June 27, 2022

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, ending nearly five decades of federal protections for the right to abortion. In response to the widespread anger, panic, and fear in many of the communities our members serve, the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) has grave concerns for the mental and physical health implications of this ruling.

The decision to bring a child into the world is one of the most intensely personal ones human beings face.  As an organization of mental health professionals, we frequently have supported individual patients and group members who are grappling with this important decision. Electing to become a parent is a complex psychological process that involves considerations of one’s readiness, financial resources and networks of support, and emotional capacity to provide adequate nurturing and security to a young life.  It is essential to both child and parent mental health that a mother has freedom of choice on whether to proceed with a pregnancy, particularly when that pregnancy results from forced or coerced sexual engagement or is otherwise unanticipated. Our role as clinicians is generally to support reflection, invite consideration of ramifications, and foster perspective-taking in service of supporting personal agency. It is outside our ethical bounds to impose our morals on those we are privileged to help.

We speak out now in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision as it imposes a moral guideline rooted in beliefs held by a minority of Americans on a nation of people with varied cultures, religions, personal experiences, and worldviews. Justice Samuel Alito called the years of Roe v. Wade an abuse of judicial authority; however, it is this sudden reversal of the protections of the right to choose to bear a child, and the way in which this decision will have an immediate impact on vulnerable communities, that constitutes “judicial abuse.”  Witnessing a judgment that has life and death implications for pregnant women, transgender and nonbinary individuals, and their children be made by primarily male justices is to experience moral injury.

In overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court demonstrates little concern for the repercussions for people in under-resourced and BIPOC communities, individuals without the means to travel great distances to receive reproductive healthcare, those whose pregnancies compromise their own physical health, fetuses with poor life expectancy or vast needs due to chromosomal disorders, and for medical professionals prevented from fulfilling their professional oath to provide care. Black women and pregnant individuals will suffer the most from the Supreme Court’s decision. As a recent study from Duke University (Stevenson, 2021) found, a total nationwide abortion ban would increase mortality risk for pregnant individuals by an estimated 21% overall, while pregnancy-related mortality risk for non-Hispanic Black women would increase disproportionately by 33%.

We at AGPA stand in protest of the reversal of Roe v. Wade. It is our duty to raise our voices when personal biases are backed by legal authority and institutional control, causing systemic trauma that furthers inequities and puts disenfranchised groups in harm’s way. Research has clearly outlined the negative implications for mental health.

This misguided ruling negates the dignity, integrity, and privacy of all people and their human right to have agency in decisions that bear on their physical, emotional, social, and psychological welfare.

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