It has been a week, and the impact of the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision is infuriating and overwhelming to many of us. By removing bodily autonomy of the individual, it increases fear, uncertainty, and feelings of disempowerment. We are also, simply put, angry. Angry because safe abortions will become even more difficult for the most targeted, exploited and marginalized people. Those with the economic and social means will travel to places with full access to care, while those without will again be forced to risk their health, safety, freedom, and lives.
The harm that this decision will incur on people across the nation means that we must respond. This week, the JED Foundation pointed out that most people who seek abortions are in their 20s – a demographic already suffering outsize mental health distress due to the pandemic and other factors related to economic mobility and political and social unrest – and will suffer in significant ways from this ruling.
Further, as Frank C. Worrell, President of the American Psychological Association, noted, “A person’s ability to control when and if they have a child is frequently linked to their socioeconomic standing and earning power. Therefore, restricting access to safe, legal abortions is most likely to affect those living in poverty, people of color, and sexual and gender identity minorities, as well as those who live in rural or medically underserved areas.” The ruling will begin “deliberately pushing people into a psychological crisis,” he said.
Beyond the effects on abortion access, legislative attacks on other marginalized groups have already started, citing Dobbs v. Jackson as precedent. Alabama is using it as a means of attempting to outlaw gender-affirming care – gender-affirming care that nearly every major medical group endorses. The decision also potentially opens the door to banning in-vitro fertilization services and even potentially allowing the government to surveil fertility apps. Dobbs v. Jackson will have sweeping, reverberating effects on myriad aspects of healthcare and wellbeing in the US.
It is easy, in this context, to feel hopeless, overwhelmed, and unclear about what to do. Organizing, building community (i.e., reaching out to friends, talking about how you feel, and what you can do together), and participating in efforts to both help people who need abortions and change the legal landscape can all be effective ways to cope. Some places to start are AbortionFunds.org and AidandAbetAbortion.com, both of which are sources of national and local resources and tools. There are also excellent policy efforts being championed by national politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren.
It is also important to step away and take breaks if you need to. None of us can strive for what we believe in when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed. Boundaries are an essential and effective tool in ensuring our emotional wellbeing and ability to keep going over the long term. Take time away – find joy in what you love to do and the people you care about.
Whether or not you’re on the streets protesting, collecting ballot signatures, running for office, or simply donating time or money to an existing abortion advocacy group, Dobbs v. Jackson affects us all, and we’re all in this together to ensure everyone has safe, easy access to all forms of reproductive health.