By Steve Heldon
Contrary to those early research findings, there’s growing evidence that links lack of abortion access to negative mental health outcomes.
Monica P. Band, Ph.D., a licensed mental health counselor in Washington, DC, says she’s seen clients struggling with anxiety and depression ahead of the Court’s ruling.
“The potential overturning brought about reports of resignation, hopelessness and disillusionment…,” says Band. “[Individuals] who experienced the ongoing grief of child loss, miscarriage and infertility due to preexisting conditions were equally concerned about their future in conceiving — worried primarily about their access to the medical care, support and education that they relied on in the past. ”
Fears over restricting abortion access are shared across ideological lines, a reflection of the estimated 61% of adults in the US who support abortion rights in all or most circumstances, according to data from Pew Research Center. “It’s interesting because even the clients who are very against abortion have voiced empathy for women who need this medical service in certain situations,” says Kristen Casey, Psy.D, a licensed clinical psychologist in Kansas City, Missouri.
Groups that experts noted were experiencing heightened anxiety ahead of the Court ruling include:
Women of Reproductive Age
Pec Indman is a recently retired licensed marriage and family therapist with a specialty in maternal mental health. Licensed in Cupertino, California, Indman, who also worked as a physician’s assistant in family practice, hopes this moment will encourage sexually active people to be smarter about contraceptive use. However, she is quick to note that no contraceptive is 100% effective.
“I’ve had women get pregnant while they were using an IUD,” she says. “I’ve had women get pregnant on the pill. Not all men are willing to use condoms. I think [repealing Roe vs. Wade] will definitely increase anxiety knowing that, worst case scenario, abortion is not available and they will be forced to carry a [pregnancy] to term. ”
Jennifer Lincoln, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Portland, Oregon, has been fielding worries from young followers of her viral TikTok account, a platform she uses to host conversations around sexual health. Dr. Lincoln says young people have been clamoring for her advice on stockpiling emergency contraception and abortion pills in light of the Supreme Court’s decision. She says people are also expressing concerns about their period tracking apps, worried their data could be used as evidence against them if they ever needed to seek an abortion.
For all people of reproductive age, Indman adds, losing access to abortion care could impact their romantic relationships. “From a mental health perspective, [they] will feel a greater anxiety about having sex. And that is damaging to intimacy. ”
Women With Families
In 2019, 60% of abortion recipients were women who had given birth previously, according to a Pew Research Center analysis on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data. These women likely understand the physical, emotional and financial toll of birthing and raising children, Dr. Lincoln says. “To have their reproductive choice limited — especially when they already know what this subjects them to — is definitely causing fear in people.”
Women in Vulnerable Communities
Research indicates women in lower-income situations are less likely to use contraception than their wealthy counterparts. This results in a rate of unplanned pregnancy that is five times higher for women living in poverty, according to a report from the Brookings Institute.
Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the Guttmacher Institute notes in a 2021 report that the US has passed 1,336 abortion restrictions at the state level. Many state governments opposed to abortion have shuttered clinics and are expected to close even more in the wake of the Roe v. Wade is reversal. This will leave people in certain states hundreds of miles away from their nearest clinic. And for those living in low-income situations, traveling great distances, whether by car or plane, can be prohibitively expensive, says Dr. Casey.
“We know that women who are poor and of color have less availability of services. The [additional] challenges to seeking abortion care will really increase anxiety, stress and depression, ”says Indman.
Women Who Are Victims of Violence and Sexual Abuse
Research indicates that pregnancy increases the risk of domestic violence throughout pregnancy and for 1.5 years postpartum, with a higher share of women reporting new cases of domestic violence during pregnancy and postpartum. In turn, domestic violence is a risk factor for unplanned pregnancy, creating a circular issue that puts victims of intimate partner violence at continued risk. Victims of domestic violence have higher rates of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and suicidal ideation, according to the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health.
“It is very common for [individuals] who are survivors of sexual assault to successfully work through their distress in therapy, only to feel re-traumatized when they give birth, ”notes Band. Experiencing childbirth as a result of abuse, rape or incest may require intensive therapy and psychotropic medication, adds Dr. Casey.
Connect With A Counselor
If you’re in crisis or having suicidal thoughts, call Mental Health America’s 24-hour hotline at 988 or message its live online chat service for immediate support from a trained counselor. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.
Source: Healthy Duck.