In a time of uncertainty and ever-changing political landscapes, it can be difficult to know how to support those individuals who will suffer as a result of the Roe v Wade overturned decision.
What Recently Happened to Roe v Wade?
Prior to 1973, the right to an abortion was not federally upheld in the United States. The issue of abortion was managed via individual state laws with some states banning, restricting, and allowing abortion. In 1970, Jane Roe, a single pregnant woman, brought a class action lawsuit against Texas abortion laws that only allowed for abortion when the mother’s life was at risk.
Roe argued that she could not obtain a legal abortion in Texas because her life was not in danger and she could not afford to travel outside of the state to obtain a safe and legal abortion. She claimed that the law banning abortion in Texas was unconstitutional because it was vague and infringed upon her right to personal privacy. In a 7 to 2 Supreme Court decision, it was ruled that under the Fourteenth Amendment is a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects the right to an abortion, making abortion legal in the United States.
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court released a 6 to 3 decision in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization that stated the interpretation of The Constitution in the 1973 Roe v Wade decision was fundamentally flawed and therefore should not be upheld. After the ruling, there was no longer a constitutional right to abortion, sending the discussion surrounding the legality of abortion back to the states. As many as 26 states have or expected to completely ban or severely restrict abortion as a result of the Supreme Court ruling.
Some states have “trigger laws” or regulations set into place prior to the Roe decision that would restrict, ban, or criminalize abortion the moment after the right to abortion is no longer federally protected. The ruling came as a shock to many as previously established high court decisions are not often overturned. However, for others it was unsurprising given the decades of attacks on reproductive rights aimed at uterus owners and the leaked draft opinion, which circulated a month earlier.
How Abortion Bans Negatively Impact People with Uteruses
The impact of the Roe decision is difficult to quantify as it is impossible to predict the number of people impacted and the psychological damage that is experienced by uterus owners and their loved ones. As intersecting identities of race, class, sexuality, gender, education, and geographic location are considered, uterus owners’ ability to access safe and legal abortion care becomes slimmer and slimmer.
States including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, and South Dakota have completely eliminated the right to an abortion, even though a majority of Americans (61%), believe abortions should be legal. According to Planned Parenthood, this means that abortion care is no longer available in these states. In some cases, criminal charges can be brought against the uterus owners who seek and/or receive an abortion, as well as the doctor who performs the procedure.
Uterus owners who live in these states or in several other states that have restricted access to abortion care are forced to carry the pregnancy to term, seek illegal and often unsafe abortions, or travel to another state where abortion is accessible and legal. Those who are forced to carry a fetus to term may not have the resources to care for a child, thus putting the mother and baby in imminent danger.
People who can become pregnant but do not want said pregnancy, for whatever valid reason, will be condemned to a life that they did not choose. Many children will be be placed into foster care, a system that is severely under-resourced and flawed.
Though, it is legal to travel outside of one’s state to obtain an abortion, the ability to do so is not an option for many uterus owners. According to The Journal of Pediatrics, approximately 60% of abortion seekers already have children. Many say they are choosing to terminate their pregnancy to care for the children they already have. The ability to leave their job and/or family duties and invest time and financial resources into flying to another state, staying in a hotel, and paying for childcare is often not accessible.
How to Support Yourself During This Time
If Roe v Wade overturned sounds very daunting it’s because it is. During this time, you likely have found yourself at a loss for how to support yourself and/or uterus owners. Here are some ways you can ensure you are showing up for others and yourself during this tough time.
Take a Media Break
Stepping away from the news surrounding this topic is very important during this time. You might find yourself drawn to social media and news cycles surrounding the abortion conversation, but it is important to know when you have become triggered by a flood of Roe v Wade overturned information.
Try to avoid doom scrolling during your free time. Spending hours inundating yourself with the never-ending news cycle and nonstop opinions can be exhausting and harm your mental health.
Get active in community organizing surrounding the abortion discussion. Getting active can curb the early symptoms of depression and give you a sense of purpose and meaning in a time when many things don’t make sense.
Throw Yourself Into a Hobby
Identify what you enjoy or get back into a hobby that you have disengaged from during this time. Taking time to engage in activities that bring you joy can be a valid and welcomed distraction.
Seek connections with individuals who make you feel safe and supported. Have open discussions about the topic of abortion. Provide a safe space for yourself and others to grieve this loss.
Know when it is time to seek help from an individual or group therapist. If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety that are affecting you daily at work and home, it may be time to reach out to a therapist for support.
How to Support Uterus Owners
Join in on the organizing efforts in your city, use your privilege to speak out against anti abortion laws, and support uterus owners at rallies, marches, and community organizing events.
If you are able to, donate to abortion funds that help uterus owners obtain safe and legal abortions outside of their states. You might even offer your space to those who are seeking an abortion if you live in a state where abortion is legal.
Show Up for Them
Be there for the uterus owners in your life. Ask how you can provide them with emotional support and what they need during this time. Create space and safety for the uterus owners in your life to feel how they need about the Roe decision.
It is important to empathize with uterus owners during this time. For some, this is a major loss and traumatic attack. Allowing yourself or the uterus owners in your life to grieve, experience and express anger, and move through the process at a rate that feels authentic to their connection to the Roe decision.
*This is a rapidly changing discourse, and events related to this topic are rapidly changing. At the date of publish, the information in this article is accurate, but things may have changed since.