A new MyVoice paper, recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, explores young people’s perceptions of abortion laws amidst a changing legal landscape after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Led by Bianca A. Allison, MD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, the findings indicate that many adolescents from diverse backgrounds are aware of and concerned about the potential impacts of abortion restrictions.

“This research highlights adolescents’ ability to comprehend complex current events and their implications for both themselves and society,” says Allison. “Understanding and amplifying adolescents’ voices during this critical time is essential for informing innovative access solutions and policy initiatives that address the unique needs of youth.”

Recognizing Adolescent Perspectives

The study was prompted by the observation that discussions about the effects of abortion restrictions on adolescents were often overlooked or assumed to align with the views of the majority, primarily adults over the age of 18. In response, Allison and her research team designed this study to give adolescents a platform to express their perspectives and ensure that their priorities, concerns, and preferences are taken into account when discussing changes to abortion policies and practices.

To conduct the study, researchers utilized MyVoice, a nationwide weekly text message poll involving over 800 adolescents aged 14 to 24 years. Participants were asked a series of questions about their thoughts on abortion, their sources of information about accessing abortion, their awareness of potential changes to abortion access, their feelings about these changes, and the factors they may consider when deciding whether or not to have an abortion.

The study’s findings revealed a range of opinions regarding potential changes in abortion access. The majority expressed mixed or negative emotions, including anger, fear, and sadness. They also identified concerns such as restricted access impacting reproductive autonomy and safety.

Importance of Social Media

One significant finding from the study was that the internet and social media emerged as the primary sources of abortion-related information for most adolescents and young adults—more than peers, parents, and healthcare providers.

The study’s researchers emphasize that this finding opens up new avenues for dialogue on how websites and social media can be utilized to disseminate unbiased and informative information to young people seeking information about abortion. They highlight the importance of promoting reliable, comprehensive, and current resources while considering effective strategies to reach young people where they already engage online. They explored these topics further in another manuscript recently published in Journal of Adolescent Health.

The results of this study may spark a whole new conversation about the use of websites and social media for abortion information. Allison hopes that more studies will be done to help adolescents and young adults find the most reliable, comprehensive, and current resources – while considering the best strategies for promoting such resources.

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