On Friday, 6/24, SCOTUS overturned Roe v Wade, essentially removing a longstanding precedent and what was interpreted in 1973 as a constitutional right to abortion under the 14th amendment’s due process clause.
I am sure our university leadership will be providing more comprehensive information and statements this week, but it cannot come too soon. In the meantime, I know many of us are very concerned about the recent SCOTUS decision.
While one’s own convictions and feelings about abortion are a separate, complex and personal issues — especially for women, girls, and all people with uteruses– this is also a serious and pressing professional issue for psychologists like myself. Friday’s decision immediately removed a long-standing right for over 50% of our nation’s population. This will disproportionately negatively impact women, children, Communities of Color, the LGBTQIA2+, rural and socioeconomically marginalized populations due to preexisting systemic racism and other health inequities, reduced resources, a pandemic-stressed healthcare system, lack of consistencies across systems, a poor social safety net, among other issues.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Thomas also left an open door to curtailing more constitutional rights — especially targeting minoritized and marginalized communities — in the future. This sends a frightening message to many of our clients, students, and community members in and of itself. The end of this constitutional right will also bar access to necessary healthcare clinics and procedures to over half of the population in at least 16 states within the next month, including a state directly across our border. In 11 of these states there are NO legal exceptions for rape or incest. Many of us are healthcare professionals, and the psychological, medical and health equity impacts of this decision are and will be profound.
As Dr. Frank Worrell, president of our national accrediting and licensing body, the American Psychological Association, noted on Friday: “This ruling ignores not only precedent but science, and will exacerbate the mental health crisis America is already experiencing. We are alarmed that the justices would nullify Roe despite decades of scientific research demonstrating that people who are denied abortions are more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety, lower life satisfaction and lower self-esteem compared with those who are able to obtain abortions.” He added: “The fact that at least 13 states have ‘trigger laws’ automatically implementing abortion restrictions puts people in immediate jeopardy.” Again, one of those states is right across the border from Pullman and Spokane.
I have been heartened by the strong push-back from APA, our more local APA Division 50 leaders on their listserv this past weekend, as well as our fellow scientists and healthcare professionals in the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, all of whom have “condemned” and “decried” the decision as, in the AMA’s words, “an egregious allowance of government intrusion into the medical examination room, a direct attack on the practice of medicine and the patient-physician relationship, and a brazen violation of patients’ rights to evidence-based reproductive health services.”
I call on the WSU leadership –albeit belatedly — to step up as have UW President Ana Mari Cauce and UW Medicine CEO Paul Ramsey to condemn the ruling, confirm the right to abortion in WA state, and support the rights of women, girls, the trans community, and all people with uterus’s to adequate healthcare, bodily autonomy, and psychological well-being.
This is not about political leanings or personal convictions. This is about:
a) Ensuring our commitment as a public institution — one with a medical school, a nursing college and a psychology department — to supporting safe, legal access to abortion care as part of a full continuum of reproductive healthcare services.
b) Helping students, staff and faculty understand their rights.
c) Providing care and counseling to help WSU constituents manage the stress of this transition time.
d) Helping WSU constituents push back as have our fellow institutions of higher learning and our accrediting and licensing bodies.
Please see the following statement from WSU leadership: https://from.wsu.edu/wsu-system/2022/reproductive-rights/email.html