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Illinois Pediatrician Combats Confusion Among Adolescents and Families Caused by Abortion Bans
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Illinois Pediatrician Combats Confusion Among Adolescents and Families Caused by Abortion Bans

Illinois pediatrician Stephanie Liou describes how the overturn of Roe v. Wade caused confusion and misinformation about abortion access to spread among adolescents.

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The overturn of Roe v. Wade—and the subsequent legal and legislative challenges to abortion access—instilled fear and confusion among people across the country. Doctors and patients alike must carefully contemplate their limited options, if any, with the added weight of potential criminalization. One group in particular—adolescents and young people—already disproportionately faced heightened challenges and barriers to accessing all types of reproductive health care, and especially abortion care, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe. Doctors such as Han-Yu Stephanie Liou see firsthand the impact on young people of misinformation about abortion and reflects on the need to have the full range of options available to this group without unnecessary barriers.

Photo shows Stephanie Liou posing for a headshot wearing a floral shirt against a floral background, smiling at the camera

Stephanie Liou is pictured in September 2020. (Photo credit: Bradley Dale Photography)

Dr. Stephanie Liou, a pediatrician and National Health Service Corps scholar in Chicago, is passionate about health equity and reproductive justice. Stephanie said that growing up in a low-income, single-parent immigrant family inspired her to pursue a career in health care and advocate for families like her own.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and recent legal challenges to medication abortion, Stephanie has noticed many patients are unsure about what options are available to them. Even in Illinois, where abortion is still protected, she notes that among teens, misinformation travels faster and lingers longer, especially through social media and word of mouth. Many are already under social pressure from peers or family and are now further confused by the constantly evolving legal landscape surrounding abortion.

With teens already facing significant barriers to reproductive health care, access to medication abortion is absolutely critical as limited time, resources, and logistical support already narrow their choices. Stephanie said she’s very concerned about the ongoing Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA case, which threatens the availability of mifepristone; she cares for predominantly low-income minority teens and families on the Southwest Side of Chicago and said she worries that her patients will be disproportionately affected if the judge’s order to overturn the FDA’s approval of mifepristone is allowed to stand.

Recently, Stephanie informed a teen that she was pregnant. Tearfully, the teen asked her if the “stuff I heard about in the news” meant that she could no longer have an abortion if she didn’t feel ready to have a baby yet. Despite the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling and misinformation spreading online—via TikTok, in this case—as an Illinois resident, that patient was still able to choose what was right for her. With the support of her partner and family, she chose to continue the pregnancy. Around the same time, Stephanie said that another teen under her care chose mifepristone. Knowing about and having equal access to all the options helped both patients make the right decisions for their own lives.

This [mifepristone case] is really dangerous. We are putting politics into the scientific regulatory process, where it doesn’t belong. For this medication—that’s been approved for decades and found to be safe in countless studies worldwide—to be rolled back is really troublesome. The point is not, 'Should everyone be given mifepristone?', but instead, 'Should people who need it be able to get it safely?' Those are totally different situations. Stephanie Liou

Adolescents and young people deserve a present and a future where they can access the care they need without unnecessary barriers, and in a country that values and supports their voices. Restoring the constitutional right to abortion, and preserving access to medication abortion, is one step toward getting there.

Read more health care professionals' stories on caring for patients without the constitutional right to abortion

Doctors, doulas, and nurse practitioners detail their experiences since the overturn of Roe v. Wade and their fears in the rapidly evolving legal landscape of abortion care.

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