As the abortion rights landscape changes from week to week, peer advocates are doubling down to share accurate information about safe and legal abortion.
The Supreme Court has ruled to maintain the availability of mifepristone, a commonly used abortion medication, for now—reversing a previous ruling from a Texas judge who sought to strip the FDA’s long-standing approval of the drug. While other cases make their way through federal courts and activists anticipate the direction of abortion access, high school and college students find themselves in a key position.
Long before the Dobbs decision, youth advocates across the U.S. were dedicated to providing accurate abortion information with their peers. As the abortion rights landscape changes from week to week, peer advocates are doubling down, speaking out and committing to what they’ve been doing all along: sharing accurate information about safe and legal abortion.
A new campaign by Advocates for Youth and Planned Parenthood Generation Action encourages students to share posters on campus giving information on abortion restrictions, student health coverage and other crucial aspects of reproductive rights.
Kate Cartagena, associate director of youth campaigns at Planned Parenthood Generation Action, said passionate youth activism began long before the Dobbs decision.
“Young people across the country are organizing to increase access to abortion in their communities. While their activism might not look the same as other generations, the way they fight is deeply embedded in how they care about their community,” she said. “Young people are fundraising for their loved ones to get abortions out of state, they are speaking out against draconian state abortion restrictions, and even organizing for their campuses to make emergency contraception, condoms and medication abortion easily accessible to the students who need them.”
When the Dobbs decision overturned Roe, advocates like Nimisha Srikanth, president of Feminists for Reproductive Equity and Education at Texas A&M University, responded by mobilizing her peers.
Speaking out is at the center of Srikanth’s advocacy. After federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas attempted to strip abortion access, Srikanth called the ruling “another clear attack by anti-abortion judges to further regulate reproductive healthcare based on their personal beliefs rather than science.”
Young people are fundraising for their loved ones to get abortions out of state, they are speaking out against draconian state abortion restrictions, and even organizing for their campuses to make emergency contraception, condoms and medication abortion easily accessible to the students who need them.Kate Cartagena
Like Srikanth, Soumya Jaiswal and Lily Stewart—co-presidents of the University of Cincinnati’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action—said more people are becoming aware of the value of information sharing. “We have started organizing SMA [self-managed abortion] trainings on campus for student leaders across our university. A lot of students asked for guidance this fall when Roe fell, and we are glad that, despite all of the loss that has happened since, people are becoming more aware of SMA’s value.”
Jaiswal and Stewart said their local Planned Parenthood clinic started getting an influx of patients from around the Midwest after the eight-week abortion ban was lifted in Ohio. “The momentum around this let us organize an event where students on campus put together over 100 abortion care packages for patients. The sense of responsibility young people feel—to look after not just ourselves, but our whole community—will propel abortion access for everyone.”
For Charlotte, an advocate in Michigan, the most important aspect of being a high school peer educator is sharing factual information. “If people don’t even know what self-managed abortions exist, how would they be able to have one, let alone have one safely? There are so many important steps and small details that go into self-managed abortions like how many mifepristone and misoprostol pills a person should take, how far apart to take them, and what combination of the two.
“Other important information to consider is where to obtain the pills, coordinating a support person, sick leave or childcare, and what to do if the procedure goes wrong,” she continued. “If the only information accessible to folks is through an Instagram post or website link, chances are the source won’t be reliable, could include false or outdated information, or just doesn’t have all of the facts.”
If people don’t even know what self-managed abortions exist, how would they be able to have one, let alone have one safely?Charlotte
Abortion isn’t included in Michigan’s health classes, but Charlotte said teens can still get the information they need by asking a peer educator instead of having to look online where sources aren’t reliable. “This makes me optimistic about the future of peer education and advocacy, because peer education has proven to be important and effective and I hope programs like the one I’m part of with Planned Parenthood continue to thrive and multiply.”
Mackenzie Flynn, also an educator with Advocates for Youth, echoed Charlotte’s resolve: “The regressive judges and politicians who want to deny the right to abortion are the same people who are fighting to criminalize the transgender community—all with the goal to roll back decades of progress towards racial and gender equity. We must work to ensure people can self-manage their abortions without fear of criminalization or imprisonment.”
Advocates say they will stand strong despite upcoming rulings on abortion rights. While it’s difficult to say what will happen next, Tamara Marzouk, director of Abortion Access at Advocates for Youth, is certain about one thing: “Young people will not stop sharing information about self-managed abortion and supporting each other in getting access to the care they need. They are leading the fight for abortion access across the country, and they will not let access to abortion disappear.”
Empowered and activated, youth advocates will continue to share accurate abortion information with their peers. They aren’t going anywhere—and that’s a good thing.
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