According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:
States…should ensure the rights of the female and male adolescents to sexual and reproductive health education…in specially designed programs that respect their right to privacy and confidentiality.
The United States and Somalia are the only countries in the world that have not ratified this treaty. The relevance of this non-ratification may seem unclear, but work by R. Cook and BM Dickens in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, highlights problems that youth face when trying to obtain health education and healthcare. Consider the fact that in Texas:
Not even young parents in Texas can get birth control without their own parents’ permission at nearly a third of the family planning clinics on contract with the state health department.
Basically, a teen parent might end up making medical decisions for her child or for her children, but is still unable to obtain birth control for herself. Here’s a really important place for researchers who are interested in getting to the bottom of things to jump in. Instead of asking questions about whether or not teens and young adults have the ‘ability’ to make decisions about their own reproductive healthcare, we might consider asking what barriers are in place that prevent young parents from accessing the healthcare they need.
Research questions are just as important as research answers. Cook and Dickens talk a lot about and explain three things States should do (respect, protect, and fulfill healthcare rights) to ensure that youth have access to reproductive healthcare. The fact remains, however, that from their work we can’t understand why healthcare isn’t working and what could immediately be better about healthcare services. It’s crucial to include youth in these types of discussion since they know what’s not working and have crucial ideas about what might work. Youth and community driven research have their work cut out for them – and apparently, so does Texas!
By Adrienne Wallace, Research Intern