Adolescent abortion access, reproductive rights, and reproductive health post-Dobbs: The role of developmental science

Following the US Supreme Court’s Decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, fourteen states have banned abortion entirely, five states have bans under litigation, and seven states have lowered their gestational threshold for abortion to 20 weeks or less (as of September 29, 2023). Adolescents, especially those under age 18, who already faced extra barriers to accessing abortion prior to this decision, are disproportionately impacted by new abortion restrictions. Further, adolescents are often targeted by restrictive policies and overlooked in proactive and protective policies. Yet minors are systematically underrepresented in research on abortion, and there are many opportunities for developmental scientists to contribute their expertise to increasing the evidence in this area. In this session, Nancy Berglas will present an overview of changes in abortion access following the Dobbs decision and the specific impacts and implications for adolescents.  Julie Maslowsky, founder and director of Youth Reproductive Equity, a national research coalition focused on adolescent sexual and reproductive health equity, will describe current efforts to research adolescents’ abortion access, the importance of a reproductive justice approach, and the need for developmental science expertise in this field. Eva Lefkowitz will describe actions taken by the Society for Research on Child Development to compile and disseminate evidence on the impacts of Dobbs on children and families. Kylee Sunderlin will describe specific policies impacting adolescents’ abortion access, such judicial bypass, mandated reporting, and new “abortion trafficking” laws. We will allow substantial time for audience questions and discussion, particularly around the topic of the role of scholars, advocates, and practitioners in increasing research, influencing policy, and supporting adolescents.

Julie Maslowsky, PhD, Moderator
Associate Professor of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences
University of Michigan
[email protected]

About: Dr. Julie Maslowsky is Associate Professor of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences at the University of Michigan. She is a developmental psychologist and population health scientist who studies the development of adolescent health and health behaviors, with a focus on sexual and reproductive health. She is the founder and director of Youth Reproductive Equity, a national research consortium focused on contraception and abortion in adolescents and young adults. Her work has been funded by NICHD, NIDA, NIMH, NIMHD, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Nancy Berglas, DrPh, Panelist
Public Health Social Scientist
Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health
University of California San Francisco
[email protected]

About: Nancy Berglas, DrPH, is a public health social scientist at ANSIRH. She conducts quantitative and qualitative studies on issues of adolescent sexual health, abortion, contraception, and the role of evidence in program development and policymaking. Her recent work at ANSIRH examines the abortion activities of state and local health departments and evaluates the effects of state-level policies that target abortion and alcohol/drug use during pregnancy. With colleagues at UCSF’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, she leads a three-year initiative that engages key systems -- including schools, parents, and clinics -- to meet critical gaps in sexual health education and services for youth in rural communities of Fresno County, California.

Kylee Sunderlin, Esq., Panelist
Legal Services Director
[email protected]

About: Kylee Sunderlin is the Legal Services Director at If/When/How, where she oversees the provision of direct civil legal services through the Repro Legal Helpline, as well as technical assistance and public education to allied organizations, lawyers, and health care providers. She also serves as a volunteer judicial bypass attorney in her home state of Michigan.

Prior to joining If/When/How, Kylee was a family defense attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services where she represented parents facing allegations of abuse or neglect and experiencing inhumane family separation. She was also a Soros Justice Fellow at National Advocates for Pregnant Women with a project that combined litigation, public education, and advocacy to challenge interventions by the family regulation system in response to medication-assisted treatment.

Kylee is a proud Michigander and double wolverine, receiving both her BA and JD from the University of Michigan.

Eva Lefkowitz, PhD, Panelist
Professor, Human Development and Family Sciences
University of Connecticut, on behalf of the SRCD Presidential Working Group on the impact of overturning Roe V. Wade for children and families

[email protected]

About: Eva Lefkowitz is professor and department head of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Previously she served as a professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. She earned her Ph.D. from University of California, Los Angeles in Developmental Psychology. Her research focuses on sexual health, using a developmental perspective to examine predictors of negative and positive aspects of sexual health, and the broader health and relationship implications of sexual health. Most recently, she has studied LGBTQ+ college students’ well-being during disruptions and transitions (e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic; academic breaks). Dr. Lefkowitz has served as a principal investigator, co-investigator, or faculty mentor on projects funded by the NIH and the WT Grant Foundation. Her publications include over 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.