Sally has a great post up on what she told her children when they asked for an explanation of "Abortion Rights."
h/t Betty Duffy, who I hope won't mind that I plagiarized her entire post up to here, because what more is there to say about it?
Actually I do have something to add. I'm teaching 20th-century U. S. History to my 10-y-o and a couple of other kids this year. Roe v. Wade (with its companion case Doe v Bolton and the later one, Casey v Planned Parenthood) is on my list of topics to cover (though I'm asking the other kids' parents to cover it separately rather than doing it as a group -- it's a sensitive enough topic that I want it to be dealt with between the parents and their own children; I don't think I can or should teach it to someone else's child.)
When I was organizing the course by topic -- because we're not following a text, I designed this history curriculum myself around good children's books -- I discovered that standard American history courses, even if they are careful not to issue an explicit judgement about abortion rights, usually cover Roe v. Wade either in a chapter about the counterculture and the sexual revolution, or in a chapter about women's rights and sometimes in a chapter about civil rights as well as women's rights. The message is pretty clear by the topic grouping: Roe v. Wade belongs in the chapter on progress.
Well. I thought about this one for a while. There are some other tricky topics to cover as well. In the end I decided to create a unit which I call, "Changes to the American Experience of Childhood." Because hey, I'm teaching kids here.
And in that unit I'm going to cover things like more women working, and the leap in the divorce rate, and Title IX too, and things like that. But not so much through the experience of adults, which is how the writers of most textbooks treat it. I want to teach it through the lens of what it was like f0r children living in families.
Because it's not simple, but by seeing what these changes did for children, the people who really couldn't control what happened to them much, I think the most important moral questions come into focus.
I mean, you cannot deny that at this time, girls, growing up, saw their possible futures multiply and expand in an unprecedented way. Take Title IX alone. Leaving aside the controversies at the college level over funding and exactly what constitutes "fairness" -- at the high school level, the change to allowing girls to participate in sports, well, that's huge. Girlhood changed for the better because of it.
At the same time, in a not unrelated development, more children spent time in day cares, more children grew up in broken homes, more children lived every day with the knowledge that families weren't permanent.
And, of course: the smallest children lost all meaningful legal protection over their lives. More of them, as a result, lost lives, families, everything.
So: all these changes, not from a "rights of adults" standpoint; from a standpoint of "what was the effect, on children, of adults demanding their rights?"
Like the author of the linked article, I think I don't need to spell out the rights and wrongs of any of this stuff. I only have to ask the kids to put themselves in the place of their own young imaginary selves, the selves of their younger siblings.