Reproductive Health
This girl is discussing her abortion with her parent.

7 Tips For Discussing Your Abortion With Your Parents

Here's how to prepare yourself for this important conversation.

By Elyssa Goodman
Elite Daily/Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy

When you discover you’re pregnant, you have some decisions to make, starting with the choice between abortion, adoption, and parenthood. Maybe you’re torn between options and would appreciate your parents’ or guardians’ point of view. Maybe you already know abortion is the right plan for you, but you want or need to talk to your folks anyway, whether it’s because you’re under 18 and live in a state that requires involvement from at least one parent or guardian (more on that below); or you have questions about health insurance, finances, or logistics; or you hope to lean on your family for support. Broaching this subject can be very difficult, but there are resources to help guide you through this conversation.

We spoke to Meredith Shirey, LMFT, about tips to keep in mind if you’re preparing to talk to your parents or guardians about your need for an abortion or even about a past experience with the procedure. It's important to keep in mind that your folks are people with their own feelings and experiences, and this can be a sensitive subject for some. While there's no way to guarantee the talk will be stress-free, she says your approach and timing can make a difference.

Consider If You Really Want Or Need To Talk About Abortion

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Abortion laws vary state by state. As of January 2022, 38 states require minors to have some form of parent/guardian involvement, either by receiving consent from or notifying at least one parent or guardian. However, in many of those states, consent can come from another adult relative, or a judge can grant a waiver of parental involvement. An abortion clinic can help you sort out how local laws will affect you.

If you’re over the age of 18, it’s worth contemplating whether or not you need or want to tell your parents at all. Shirey says it’s important for you to understand your own expectations and ask yourself what you want to get out of your family’s responses. It’s kind of you to take your family into consideration, she says, but consider if their views will help or hinder your plans. “It’s something that I think is quite frankly an adult decision that you have to make independent of your family as much as you can,” Shirey says. You can’t always predict other people’s reactions, so ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you.

Know Where You Stand

You might still be deciding if you want to have an abortion, and that's OK. But if you've already made up your mind, staying grounded in your own decision is important.

If your family has a negative reaction to hearing this information, Shirey says, you’ll have created your own foundation to stand on and can trust that you’re making the right choice for you. Without this, she says, a negative reaction could potentially shake you; you could make a decision that isn’t what you want, but what they want and isn’t necessarily right for you.

“Your future and your body, you have to decide those things for yourself because your family cannot live in your body for you,” Shirey says.

Write Down Your Thoughts About Abortion

To structure your thoughts before you begin this conversation with your parents, Shirey recommends journaling or writing them down. Having notes or a script may help you keep track of what you want to say.

The way you deliver this information can affect how your family receives it, so taking stock of your own opinions and ideas is important. “You’re going to sound a lot more calm and grounded [if you know what you want to say],” Shirey says. She adds that when humans see others in distress, that triggers our threat response (fight, flight, or freeze). This can be a deeply emotional subject, so it’s understandable if you sound nervous or upset during the conversation, but planning what you’d like to say in advance can help put you all at ease.

Choose the Right Time To Talk To Your Parents About Abortion

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One thing you want to think about is to be very, very mindful about having the conversation,” Shirey says. This is not a subject to flippantly discuss off the cuff, over Thanksgiving dinner, or at someone’s birthday party — in fact, these are all situations that could make the conversation even more difficult. Instead, sit your parents or guardians down privately, share what you’d like to say, and respect the fact that they may need space to process this news.

Manage Your Own Expectations

You might want to prepare yourself for the range of reactions they might have when you talk to them about this,” Shirey says. What is the best-case scenario? What is the worst? People are unpredictable, and while you might be seeking your family’s validation, that’s not necessarily guaranteed, even though they love you.

You Might Feel Grief After Your Abortion — That’s Normal

There’s no single right way to feel about this enormously personal decision. Whether you’re conflicted, sad, fine, or anything else, your emotions are valid. “It’s OK to have some sadness,” Shirey says. “We forget that pregnancy loss, whether it’s through abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth is still a loss and it’s a loss that you’re allowed to process and you’re allowed to have feelings about.”

This is especially true if your parents or guardians don’t support or consent to your decision. “It’s really important to allow yourself to grieve [if] your parents did not give you the support and the validation that you were hoping [for],” she adds.

If the conversation about abortion upsets your parents or guardians, keep in mind they may not stay that way forever. Your feelings are likely to change over time, too. In 2020, a study examined how women felt in the aftermath of their abortions: even though more than half struggled to make their decision, 97.5% had no regrets after one week, and a whopping 99% reported feeling relief five years later.

Take Care Of Yourself

No matter how your situation turns out, get ready to practice self-compassion. Shirey recommends practices from the book Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive by Kristen Neff, an educational psychologist and an expert on the subject.

Neff recommends several strategies for self-care in this moment, including writing yourself a letter full of acceptance and compassion, journaling regularly, and reframing critical self-talk. These exercises and more are available on her website.

You can also turn to others, including the All Options talkline for free peer counseling about all pregnancy outcomes, as well as a therapist.

Depending on your family’s views, talking to them about getting an abortion could be stressful, considered no different than any other medical procedure, or somewhere in between. Regardless of whether you discuss your abortion with your family or how that conversation goes, take pride in your ability to make the best decision for yourself.

Sources:

Meredith Shirey, LMFT

Dr. Kristin Neff, “Self-Compassion Guided Practices and Exercises

The Parasympathetic Nervous System Explained,” Healthline