think?” you ask. I remember being stunned by this argument in university and doing my research afterward. I also remember the moment that I read the flatworm analogy. Each flatworm can be cut in half, after which there will be two, living organisms. (The same is true for starfish, by the way.) Does that mean there wasn’t one beforehand? Of course not. How great if a young person knows this analogy before potentially being stunned.
Imagine a young teen learning about the specifics of fertilization and implantation. Rather than waiting for a (possibly emotional) discussion in the future, a parent or teacher could guide the discussion to the morning-after pill, explaining that it can prevent a newly formed embryo from implanting into the uterine lining, causing an early abortion. “What do you think? Since science shows that each human life begins at fertilization, is that okay?”
There are endless opportunities to incorporate this into every-day moments rather than long or boring lessons—in fact, most of it will be through the way we speak and what we pass on in tiny tidbits. From there, let the kid take the lead. If they move on, so do we, but if they want to learn more, let’s dig deeper. This doesn’t need to include information about human reproduction or sexuality, if children aren’t ready yet. Case in point: All my (born) kids know about sperm and egg, but only the oldest has thought to recently ask how the two actually get to each other. That’s a good question too, which deserves an age-appropriate answer.
Some three months ago, when I was just seven weeks pregnant with our youngest, we took the other four kids out for apple fritters and ordered seven of them. When everyone had eaten theirs, one fritter was left on the tray. “Who gets the last one?” the kids asked. “I think it’s for the baby,” my husband Nick joked. The expression on their faces changed from confusion to shock to excitement. “You have a baby?” one whispered incredulously. “Yes,” I said, tearing up, “a tiny little baby.” “We have a baby,” they shouted with smiles and hugs. “We have a baby!”
Reflecting on this later, I registered the fact that none of them said we are going to have a baby. Why would they? Regardless of what happens, there’s a child who’s alive—their little brother or sister. Since then, they’ve told whoever they can. This has caused both confusion and chances for sharing a pro-life message. “Really?” the store clerk said, for instance, “a boy or a girl?” “Oh, we don’t know yet.” “Pardon me?” “The baby is 10 weeks old now in my mom’s tummy and has fingers and toes.” Her face cleared up. “Oh, your mom is pregnant.” “Yes,” my daughter said, “we have a new baby.”