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The Lesson I Learned When My 7-Year-Old Asked, 'What's an Abortion?'

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The steaming cup of hot tea warmed my fingers as I curled under the blanket. I loved my morning routine of cooking breakfast for the kids then watching the news as they played and got dressed for the day.

However, on this morning, I didn't realize that my 7-year-old daughter was playing "Spies" with her younger brother as I turned on the television. Creeping around corners and hiding behind chairs was all part of their quest to secretly infiltrate the living room.

I listened, unaware that little ears were just feet away, as the morning reporter commented on the politics of the day, including an organization protesting outside Planned Parenthood chanting, "Abortion kills babies."

"What's abortion?" My daughter's head popped up from behind the sofa, like a jack-in-the-box at the end of its song.

My startled expression clued her in to the fact that this was not something I was expecting her to ask—or more accurately, prepared for her to ask.

"It's... uhm...when...," I struggled to find the words.

"Mommy," she looked up at the television. "Why is there a dead baby on that sign?"

I grabbed the remote control quickly and clicked the image off of the screen.

Turning to her inquisitive face, I took a deep breath.

"Well," I thought for a second, desperately searching for the right words to say. "Abortion is when a person has a baby in their belly, but for many different reasons, chooses not to let it be born."

Even though I am very pro-choice and have always felt comfortable sharing my views on the issue, I found myself unsure of what I should be sharing or how to word it for the mind of a 7-year-old to comprehend.

"Why would someone not want a baby to be born?" she asked as she plopped down on the couch next to me.

I sighed. "There's a lot of grown-up reasons that might be hard to understand right now," I answered. "But sometimes it's because a woman isn't ready to be a mother."

"Oh," she replied, nodding her head as a curious look appeared on her face. "Well, then she probably shouldn't do that special hug that makes a baby, right?"

I laughed. The extent of our sex talk has been about "special hugs" that grown-ups do where parts of their bodies match together.

"Yes, that's probably true," I answered.

She looked back up at me. "But why are they being mean to that person?"

"I don't think they are trying to be mean; they are just disagreeing with her choice," I said.

She thought for a second, then shook her head. "No, they look like they are being mean. When you disagree with someone, you shouldn't yell at them." Then she looked up at me. "Right?"

I smiled at her innocence—at her perfectly clean, untarnished view of the world.

But she was right.

The woman was yelling. She was screaming, chanting, and pushing horrible images in someone's face.

It hit me during that conversation that somewhere in life, we've forgotten the rules. The rules of how to disagree. The same rules we teach our children every day when they fight over a toy or when they believe they were in the right. I wondered what protests would look like if 7-year-olds ran them.

The statistics of violence stirring from disagreements about abortion are astonishing. According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF): "Since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault, 13 wounded, 100 butyric acid attacks, 373 physical invasions, 41 bombings, 655 anthrax threats, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers."

When did disagreeing come to this? Why do we teach our children not to yell at each other and not to solve problems by screaming, yet as adults, that's exactly how we handle disagreeing?

Perhaps I can't change the way everyone talks to each other or how people handle conflict with others, but in that brief exchange with my daughter, I realized that I can change how I handle it, how I disagree.

So now, when I tell her to stop screaming at her brother, I'm going to remember that means I can't yell at someone either. None of us need to go to that ugly place where names are called or negative images are drawn. And maybe, just maybe, we should all act more like 7-year-olds.