Welcome to our third annual Youth Abortion Access Week at If/When/How! We’re highlighting the excellent work of youth activists, legal professionals, clinic workers, and supporters around the country who are working to make forced parental involvement laws a thing of the past, ensuring that young people are able to access abortion care without barriers, shame, or stigma.
Micaela Stevenson is a medical student at the University of Michigan and a board member at MOASH, the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health. Micaela spoke with If/When/How about supporting young people seeking abortion care with a reproductive justice lens, and how her education as a medical student informs her support for young folks.
If/When/How: What barriers have you seen young people face to accessing abortion care?
Micaela Stevenson: I think the biggest barrier is financial. I have seen quite a few people not only not get the abortions they want, but not get the birth control methods they want, all due to money. One barrier I also think about in young people is transportation. It’s really hard, especially if you’re not legally allowed to drive, to get where you need to be to get access to the medical care that you want. An additional barrier I always want to consider is simply knowledge. Not everyone has the same understanding of their bodies, and this comes out when we work with adolescents since it might be harder for them to know the signs of pregnancy and therefore get an abortion in a timely fashion.
If/When/How: How can adult advocates best support young people who need access to abortion care?
MS: I think the best thing adults can do is ask adolescents what they know and what their concerns are. Oftentimes, people think that young people cannot advocate for themselves or haven’t already thought about something. So starting out with what they need or want or what their concerns are. I also know that coming from a reproductive justice standpoint, we should always support young people in making the decision that’s right for them — which might be parenting, and helping a young person find support they didn’t know they had access to! I think everyone, regardless on their views on abortion, can get behind that.
If/When/How: Why is it important to center young people in reproductive health, rights, and justice work?
MS: It’s always important to center the most marginalized people in your work. When we do reproductive justice work, it can be pretty clear that young people, especially young queer people of color, are the most marginalized. When we center them, we address all of the concerns that anyone could ever have!
If/When/How: As a medical student, what draws you to work with an advocacy and reproductive justice lens?
MS: I really love the unique position that I am in as a med student because it means I’m really close to a lot of medical professionals in real time, I’m able to impact my own training and how I want to be a clinician, and I can look at things through a lens of medical feasibility. Medicine is also such an evidence-based field, so trying to bring a more humanistic perspective to the work we do that can be so detached is really beautiful and exciting!
If/When/How: How can other medical students engage with this work?
MS: Other medical students can think about volunteering at or shadowing at an abortion provider and, regardless of training, learning to provide elective abortions. This is a super vital skill to have that often people miss out on in training depending on where they go! I also think taking a critical look at your medical school and thinking about how this program is inclusive of everyone. I think regardless of if you’re in medicine or not, everyone can take a critical look at their workplace or their work culture and ask who is getting left out of the conversation and how that population is going to be put back into the discussion in a way which truly represents their stories.
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