On June 24th, 2022, in a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion. Since 1973, Roe had permitted abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy in the United States. It is predicted that half the states are expected to outlaw or severely restrict abortion as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision on a Mississippi case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The Overturn of Roe v. Wade And Consequences For Mental Health
The leaked decision in May 2022 was the start of increasing anxiety for many people as they waited to see what the rest of summer 2022 would bring. Many clients reported feeling distracted, having difficulty concentrating, feeling afraid, stressed, terrified, angry, and confused.
When the decision was released, these feelings remained, and coupled with hopelessness, helplessness, overwhelm, feelings of dissociation, numbness, and disbelief. And this is only the beginning. Research indicates the various physical harms of restricting abortion, including but not limited to general dangers we know come with any pregnancy and childbirth. We also know these dangers are even higher for marginalized people, including but not limited to people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ+ and gender-diverse folks, and anyone who is economically disenfranchised. As just one example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, death from pregnancy is even more prevalent for Black folks, who have a mortality rate of 2.9 times more than White folks. Indigenous folks, too, are also likely to be severely impacted by the Court’s ruling, considering many live in states likely to adopt it as de facto policy. Research indicates Indigenous women are nearly twice as likely to experience violence from a partner as their White counterparts, and this risk is likely to increase without options for unwanted pregnancy. Indigenous folks also have a much higher likelihood of death during pregnancy and childbirth than their White counterparts.
In addition, research shows forced pregnancy threatens a person’s mental health, and can lead to lasting mental health effects including anxiety, depression, trauma, and more. These mental health effects can impact not only those giving birth, but their children as well. In addition to research that correlates negative mental health during pregnancy to a myriad of potentially negative physical and mental health outcomes to the developing child, following childbirth, a parent with depression may have greater difficulties developing a secure attachment between parent and child.
Additionally, in some states, legislation is on the horizon that would require people to bring pregnancies to term that might be the result of rape, incest, or abusive relationships. The impacts of this kind of trauma are far-reaching, can be long-lasting, and can impact the baby as well.
What Can A Therapist Do To Help Me with The Overturn of Roe v. Wade
Therapists in North Carolina and every other state are having a lot of the same conversations with their clients. How could this happen? What is coming next? Are they going to take away marriage equality? What about birth control? What about transgender healthcare and other rights? What do I do when it feels like there is nothing that I can do about Roe V Wade? I mean, the decision has been made.
We do not have all the answers. But there are some things to consider when you are feeling hopeless, helpless, scared, and overwhelmed, and a mental health clinician can help you to work through some of these emotions and develop a plan.
First, control what you can control. This includes
- Your breath. Engaging in deep breathing or grounding exercises is one way to physically take back control of our own bodies and better self-regulate.
- Your muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation is one way to identify the areas of tension in our body and physically release some of that tension.
- Monetary donations of support to organizations that align with your values.
- Donating time to advocacy work with organizations that align with your values
- Voting, if you are able
- Donating time or money, if able, to political candidates that support your values
- Share information about organizations such as
- The Brigid Alliance – a referral-based service that provides people seeking abortions with travel, food, lodging, child care and other logistical support
- Elevated Access – Elevated Access recognizes that not all people have access to the healthcare they need due to stigma in their community. Because we believe everyone deserves access to healthcare such as abortion and gender-affirming care, our volunteer pilots provide free transportation to get people where they can get the care they need to live their best life.
- Carolina Abortion Fund – provides money to help North Carolinians pay for abortion care. For more information call 855-518-4603.
- The conversations you choose to engage in. There may be a time for advocacy and education, and there may be a time for setting boundaries and not engaging. You need to protect your own mental well-being, and sometimes that means resting.
Related to the last point, you need to take care of yourself. Find time for restorative care for yourself. This may include
- Support Groups
- Lighting Candles
- Coloring, painting, sculpting, or other art-based activities
- Reading or listening to audiobooks
- Cooking a new meal
- Ordering your favorite meal
- Binge watching Schitts Creek (just me?) or Golden Girls (also just me?)
Additionally, a trauma-informed clinician can help you to process past or current stressors or traumas relating to the Roe v Wade decision. EMDR, cognitive-processing therapy, or yoga-informed treatment are three ways the clinicians at Be BOLD Psychology and Consulting can help clients to manage feelings of trauma, stress, and anxiety. Yoga-informed treatment is a great way to come back to one’s body and regain connection when experiencing feelings of dissociation, numbing, or mental fog.
Our Team of Therapists in Raleigh and Durham Can Help
At Be BOLD Psychology and Consulting, we have clinicians from various training and licensure backgrounds, including psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed marriage and family therapists. Therapists oftentimes look to their professional associations for input and guidance in best practices, and our therapists are no different. The American Psychological Association has released in their statements that abortion is a civil right and restricted access worsens mental health symptoms. The APA provides a strong case from a scientific, data-driven perspective relating to unwanted pregnancies and adverse mental health outcomes. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) condemns the decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, calling it a grave violation of human rights and dignity and focuses on advocacy around legislation. The clinicians at Be BOLD Psychology and Consulting want you to know that we will protect and honor your confidentiality fiercely and in accordance with our ethical principles and are here to support any person who needs space to process their thoughts and emotions, including but not limited to fertility, reproductive health, and decisions around family planning. We are here to listen and support you, period.
Are you feeling anxious or scared about the overturn of Roe V Wade? Are you having trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, or finding yourself struggling to communicate with those nearest to you? Reach out. We have mental health therapists in North Carolina who would be glad to help you navigate the many emotions about Roe V Wade you may be experiencing. We have telehealth therapists in North Carolina and clinicians offering walk-and-talk therapy in Raleigh and Durham, and Cary. Self-schedule your free 20-minute consult here or learn more about our trauma-informed therapists in North Carolina here.
If you are needing additional information, resources, or 24/7 hotlines relating to abortion care, check out this link for more options.
Take care and we will talk to you soon.