by Renee Bracey Sherman
As May comes to a close, so do National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month campaigns. Some of the conversations this monthhighlighted the need for comprehensive, age-appropriate health and sexuality education, and to ensure young people have access to contraception.
But sadly, it was also a month filled with messages that judge and shame pregnant and parenting teens and young women who seek abortion.
One place where the tension between supporting and shaming really comes through is in my home state of Illinois. The issues of young people, sex, pregnancy, parenting, andabortion have been heating up in recent years due to a fight around the implementation of the forced parental notification law.
The Parental Notice of Abortion Act requires an abortion provider to notify the parent or guardian of a young person age 17 or younger who’s seeking an abortion within 48 hours of the teen receiving care. If a young person does not feel they can go to their parent or guardian, there is a provision that allows them to request a bypass from a judge. Of course this is not a simple process—it requires navigating the complex court system, in addition to missing school to see a judge who might let their personal feelings about abortion block the young person’s access to reproductive health care. In a small town, where everyone knows each other, it can also mean that a young person loses any and all privacy around their medical decisions; shaming gossip spreads fast amongst the cornstalks…