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Youth Need Access to Comprehensive Reproductive Care and Education

As an organization dedicated to improving the health, education, and wellbeing of adolescents through science, we support access to comprehensive reproductive information and healthcare—including abortion—for adolescents.

Adolescence is a critical window for supporting positive development, and restrictions on access to reproductive health information and reproductive healthcare have a particularly negative impact on youth. Although adolescents 19-years-old and younger account for just over 10 percent of those seeking abortions in the United States, they are more likely than their older peers to choose abortion if they get pregnant. They also face more obstacles to preventing unwanted pregnancies–only 17 states mandate the kind of medically accurate school-based sex education that has been shown to prevent teen pregnancies, and youth under 18 face age-related restrictions and other logistical barriers to accessing effective contraception.

For those young people who do become pregnant and who want to terminate that pregnancy, state restrictions on abortion further limit their options compared to adults. Long-distance travel is more difficult for minors, and out-of-state travel is impossible for many youth. Access to medication abortion through online appointments is mostly limited to those over 18.

Teen pregnancy significantly affects young people’s opportunities for positive development, increasing high school dropout rates and future economic stability, and the burden of unintended pregnancies are not shared equally. Due to inequitable access to health care, contraception, and accurate information, youth of color, youth in the foster and juvenile justice systems, youth from low-income families, and youth in rural areas are more likely to become pregnant than other young people.

Young people have the ability to make rational, well-reasoned decisions about their health and wellbeing. There is no one right choice for youth about how to prevent or respond to unintended pregnancies. But we know that all adolescents need medically accurate education, support, and access to comprehensive reproductive health care to make the best and safest decisions for themselves, their families, and future generations.

We have also signed a joint statement on the importance of protecting youth reproductive rights with the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) and other groups dedicated to research-based advocacy for the wellbeing of young people. You can read that statement here.

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