The Overturn of Roe v. Wade Will Have Major Consequences For Mental Health

People protest Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade

Anna Moneymaker / Getty

Today, on June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court made the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. A woman or birthing person's right to an abortion is no longer protected under federal law, and the effects of this ruling will have widespread consequences.

Key Takeaways

  • On May 2, a leaked document showed the Supreme Court's initial majority opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
  • This will lead to abortion restrictions across the country.
  • The lead-up to this decision created anxiety for many people as they waited to see if this basic human right would be taken away.

In season 3 of Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus delivers an unforgettable line as Selina Meyer: “If men got pregnant, you could get an abortion at an ATM.” Instead, conservative, cisgender male politicians across the United States have fought to restrict abortion access or ban it entirely.

On June 24, they succeeded in this dangerous vendetta. 

Abortion has been the law of the land since the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. Yet in recent years, the fight to overturn it and restrict abortions in individual states has gained traction.

On May 2, Politico published a leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s initial majority opinion with Justice Samuel Alito stating that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey must be overturned.

There are so many reasons why limiting or entirely banning abortions is dangerous; however, it is first critical to say that even if none of these reasons existed, restricting abortion would still be fundamentally wrong. The government should never have the power to force a person to carry a pregnancy to term.

This is an opinion that a majority of Americans hold. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 61% of people across the United States are in favor of abortion remaining legal.

The Dangers of Abortion Bans

The physical harms of restricting abortion include needing to stay in contact with an abuser due to child visitation rights or the inability to support a child on your own. There are also the general dangers every pregnancy can bring, from hemorrhage to death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, death from pregnancy is even more prevalent for Black people, who have a mortality rate of 2.9 times more than white people.

In addition to the physical risks, forced pregnancy seriously threatens someone’s mental health.

“Restricting or outright banning abortion would increase emotional, physical, relational, and financial stress for anyone who can get pregnant,” says Grace Dickman, a licensed clinical social worker with her own private practice.

“This kind of globalized stress increases the severity of existing mental health conditions and creates vulnerabilities for new conditions to emerge.” 

People across the country have spent the past two months devastated while anticipating this complete disregard for human rights. As we experienced with the pandemic, this consistent anxiety and uncertainty can cause physical effects and anger.

Grace Dickman, LCSW

Restricting or outright banning abortion would increase emotional, physical, relational, and financial stress for anyone who can get pregnant.

— Grace Dickman, LCSW

Losing bodily autonomy is one of many issues that can hurt a person’s well-being.

“For those denied an abortion, there could also be lasting negative mental health effects—anxiety, depression, and more—due to other factors, like economic hardship, that result from an unwanted pregnancy. And this will not only affect those giving birth, but the mental health of these children,” says Dr. Kathryn Smerling, a psychotherapist with her own private practice.

For people who choose to move forward with an unregulated abortion, there are additional extreme physical and mental risks. 

Mental health professionals also worry about how to guide their clients when long-held truths may cease to be.

“I help my clients accept the external factors that we can never fully control and instead shift toward the ways we can control our own bodies—how we choose to breathe, where we choose to go, and what we do with our voices,” says Dickman.

“I’m afraid these abortion restrictions will prove me wrong. I’m afraid the right to self-agency will be conditional. And I’m concerned about what happens to a society when people cannot feel safe in their own bodies.”

Abortion Is No Longer Protected In The United States

Prior to the decision’s release, states had already begun restricting access to abortion. However, as Jessica Frick, a licensed professional counselor specializing in the treatment of anxiety, OCD, and trauma explains, the Supreme Court overturning these critical rights will not lead to a clear awareness of what will come next.

With states determining abortion rights, people will have additional anxiety about how severe the restrictions will be in their home state. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion.

People may also experience numbness or disconnection, feelings known as dissociation, adds Frick.

“This often happens when the emotion associated with something is too great—our brains put ourselves in this state to try to protect us from the effects of high emotion,” she says.

Dickman adds that this loss of control over one’s own body may bring feelings such as being trapped and devalued. 

“The division between socioeconomic classes will be even more pronounced, between those who will have access to care and those who will not, and anger will greatly increase, negatively affecting mental health,” says Smerling.

Dickman emphasizes that this decision will disproportionately impact marginalized people, such as LGBTQ+ and gender-diverse people, anyone living in poverty, people of color, and immigrants, to name only a few of those affected. 

Kathryn Smerling

The division between socioeconomic classes will be even more pronounced, between those who will have access to care and those who will not, and anger will greatly increase, negatively affecting mental health.

— Kathryn Smerling

Dickman stresses the importance of including everyone who can get pregnant in this discussion instead of only focusing on straight, cisgender women.

“Trans and nonbinary people already face a tremendous amount of medical gatekeeping that prevents them from receiving necessary interventions, let alone in an affirming and supportive environment."

"Many of my trans and nonbinary clients have experienced rejection and harm while trying to make sound decisions about their bodies, so restricting their access to care even further will increase social stigmatization, perpetuate shame, and potentially traumatize them from ongoing institutional oppression,” she says.

What This Means For You

Abortion is a fundamental right, and removing it as an option for even a single American is abominable and may have deadly physical or mental repercussions. The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade does nothing but hurt the people it should be protecting. 

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pew Research Center. America's abortion quandary.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maternal mortality rates in the United States, 2020.

  3. Guttmacher Institute. 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion without Roe: Here’s which ones and why.