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Family

3 awkward questions about reproductive freedom — and how to answer them.

Talking about abortion and birth control with your not-so-feminist relatives can be awkward. These facts help.

If your family is like mine, political disagreements are as much a part of the Thanksgiving tradition as pumpkin pie.

Charged discussions are basically inevitable. And you can't alwaysuse Adele to deflect the conversation.

After years of practice, I've developed a pretty good plan for fielding questions about birth control, abortion, and reproductive freedom in general. Here's what I've got.


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Image from "SpongeBob SquarePants."

1. Aunt Margaret says: “I'm OK with people using birth control, but the government shouldn't be paying for it, and employers shouldn't have to cover it if they don't want to."

Here are the facts you need to know:

Obamacare requires insurance plans provided by employers to cover contraception and other preventive health services like annual well-woman visits.

This plan has been hugely successful.

aca_contraceptive_working.png

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the number of people with a $0 copay on their birth control has more than tripled for pill and ring users since 2012, and it has doubled for those who use injectable contraception. Graphic from the Guttmacher Institute, used with permission.

Since cost can be a huge barrier to contraception access, birth control coverage means fewer unplanned pregnancies, fewer teenage births, and healthier families.

The zinger:

Making birth control more accessible has enabled more Americans to make reproductive decisions for themselves. Also, contraception does count as basic health care, so there's no reason a health insurance plan should be excluding it.

2. Uncle Randall says: “Planned Parenthood should be defunded. Have you seen those sting videos?"

Uncle Randall is probably talking about those misleading videos — you know, the ones released by a group that's trying to exclude Planned Parenthood from any federal funding. The videos that claimed that health care providers are selling fetal tissue.

Here are the facts you need to know:

It's true. Some Planned Parenthood clinics DO donate fetal tissue from abortions. They do this with patients' full consent, and the tissue is used for life-saving medical research.

While Planned Parenthood once accepted reimbursements for storing and transporting that tissue (which is completely legal, by the way), they have stopped doing so in order to “reveal the true political purpose behind these attacks," according to Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards.

It's also worth mentioning that the controversial donated tissue has helped researchers develop the polio vaccine and better treatments for Alzheimer's disease. And so far, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing in any of the investigations into Planned Parenthood.

The zinger:

Planned Parenthood provides important reproductive health care, including abortions. And because Planned Parenthood serves many uninsured patients, they provide care to people who otherwise may not be able to access health care at all. That's really important.

YASSS. You deserve another slice of pie for that one.

3. Cousin Elliott explains: “I'm pro-choice, but I think too many women use abortion as birth control."

Here are the facts you need to know:

1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

Image from this awesome Mic video.

That's a lot of women, which means that there are many different reasons behind the decision to get an abortion. Maybe the woman wasn't ready to parent, she couldn't afford a child, or something went wrong with the pregnancy. Or maybe that person doesn't want to explain their decision because they don't owe anyone an explanation.

Here's the thing that many people don't know, though: Most women who have an abortion were using contraception when they became pregnant, according to these stats from the Guttmacher Institute. Therefore, it's statistically unlikely that "many people" are using abortion as their "only form of birth control."

The zinger:

Regardless of the above stats, any reason for an abortion is a sufficient reason. The decision to have or not have a child is a personal, intimate one — and no one should feel shame for making the choice that is right for them.

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Image from "Glee."

Bam. If you've gotten through these three questions, it's probably already time for dessert (#teampie).

Reproductive freedom can be a contentious topic, and chances are good that you'll disagree with someone sitting across the table this week. It happens to me a lot.

What I've found personally, though, is that feelings about abortion, or reproductive freedom in general, aren't as black and white as politicians can make them seem. In fact, lots of people consider themselves to be both pro-life and pro-choice. There aren't just two sides to the story.

Images from "Real Time With Bill Maher." <3 Sarah Silverman.

And if there aren't simply two sides to these issues, that means there's a lot of middle ground in the reproductive freedom conversation.

That's space for all of us to talk about birth control, abortion, and women's bodies in a way that's respectful, informed, and productive — a middle ground that you can hopefully find at your Thanksgiving table.

Go get 'em, friends.

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And while parents, politicians and activists debate those remedies, one voice is all-too-often ignored: that of teachers themselves.

This is why a short video testimony from a teacher in the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County went viral recently. After all, it's hard to deny the points made by someone who was just named teacher of the year and used the occasion to announce why he will be leaving the very school district that just honored him with that distinction.

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