Abortion, Reproductive Rights, and Mental Health

The Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision on the reversal of Roe v. Wade, which established the precedent of abortion rights on a national level in 1973, can trigger trauma, stress, anxiety, and worry among many Americans. How this decision will impact the physical and mental health of women and that of their families will ultimately depend on state regulations impacting differential access to healthcare. At Crisis Text Line, we meet people where they are, supporting and showing empathy to all texters, no matter their circumstances or beliefs.

In 2021 alone, Crisis Text Line engaged in nearly 1.3 million conversations and de-escalated over 17,000 conversations with people who reached out indicating they were in imminent danger of ending their lives or harming someone else. Additionally, since our founding in 2013, we have fielded over 16,000 conversations about crises that referenced the word “abortion” and the top issues mentioned in these conversations were:

  • Relationships (49% of conversations)
  • Depression/sadness (39% of conversations)
  • Anxiety/stress (35% of conversations)
  • Isolation/loneliness (22% of conversations)
  • Grief/bereavement (19% of conversations)

Restrictions on reproductive healthcare access, including abortion, can be distressing for women and have shown to cause increased mental health challenges. These challenges, including intimate partner violence, can disproportionately impact young women and under-resourced communities. While this is a deeply personal issue, presenting the research and identifying the threats to women’s safety and wellbeing can help inform debates on abortion access, reproductive health, and mental health.

  • Research has found that the stress associated with reproductive health can intensify anxiety and other mental health symptoms during pregnancy. The Turnaway Study, which looked at mental health outcomes of unwanted pregnancies, found that those who were denied an abortion were more likely to suffer anxiety and experience a loss of self-esteem compared to those who were not denied an abortion. They were also more likely to face long-term financial hardships and physical health problems.
  • Those who were denied an abortion were also more likely to stay with abusive partners compared to those who were able to obtain an abortion. The American Psychological Association suggests a clear relationship between unwanted pregnancies and intimate partner violence. Similarly, those who seek Crisis Text Line support to discuss pregnancy bring up physical and emotional abuse more often than the average texter.
  • The negative impact of abortion bans on mental health is compounded when multiple barriers exist, such as travel, limited clinic options, financial issues, and state or clinic restrictions. People already impacted by poverty, lack of health care access, and racism in the health care system will be disproportionately affected by abortion bans.
  • Due to the polarized conversation around reproductive rights, abortions are associated with fear of social judgment, self-judgment, and a need for secrecy, which is associated with increased psychological distress and social isolation, based on a systematic literature review on abortion stigma. This perceived stigma was found to be associated with thought suppression, intrusive thoughts, and psychological distress.

Crisis Text Line is here to support anyone in their moment of crisis. Our collective vision of a more empathetic world has never been more urgent. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor for free, 24/7.

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