COMMENTARY

Reversal of Roe v Wade Affects Adolescents

Margaret Thew, RN, DNP, FNP

Disclosures

July 25, 2022

The Supreme Court decision to strike down the 50-year ruling on Roe v. Wade, which allowed legal abortion, will affect all patients and families seeking care in pediatric and adolescent medicine clinics. Regardless of how you view abortion, the reality is your adolescent female patients and their parents will seek your counsel.

The overturning of Roe has resulted in much confusion for both patients and providers. The overall effect of this decision in Wisconsin is yet to be known but currently we have had to create road maps to direct adolescent patients who experience an unplanned pregnancy and wish to abort. Unfortunately, these road maps include only resources out of state or online. Providing adolescents confidential care may be challenged as the teens may need to disclose the unplanned pregnancy to an adult to access resources.

Providers remain unsettled regarding their risk of assisting an adolescent who discloses an unplanned pregnancy. Recently, many questions arose regarding dispensing Plan B and the risk to prescribers. Communication was needed to assure providers that Plan B is contraception and at this time contraception remains legal in our state.

Daily I educate adolescent females on the risks of unplanned pregnancy and what the Supreme Court decision will mean to them if they become pregnant. Unfortunately, many teens do not understand the ruling and how this decision affects them personally. Education is needed today more than ever regarding pregnancy prevention.

The recent AAP policy statement reaffirms its position that the rights of adolescents to seek confidential care when considering abortion must be protected.[1] It further reaffirms access to safe and legal abortion is a core tenant of sexual and reproductive health care.

A recent article published in AAP News by Elise D. Berlan, MD, “AAP’s teen reproductive health policies reaffirm right to comprehensive care,” further advises on the role of the pediatric provider.[2] Pediatric providers should continue offering option counseling for pregnant adolescents, be prepared to provide accurate information regarding these options with awareness that some options such as the IUD may no longer be available, remain supportive of the decision they choose, and encourage discussion with a family member to support their decisions. It is imperative that we familiarize ourselves with the abortion policies in our states, advocate to prevent government interference with the patient-doctor relationship, and recognize the impact restrictive abortion has regarding marginalized individuals, she stated. Finally we must recognize our own bias regarding option counseling and refer appropriately to another professional if we are unable to confidently offer guidance.

Ms. Thew is the medical director of the department of adolescent medicine at Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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