Women’s mental health may be impacted by restricted access to abortion (includes video story)

Almost a month after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the public debate over whether abortion should be a constitutional right continues. Outside of the Supreme Court, abortion rights advocates are seen demonstrating their discontent with this decision and declare they won’t stop until it is reversed. Many of them argue that this decision will have an effect on the economy, equality and mental health. 

Experts have talked about the negative impacts an abortion has on mental health. But in this post-Roe v. Wade world, questions are also rising about what will happen to the mental health of women in states with restrictive abortion laws and who don’t want to have a pregnancy. 

Natalia Acosta and Maria Fernanda Parra, who are both pursuing psychology degrees, disagree on what’s more traumatic — having an abortion or being denied the choice to have one. 

“It depends on the situation,” said Acosta. “There might be some different negative effects on people. The fact that you wanted it and you were able to make that decision has a bigger positive effect over time. So, for those people that want it, there might not be any negative effects.” 

Parra disagrees. 

“Psychologically, I would say I would be more worried for the women that do perform abortion,” she said. “Especially those that perhaps were dubious about it and then they were convinced that they did it — I am more concerned about them. I think they can have very significant traumas because of that experience.” 

The American Psychological Association also says that experiencing unwanted pregnancies can lead to low self esteem, anxiety and physical symptoms. They also highlight that in addition to the difficulties of finding childcare or taking maternity leave, the stigma around abortion being immoral or shameful are mentally impactful, and they are feelings many women may internalize. 

Regardless on differing experts’ beliefs about the impact of an abortion, they agree psychological therapy is crucial. They point out that access to it is not equal in the United States and minorities and people with low income are less likely to receive the help they need because therapy can be expensive and difficult to find. 

Now that mental health is being considered an important matter, lawmakers from both parties are working together on bills funding mental health programs. 

Nicole Castañeda is a psychologist and designer double major at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá and has a master degree in Clinical Psychology and Logo-therapy. She is currently doing her masters in Spanish Journalism at Florida International University. She is passionate about fashion and journalism and her goal is to be able to work as a reporter in a Latin American channel.