Opinion: In post-Roe America, restrictions on abortion care will have psychological damage

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“I’m struggling a bit this morning,” a client of mine said at the start of our session on the morning of June 24, 2022. “I just heard on the news about the decision to annul Roe vs. Wade. I had so much to process that I had to turn it off.”

Although this client had no personal experience with elective abortion, she had a complicated reproductive history including a recent pregnancy where she was unsure if the baby would survive. In our session that day, she acknowledged how privileged she was to have had a medical team communicate with her about all of the available options and possible outcomes for her and the baby. More importantly, she recognized the importance of having a voice in decisions about her reproductive care.

Our session came hours after the fall from Roe, which overturned 50 years of abortion rights. I spent time in that session, and many others that week, with clients talking about what-ifs.

As a therapist and academic Specializing in the mental health of people during the perinatal period, the time frame during pregnancy and postpartum, I have witnessed firsthand the psychological impacts of reproductive trauma during pregnancy and after childbirth. This gives me an idea of ​​how the new restrictions on reproductive health care override Roe are intimately linked to psychological well-being.

Research supports the need for access to abortion

Before Roe was annulled, the investigation has already demonstrated the importance of access to safe abortions. benchmark Turnaway studyconducted between 2008 and 2013, examined the effects of receiving versus denying a wanted abortion by studying the health outcomes of nearly 1,000 women seeking abortions at 30 centers in the US.

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The results of that study showed that people were more likely to experience elevated psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression, when they were denied an abortion compared to people who received it. The study also showed that people who were denied an abortion were more likely to experience Long-term economic hardship and partner violence.

Other research has also shown a increased risk of suicide for people who cannot legally terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Furthermore, research shows that most women who have abortions feel they made the right decision. More than 95% of women in a study 2020 reported that abortion was the right decision looking back over five years, with prior investigation also supporting these findings. However, some states continue to establish mandatory waiting periods and counseling based on unfounded assumptions that people will regret their decision and have negative psychological consequences.

How the abortion ban affects mental health

The perinatal period puts people at higher risk for the start Y relapse of mental health disorders. Increased restrictions on receiving abortion services, coupled with established risk factors for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, could increase people’s risks of psychological distress.

With the overturning Roeexperts expect that half of US states. will ban abortion health care in the coming months. While this is an ever-evolving landscape, as of the end of August 2022, 10 states have outright abortion bans and five states have banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

A 2019 study projected there would be a approximately 13% reduction in abortions in the US immediately after a Roe reversal due to new state restrictions and increased travel distances to reach facilities in states that allow abortions. This equates to between 93,546 and 143,561 women who were prevented from having a wanted abortion in the first year after Roe.

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Current statistics suggest that Perinatal mental health disorders affect 1 in 5 women during pregnancy and postpartum and upwards of 34% report a traumatic birth. Risk factors such as negative emotions surrounding childbirth and perceived lack of control increase the likelihood of experiencing birth trauma. These risk factors are consistent with what a person would face when seeking a wanted abortion and being denied access to reproductive health care.

More risk for those who are already vulnerable

Some sectors of the US population are disproportionately more vulnerable than others to developing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Barely 1 in 3 women of color And till 60% of low-income women experience mental health problems during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth. Historically, black and hispanic women they also have disproportionately higher abortion rates than white women, as do low income women.

in a survey of over 1,000 abortion patients When asked about their reasons for having an abortion, 48% of women indicated that they did not want to be single mothers or that they were having relationship problems. These are two more proven factors associated with the risk of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Not only are there higher mental health risks for parents of color and those who are economically disadvantaged, single, or experiencing relationship difficulties, but there are also worrying disparities between these groups in rates of start and stay on treatment during the perinatal period.

As abortion services become increasingly restricted in the US, there are lower projected impacts on reproductive health care that too will have immense psychological effects. For example, parents who would otherwise have terminated the pregnancy due to serious birth defects or fatal medical problems detected in the fetus will no longer have this option in some states.

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There is already a shortage of resources and support for families of children with disabilities and complex medical and developmental needs, Despite the known increased risk for parental stress and relational difficulties between partners. At this point it is not clear if expansion required for supports It will happen as needs increase.

Access to post-Roe supports

In states that ban abortion, there will be dramatic disparities on people’s ability to access abortion. For accurate and up-to-date information about safe and legal abortion care, the US Department of Health and Human Services provides information on The Rights of Americans to Reproductive Health Care and Resources.

Over time, the short-term and long-term psychological impacts of post-Roe the era will unfold. What is certain now is that mental health providers must prepare to respond to the mental health needs of people who are denied abortion care as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.The conversation

Rachel Diamond is the director of clinical training and assistant professor of marriage and family therapy at Adler University. This article was republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the Original article.

Photo: A rally in Portland protesting the Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal right to abortion | Tanja Hollander via Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund