State-level Abortion Restrictions Will Negatively Impact Teens and Children

Source: Figure based on Child Trends calculations on abortion data from: https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_
downloads/pregnancies-births-abortions-us-1973-2017-appendix-tables.pdf


2. Teenagers are more likely to not find out they are pregnant until later in pregnancy than older people.

Teens are more likely to be affected by government restrictions on abortion because the average gestational age at which a teen discovers they are pregnant (7.4 weeks) is higher than for pregnant women overall (5.7 weeks). Teenagers often have irregular menstrual cycles, which means they are less likely to spot a missed period than an older person. Black and Hispanic teens are also more likely to be exposed to stress, racism, toxins, and chronic health issues—factors with significant socioeconomic and regional disparities, all linked to an earlier first menstrual period and irregular menstrual cycles. In addition, many teenagers – even those who are sexually active – lack a full understanding of how pregnancies work (or what behaviors put them at risk for pregnancy).

3. Pregnant teenagers face additional government regulations that can delay abortion treatment.

Currently, nearly three-fourths of states require parents of teens to be either informed or consent to abortion services. Most pregnant teens under the age of 18 talk to their parents about their pregnancy and the desire to have an abortion, but some do not, driven by fear of emotional or physical abuse, disrupted parental relationships, being kicked out, or other negative effects. Although these teens can obtain legal evasion, the process — which is disproportionately sought after by black and Hispanic teens, teens on Medicaid, and teens with a previous pregnancy — takes longer. Parental consent or notification laws can adversely affect the accessibility of abortion treatment for underage teenagers in three ways: 1) abortion costs increase in later trimesters, 2) abortion treatment may be restricted in some states when accessing treatment past statutory pregnancy limits and 3) some teenagers may delay seeking legal evasion because it can be stigmatizing or embarrassing.

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4. Adolescents have more difficult access to in-clinic or drug abortions.

A direct result of Dobbs Decision is greater physical distance from abortion providers, limiting access. Although many abortion patients travel for care, teenagers often lack the necessary financial resources – particularly low-income and rural youth. In addition, accessing out-of-state abortion, even with parental support, may require traveling to multi-day appointments, missing school, traveling with multiple family members when there are no caregivers for younger siblings, or multiple days away from home spend. Adolescents may also find it more difficult to obtain accurate information about abortion (particularly medical abortion); Research suggests that adolescent medical caregivers may have incomplete knowledge of medical abortions. Previous research has found that low-income, black, Hispanic, and Indigenous patients have had greater difficulty accessing medical abortions after previous abortion bans, and this is likely to be the case for new bans as well.

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Teens who become pregnant need ongoing, stable support to navigate pregnancy and parenthood in a healthy way.

Many teens who choose to become parents are devoted, present, and loving, engaging in nurturing with grace and strength. However, those who are able often receive love and support from their own families, as well as financial, emotional, and educational resources for themselves and their children.

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We assume that afterDobbs, Abortion bans or restrictions at the state level will increase the number of pregnant teens who want abortions but cannot get them. Because access to abortion is limited, many parents of teens need additional support to be successful parents, including support with childcare, education, quality vocational training or employment, support from extended family (e.g., grandparents), or subsequent birth control (15% of all teenage births are repeat births). When teenagers are forced to carry pregnancies and become parents (adoption is rare even for teenage parents) without additional, high-quality support from the state, we expect additional negative physical, mental health, relationship, and economic consequences for teenagers and their children potential increase in deep poverty for children.

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