“I’m Prepared To Scream Until My Throat Is Raw.” 6 Teens On The Fight For Abortion

Photographed by Serena Brown.
On May 1, my biggest concerns were getting ready for prom and passing my AP tests. By the next night, my priorities were drastically different. A draft opinion from the Supreme Court had leaked, indicating that Roe v. Wade would most likely be overturned. Roe protects the rights of pregnant people to choose abortion without excessive government restriction. I saw this as a protection of my future, one that I’d always had.
I found out like so many people I know did — scrolling through Instagram, taking a break from studying. After a few beats, I went to my kitchen to get a glass of water. “They’re trying to overturn Roe,” I told my dad. “Of course they are, Eve.” He was unimpressed.
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My AP psychology test was at 8 a.m. the next morning at my high school in Salt Lake City. Passing seemed wholly unimportant in comparison to my fear for my basic human rights.
Still, even though I’m only 16, I wasn’t surprised (maybe I get it from my dad?). Reproductive rights have faced increasingly restrictive legislation, and, even with Roe, abortion has been inaccessible to many — particularly many people of color, low-income folks, immigrants, and those who live in rural communities. Now, it will be even more inaccessible and stigmatized.
I’m a teenager with a uterus living in Utah; I am familiar with abortion stigma. And with people telling me what I can and cannot do with my body. Not one health class I’ve taken has even mentioned abortion as an option. And, if Roe is overturned, having an abortion in my state won’t be a choice at all — Utah is one of 13 states that have trigger laws banning abortions.
Roughly 58% of American women of reproductive age (about 40 million people) live in states hostile to abortion rights, according to a 2019 policy analysis from the Guttmacher Institute. Millions live in the 26 states that are certain or likely to ban abortion without Roe. A chunk of these people are teens, a group that isn’t being talked about enough. Reproductive healthcare is especially inaccessible to teenagers, especially those with an unsupportive parent or guardian. And post-Roe, traveling out of state to get an abortion — especially in places where they'd have to cross multiple states to get to the nearest clinic — will be more difficult not impossible, as Rosann Mariappuram, the executive director of Jane's Due Process, tells Refinery29. Plus, 36 states require that a parent or guardian is involved in a minor’s decision to have an abortion.
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Without this consent, minors can talk to judges if they want to bypass their guardians, which can delay the process even further (often driving up the cost of the abortion, yet another barrier). Self-managing abortions with pills — a generally medically safe option up to about 10 weeks, though one that can come with the risk of being criminalized — is tougher for this group as well, because teens may not have a credit card or an address or P.O. box their parents aren’t monitoring where pills can be sent, Mariappuram adds.
We teens are incredibly important to the fight for reproductive justice and are making our voices heard — in person and on social media — but we also are underrepresented in conversations about this issue. That’s why Refinery29 decided to ask teens about all they are doing in the fight for reproductive justice.
I’m one example. After I was done worrying about my AP test, I decided to forego the prom planning for organizing an emergency reproductive freedom protest, which over 1,500 people attended. Over the next six weeks, I spoke at and helped to organize several rallies, including one organized by Planned Parenthood with over 4,000 attendees. I’m young, and I’m prepared to scream until my throat is raw to protect reproductive rights — my human rights.
Here, we hear from five other teens who live in states with trigger laws about how the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which will determine Roe’s fate, will impact them — and about how they’re making their voices heard in the face of a devastating rollback in reproductive rights. 
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Penelope “Poppy” Orchard, 16 
St. Louis, MO 
Rising junior in high school 
Penelope “Poppy” Orchard believes most teens want to discuss their reproductive health with other teens — not adults. And they want decisions on this front to be made for (and maybe even by) them. Not by Supreme Court justices. 
That’s why Orchard and two of her close friends started Teens For Choice STL, an organization dedicated to organizing around reproductive rights and answering questions about sexual health from teens in their area through Instagram DMs. 
“People ask us questions that they’re too embarrassed to ask their friends or an adult,” Orchard says. “Like, ‘Can I get pregnant if I did ‘blah blah blah’ with my boyfriend but clothes were on?’” Orchard answers or helps point them to resources. Sometimes she’ll also connect folks to Right By You, a text line for teens in Missouri that connects them to information and legal resources regarding abortion.
Orchard says that peer support like the kind Teens for Choice STL provides isn’t nearly prevalent enough. “As minors, we legit have very little control over our bodies, so it’s good to speak to people your age who have information and to be educated on ways you can have more control, beyond talking to your parental guardian. And it’s just great to talk to people who understand where you're coming from.” 
Orchard expects even more DMs after the Dobbs decision is officially released.
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When it comes to organizing protests, which is also a big part of Teens for Choice STL's work, Orchard believes they should always have specific, legislative demands at their heart (ideally ones that would lead to making abortion federally accessible for all), and they should be organized by people with no financial stake in the game — like teens. “These protests generate revenue, whether that’s actual money for social media companies or advertisers, or by giving clout to influencers or politicians,” she says. “But, when organizing our protests, we really wanted to avoid making it a commodifiable thing, which was much more difficult than we anticipated.”
At a previous protest, they had an offer for a politician to speak to students, which they considered carefully. “My issue with what happens in these protests is that a politician — who, a lot of time, is up for election — will come and they’ll speak at the event in a way that stokes legitimate fear among the crowd and then they say: ‘Vote for me!’ And it’s gross and manipulative. These politicians are leveraging human rights in order to maintain power.”
Orchard thinks that politicians, especially those making a platform out of human rights, need to be held accountable at all costs — no matter where they stand politically — or nothing will ever change. She believes in punching up, and spends more time focusing on that than on people who protest outside of her local Planned Parenthood. 
That’s not to say she hasn’t tried to talk to those people, too. “I try not to argue because I think that’s not productive,” she says. “But I think a lot of these people who genuinely think [abortion is] a threat to human life — I used to think they came from a place of malice when I was younger. But now I think I just have more compassion for people on the other side of this issue. However, what they’re doing is actively harmful… If they don’t want people to have abortions, they should be advocating for access to birth control and proper education in order to prevent the pregnancy that would lead to abortion. We should be talking to them about that. In general, I’ve been trying to do more interacting with the world outside of my echo chamber, instead of viewing them as the enemy.” 
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In the end, especially living in a trigger ban state, Orchard is worried about the future of abortion access and what it will mean for her community. “This is an issue of human compassion,” she says. When and if Roe is overturned, “it will be incredibly sad to see how it’ll impact everyone,” Orchard adds. “The financial struggle. The emotional turmoil. It will be a genuinely sad, depressing reality. Unless, well, Roe is overturned and then we install a legislature that guarantees the right to abortion.” 
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Armelle Bondonga, 17
Louisville, KY
Newly graduated high school senior
After the Alito draft decision leaked last month, Armelle Bondonga and more than a hundred of her fellow classmates walked out of school. They headed to the track, many carrying signs that said things like “My body, my choice.” They chanted for a good 20 minutes in a procession before being redirected back to class.
“People wrote poems, they sang songs, they made banners,” Bondonga says. “To see that us high schoolers could make something like this happen in such an organized manner? It was so beautiful to see and be part of. To see people speak freely about what they thought about the likely new abortion laws.” 
Although Bondonga had already been actively involved in social-justice causes, this was her first time really speaking out for reproductive rights specifically — though it “won’t be the last at all,” she says. “When it comes to women’s rights, it feels like we’re taking a step back instead of moving forward,” she adds. “People shouldn’t have to have children they don’t want. We’ll have a lot more kids in the foster care system, which is already full.”
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She also believes that this decision will continue the cycle of generational poverty for many families. “Gas prices are going up, and minimum wage — especially down South — isn’t that good,” she says. “House prices are high, everything is so expensive. Sometimes I think people just want more people to have kids so they can have more people in the workforce.” 
And there will also be other ramifications. The way Bondonga sees it, the decision is going to “make a lot more people not want to have sex because they’re afraid of possibly having a child.” Particularly if local Planned Parenthoods and similar health clinics are closed, teens won’t have as much access to things like free condoms, birth control, and STI testing. “Especially with my generation, I think they won’t want to 'do it' if they’re at risk of having kids at a young age,” she says. She believes this will contribute to loneliness and depression, which we know is already extremely prevalent among this generation.
These are a few of many reasons Bondonga walked out of class that day. And why she believes that people her age should get more involved. “Teens should be in the forefront of this conversation,” she says. “Decisions are being made by older people for us. We’re going to be left with the consequences.”
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Maddie Krasula, 14
Jackson, WY
Rising freshman in high school
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When Maddie Krasula thinks about the future of abortion access, it makes her nervous. “It’s nerve-wracking thinking about the fact that it could directly impact me one day, and I could be in a situation where I could want an abortion and it wouldn’t be available,” she says. 
One way she’s making change? By talking openly and respectfully to her friends who’d typically shy away from in-depth conversations about reproductive rights. “The only way we’re going to help make change is if we do talk about it,” she explains. 
She's frequently spoken with friends who have differing beliefs about abortion from her. “They are pro-life, a few of them," she says. "[Talking to them about reproductive issues] wasn’t necessarily frustrating because I respect their beliefs and opinions — but it’s also frustrating at the same time because they had different views about me and I felt like I couldn’t always speak openly. Obviously, it’s about their bodies for them, so they have the right to make decisions about what they want to do, but also, I have the right to do that, too.”
In the case of one conservative friend, she felt she at least exposed her to other ideas, which was a win. “She opened up about her thinking, which was kind of cool,” Krasula says. Prior to their conversation, she adds, “anytime she’d had a conversation, it had been with like-minded people, so she hadn’t had a chance to hear the other side of the argument.”
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Krasula believes those discussions should also be happening among those who are older and supposedly wiser. “I have never once…had a conversation with an adult, other than people in my family, about it. Even in health class and P.E., when they were talking about birth control, abortion came up and my teacher shut it down very quickly. It’s more of a taboo subject.” 
Stigmatization only encourages the criminalization of abortion. “There’s a very real possibility that this can impact me later in my life,” she says. “The people who are making the decisions, the majority of them won’t be affected. But this is something that will directly impact us.” 
“I’m not of the age of voting, so I can’t vote for people who support my ideas and my beliefs, so sometimes it’s very restricting what we can actually do to make change.” She doesn’t feel like she has much of a voice — not up against the Supreme Court. But, still, she’s trying to be heard in any situation she can be. 
“If I could talk to teenagers in states without a trigger ban,'' she says, “I would say how lucky they are to have that right that’s protected for them and not to have to worry about it being taken away.” 
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Gia Campolo, 19
San Antonio, TX 
Rising Sophomore at Trinity University 
Living in Texas under S.B. 8, Gia Campolo already knows what it’s like to be in a place where abortion is effectively banned. And she’s doing all she can to help people learn about their reproductive healthcare options under this new reality. 
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Campolo is the outreach officer for the pro-choice club on her campus and has been working to research local reproductive healthcare options and legal information regarding current abortion legislation in Texas. “The plan for the upcoming fall semester is to help disseminate this information on campus through flyers, social media, and more,” she says. “We want to help make sure Trinity students feel supported and have the information they need to make decisions about their reproductive health.” She takes that job seriously, and even works with medical professionals to make sure all the information her club is putting out is accurate. 
In general, Campolo believes education is essential and should be disseminated with kindness and patience — to all generations. “My grandma was very active in social justice and civil rights when she was young, but there are a lot of things that are new with Gen Z that I explain to her,” she says. “Like terms related to gender, [for example] nonbinary and trans. That terminology has evolved rapidly, and she wanted to have an open mind and wanted to understand, but she just didn’t at first. I feel like a lot of people want to be supportive, but when you don’t understand something, it’s easier to have negative thoughts about it. That’s why we have to take the time to explain things.” 
She believes more conversations in this vein would get through to people who say abortion is only a “women’s issue.” “It’s never necessarily been a women’s issue, but we didn’t always have the labels and language to help us understand that,” she says, meaning that abortion access impacts everyone, especially people with uteruses.
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Aside from educating, Campolo’s also participated in demonstrations. There’s an active anti-abortion group at Trinity that will frequently host tabling events on her campus. “We do counter-demonstrations when they do that, just to make sure that Trinity students know all views are represented here. It can be really traumatic to see some of those signs, and we’ve had people come up to us and thank us for being there.” 
Campolo encourages people her age to get involved in causes they care about, even though when you're young it can feel like there’s only so much you can do. “Keep trying, no matter what you’re doing,” she says. “At first, I wasn’t sure how to help, but then I just tried to do something. And now I’ve found that I can’t do nothing. I just know that this is what I'm going to be doing for my whole life.” 
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Aviyanah Wilson*, 16 
Idaho
Rising junior in high school
Aviyanah Wilson wasn’t overly involved in reproductive rights until last year, when she heard Roe v. Wade would likely be overturned. She quickly realized, “Okay, this is serious, we have to learn more about it and help others.” 
Before summer break at her school, it was easier to organize. “My dad was thinking that I should do a walkout at school, but if it was just me it would be a little difficult, so I tried posting about protests that were happening,” Wilson says. “It’s a little bit scary to do all of that since I’m only 16." In general, she says protesting can be intimidating. Two people at an abortion rights rally near her were arrested. Still, she's trying to figure out how to help with the impending decision, and looking into how she can support her local non-profits. 
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She’s also trying to be vocal in her community and speak out for reproductive rights — but her “school and family are more isolated from Idaho’s general views.” In other words, she lives in a red state with a trigger ban but is personally surrounded by mostly people who agree with her that abortion should be a right. “When I talk to somebody who doesn’t agree with it, it’s a little bit difficult because, obviously, they have their own opinions, [and] I don’t want it to get into an argument, she says. "So I try and like, just keep it steady… I think it’s mostly men who have this opinion.”
Wilson says, as a woman of color, she’s particularly worried about how access will impact both her and her community. Her dad’s side of the family lives in Louisiana, another state with an abortion trigger ban. “Since that side of my family is Black, it’s a terrifying situation for them,” she says. The other side of her family is Indigenous. “As a young woman, I fear for my future, and my friends, my family — especially for trans people, and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.”
In general, when it comes to the future of abortion access in America, although she’s doing everything she can to help, she’s fearful of what’s next. “I’m scared,” she says. “I shouldn’t have to worry about this."
*Names have been changed.

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