Maldonado with her two children

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. And young women — who are in the very midst of laying the groundwork for their future lives — have the majority of unplanned pregnancies in this country.

The outcomes of unplanned pregnancy are well documented. Young women who have a child are less likely to graduate from high school or complete college. Women with unintended pregnancies are less likely to initiate prenatal care promptly, quit smoking cigarettes, consume adequate amounts of folic acid and breastfeed their infants than women with intended pregnancies. Children born of unintended pregnancies are more likely to have a premature birth, die in the first year of life, suffer abuse and fail in school.

As a young woman having access to abortion made a concrete difference in my life. It provided me with the ability to live the life I dreamed for myself — pursue my education, travel the world, have a meaningful career and create a family with someone I love. I didn’t realize it then, but Roe v. Wade helped me become the me I am today.

But, not all women in the U.S. have the same access to abortion care. Nearly half of all women live in states that restrict abortion in some way. Poor women, young women and women from racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to have unintended pregnancies and unplanned births than other women.

Too many women have to travel too far, pay too much, jump through too many hoops and cross picket lines for what should be basic health care. Clinicians who want to provide abortion care struggle to find quality training. Those who do provide abortion care are often stigmatized by their peers and have to worry about their physical safety.

It has been 40 years since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal for all women in the United States but we still have a long way to go before abortion is accessible to all women.

Today’s piece was submitted to us by Lisa Maldonado, MPH, an APHA member, former co-chair of APHA’s Abortion Task Force and former chair of APHA’s Latino Caucus. Lisa is executive director of the Reproductive Health Access Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to integrating contraception and abortion into primary care. Read other contributions in the series.