Heather, who has “two mommies,” came home from school the other day, seeming a bit confused. The little girl, who likes to think, sat up in her room for a while before coming downstairs to talk to one of her “mommies,” who was preparing for Heather a healthy snack of chick peas, organic, gluten-free whole grain barley crackers imprinted with the states and their capitals on them, and double-strained carrot juice.

“What’s wrong, honey?” asked mommy.

“I don’t know, mommy. I heard something in school today that’s been bothering me.”

“What did you hear, honey?”

“Well, John was listening to his mommy and daddy, who were talking about some new law. He called it a ‘heartbeat’ bill. He said that Alabama — you know their capital is ‘Montgomery’ — made some law that says if one can hear a heartbeat, you can’t kill that heartbeat. He called it ‘ab-orshion’ and has something to do with babies. I don’t understand. What’s it all about, mommy?”

Mommy grimaced. This was not going to be an easy conversation.

“Well, dear, Johnny didn’t tell you everything, and I’m afraid what he told you is incomplete.”

“What do you mean, mommy?”

“Well, you know where babies come from, right? They come from love between two people, and sometimes a woman carries what will become a baby inside her. That’s called ‘pregnancy.’”

“Oh, you mean that a mommy has a little baby inside her?”

“No, Heather, it’s not a ‘little baby.’ It’s more like a clump of cells or tissue, like your tonsil that we had to take out last summer, remember? Your tonsil was sick — it had an infection — and we had to remove it. Or remember when Tina (Heather’s other mommy) had a bad pain in her side and the doctor said her appendix was sick and they took it out?”

“So it’s not a baby, mommy?”

“No, Heather. That’s unscientific. We call that blob of tissue an ‘embryo’ and, later, a ‘fetus.’ But it’s not a baby.”

“En-bee-yo. Fee-tosh. OK, mommy. But when does the enbeeyo turn into a baby?”

“Well, Heather, we’re not sure. Different people think different things. But I believe that it’s not a baby until it’s born.”

“But mommy, you said we should always believe in science. Do you mean that scientists still don’t know when life begins?”

“Honey, it’s not a scientific question. It’s a question of your viewpoint.”

Heather looks puzzled.

“I don’t understand, mommy. You mean if I say it’s an enbeeyo…”

“EM-BRY-O, darling.”

“… embryo and not a baby, and John says it’s a baby, then it’s a baby and not a baby at the same time? That doesn’t make sense.”

“Heather, it’s very complicated. But what matters most is what the woman who is carrying that baby — I mean, tissue — thinks. She has to decide what it is, and it’s her choice. That’s why we went to the Women’s March last year, put on our pink hats, and carried signs for ‘choice.’”

“Oh. I didn’t know ‘choice’ had anything to do with babies.”

“Tissue, dear.”

“Tissue, embeeyos, feti – right momma, ‘us’ turns into ‘i’ in the plural?”

“Yes, dear, but say ‘fetuses.’”

“OK, mommy. But I still don’t understand something.”

“What, Heather?”

“Well, the doctor took out my tonsil because it was sick. I remember I felt very bad and I couldn’t swallow. Does that mean all those — what did Johnny call it? — aborshions are needed because there’s so many sick tissues? Wow, that sounds like cancer. I remember when we marched against cancer that the lady said that it was ‘the fastest growing disease in America.’ But isn’t pregnancy then a disease? Do all those women chose aborshions because they’re embeeyos are sick?”

“No, Heather. Remember, we said it’s a question of choice. Sometimes a woman isn’t ready to be a mother and she doesn’t want to give birth. It’s got to be her choice.”

“But mommy, you said the tissue was like my sick tonsil. But if my tonsil wasn’t sick, Dr. Alvarez wouldn’t have taken it out. We wouldn’t take out a healthy tonsil, would we?”

“No, dear.”

“Even if it was my choice?”

Silence.

“Mommy, I have one other question, though. Johnny said his mommy and daddy said they passed that law because they said you can hear a heartbeat. Now, my tonsil didn’t have a heartbeat, and Mommy Tina’s appendix didn’t have a heartbeat, but this tissue does. Doesn’t that make it different?”

“No, Heather. The only thing that matters is what the woman chooses.”

“But mommy, I don’t understand. Whenever we study in school about science, they always mention heartbeats connected with living things: if something has a heartbeat, it’s alive, when the heartbeat stops — like when the line goes flat on TV shows, you die. So why is this embeeyo heartbeat any different?”

“Because it is, Heather. Because it’s a matter of choosing.”

“But remember that baby bird that fell out of our maple tree in the backyard last spring, mommy? When I held him, I could feel his heart pounding, but when his heart stopped, he died. Remember we buried him the backyard?”

“Yes, Heather, but that was a bird and this is a clump of cells. They’re different.”

“So it’s not a living thing, mommy?”

“No. It’s a choice.”

“But John said his mommy said, ‘it’s a child, not a choice.’”

“John has his opinion, Heather, and it’s wrong. It’s not scientific.”

“But you just said this is a question of my viewpoint, not of science. I don’t understand.”

“You will, Heather, someday.”

“Mommy, if the embeeyo is not a living thing, what is it?”

“It’s part of the woman.”

“Part of the woman?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I can’t wait to tell my science teacher tomorrow that she’s wrong. We’re studying the human body right now, and she said that everybody has two lungs but only one heart. But I guess when a woman is pregnant, she has two hearts?”

“Heather, did you like your snack? Why don’t you go out and play?”

“OK, mommy. I love talking to you, even though sometimes I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

Heather goes out the back door. Mommy flips open her laptop and googles “Planned Parenthood — Tweenies — Talking about Choice.”

All opinions expressed herein are exclusively the author’s.