Welcome to our fifth annual Youth Abortion Access Week at If/When/How. We’re highlighting the work of youth activists, legal professionals, and supporters around the country who are making sure young people are not an asterisk in abortion access.
By Jessica Goldberg, J.D., Senior Youth Access Counsel
If there is going to be a future for abortion access, it must be a future in which all people have true access to confidential abortion care, including young people under 18 years old.
Access to abortion has been disappearing for decades, and young people under 18 have always faced more barriers to abortion access than their adult counterparts, especially those young people who cannot or choose not to involve a parent or legal guardian in their abortion decision. With the recent Dobbs decision and the fall of Roe, both the right and access to abortion are at the forefront of the national conversation for the first time in a long time. For many of us, this is a first in our lifetime.
And while we have seen some wins for youth access in the last year — notably in Illinois and Minnesota — young people under 18 are still by and large being left out of the conversation. For example, even with the recent win in Kansas — an incredible win that should not be discounted — the state remains one of the hardest places for people under 18 to access abortion care. And even in Colorado, where abortion rights activists recently helped pass the Reproductive Health Equity Act protecting the right to abortion in the state, young people under 18 are still forced to notify a parent or navigate the judicial bypass process before they can access abortion care.
If we are going to right this ship and not just get back what we had but build a better future with true and practical access to abortion for all, we must stop ignoring young people under 18. Young people have been demanding bodily autonomy, they have been demanding access to confidential abortion and gender-affirming care, and comprehensive sex education. They are our future, and we must listen.
Young people deserve bodily autonomy because they are people with bodies. Period.
If you claim to stand for abortion rights, that must include the rights of all, regardless of age. If your activism comes with an asterisk excluding young people under 18, then you do not stand for abortion rights.