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Teen women's sexual and reproductive lives are shaped by laws and public policies that expand or constrict their educational and health supports. Most adolescents depend substantially on the public sector to help support their healthy sexual development and to protect them from sexual violence, disease, and pregnancy. Thus, it is critical to examine the ways in which public policies concerning young women's sexualities have been forged within religious and "moralizing" discourses. The explicit pairing of law and religious ideology has transformed the role of law and public policy in young women's lives from a supportive function to one that censures young women for their sexual behavior. As educational, social service, and health supports for youth are scaled back in the name of small government or neoliberal reform, the adverse consequences of sexual behavior are described as if they are natural. As a consequence, the etiology of these consequences is erased. Young women, especially young women of color and poor women, end up shouldering a heavy burden for engaging in sexual activity—activity that they engaged in by choice or by coercion.


This article was originally published in Emory Law Journal, volume 56, issue 4, 2007.



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