By: Kalani Phillips, MPH, CPH
On June 24th, 2022, the United States (US) Supreme Court announced in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022) case that abortion was not a protected right under the US Constitution. Abandoning almost 50 years of precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade (1973), the US Supreme Court gave states the power to regulate abortion access. This has undoubtedly resulted in a decrease in abortion access to the nation’s most vulnerable populations, specifically people of color, lower-income groups, as well as adolescents and young adults.
Research states that reproductive health screening is typically missed in the primary care setting. This has led to numerous recommendations to increase access to reproductive care whenever adolescents and young adults receive any type of health care. As adolescents are young and are less likely to have experience, education, and knowledge on reproductive care options and contraceptives, increasing access to these resources is essential. For instance, research shows that while 71% of adolescent women report having vaginal sex by age 19 in the US, less than 50% of those women have reported ever receiving instruction on where and how to obtain birth control prior to having sex for the first time, highlighting a need to increase education and access.
Moreover, adolescents have the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies, and these pregnancies have a higher likelihood of being terminated through abortion care. It is apparent that current abortion restrictions will create disproportionate burdens on this population. Furthermore, the Supreme Court decision will most likely increase existing health disparities specifically for low-income and BIPOC youth and young adults, creating an even larger barrier to accessing reproductive care.
As 13 states have already implemented laws to ban abortion completely and nearly half of all states have banned, limited, or attempted to ban abortion, it is critical that steps be taken to mitigate this issue. Senator Lindsey Graham has recently proposed a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks. President Biden has recently stated that Democrats will codify the right to an abortion into law if two more Democrats are elected to the US Senate in the midterm elections. There will likely be further developments following the upcoming midterm elections. It is imperative that individuals recognize the need for abortion access and vote accordingly. While abortion has become a heated topic and a major issue for voters across the nation, let’s remember that abortion is not just a political focus. We cannot undermine the fact that young people are currently facing severe restrictions in access to safe and clinically supported reproductive health care.
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