Contrary to these early research findings, there is growing evidence linking lack of access to abortion to negative mental health outcomes.
Monica P. Bend, Ph.D., a licensed mental health counselor in Washington, D.C., says she sees clients struggling with anxiety and depression related to the upcoming Dobbs Court ruling against Jackson.
“The potential turnaround has led to reports of resignation, hopelessness and disappointment,” said Band. “[Individuals] who experienced the continuing grief of losing a child, miscarriage and infertility due to pre-existing conditions, were equally concerned about their future pregnancy – concerned mainly about their access to health care, support and education, which they had relied on in the past. ”
Fears of restricting access to abortion are shared ideologically, reflecting approximately 61% of adults in the United States who support abortion rights in all or most circumstances, according to the Pew Research Center. “It’s interesting because even clients who are very much against abortion have expressed empathy for women who need this medical service in certain situations,” said Kristen Casey, Psy.D, a licensed clinical psychologist in Kansas City, Missouri.
Groups that experts note are experiencing increased anxiety before the Court’s ruling include:
Women of childbearing potential
Pec Indman is a recently retired licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in maternal mental health. Licensed in Cupertino, California, Indman, who has also worked as a family medical assistant, hopes this moment will encourage sexually active people to be smarter about contraceptive use. However, she quickly noted that no contraceptive is 100% effective.
“I have women getting pregnant while using IUDs,” she said. “I have women getting pregnant with the pills. Not all men are ready to use condoms. I think [repealing Roe vs. Wade] will definitely increase anxiety, knowing that in the worst case abortion is not available and they will be forced to carry [pregnancy] to term. ”
Jennifer Lincoln, MD, obstetrician-gynecologist in Portland, Oregon, is worried about young followers of her viral account at TikTok, a platform she uses to conduct sexual health talks. Dr Lincoln says young people are pushing for her advice on stockpiling emergency contraception and abortion pills in light of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling. She says people are also worried about their cycle tracking applications, worried that their data could be used as evidence against them if they ever have to seek an abortion.
For all people of childbearing age, Indman adds, losing access to abortion care can affect their romantic relationships. “In terms of mental health, [they] you will feel more anxious than sex. And it’s bad for intimacy. “
Women with families
In 2019, 60% of abortion recipients were women who had given birth before, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center on data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These women probably understand the physical, emotional, and financial consequences of giving birth and raising children, says Dr. Lincoln. “Restricting their reproductive choices – especially when they already know what it affects them – definitely causes fear in people.
Women in vulnerable communities
Research shows that women in lower-income situations are less likely to use contraception than their wealthy counterparts. This leads to an unplanned pregnancy rate that is five times higher for women living in poverty, according to a report by the Brookings Institution.
Since the Rowe v. Wade ruling in 1973, the Gutmacher Institute notes in a 2021 report that the United States has adopted 1,336 abortion restrictions at the state level. Many state governments that oppose abortion have closed clinics and are expected to close even more if Rowe v. Wade is repealed. This will leave people in certain states hundreds of miles from their nearest clinic. And for those living in low-income situations, long-distance travel, whether by car or plane, can be prohibitively expensive, says Dr. Casey.
“We know that women who are poor and black have less access to services. IN [additional] the challenges of seeking abortion care will indeed increase anxiety, stress and depression, ”says Indman.
Women who are victims of violence and sexual violence
Studies show that pregnancy increases the risk of domestic violence throughout pregnancy and for 1.5 years after birth, with a higher proportion of women reporting new cases of domestic violence during pregnancy and after childbirth. For its part, domestic violence is a risk factor for unplanned pregnancies, creating a circular problem that puts victims of intimate partner violence at prolonged risk. Victims of domestic violence have a higher rate of mental states such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, according to the National Center for Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health.
“It’s very common for [individuals] who have survived sexual assault to successfully cope with their suffering in therapy, only to feel re-traumatized when they give birth, ”says Band. Experiencing childbirth as a result of abuse, rape or incest may require intensive care and psychotropic drugs, Dr. Casey added.
Your safety is important
If you have experienced sexual violence and need support, call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to contact a trained employee of a sexual violence service provider in your area.