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Beyond State Lines: The Nationwide Mental Health Crisis Sparked by Restrictive Abortion Laws

Updated: Feb 23

Article: Living in an abortion ban state is bad for mental health
Worsened anxiety and depression is a predictable (and costly) effect of abortion bans.
By Keren Landman, MD@landmanspeaking  Feb 20, 2024, 7:30am EST

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a wave of research has emerged, revealing the detrimental impact of abortion bans on women's mental health. A recent article by Keren Landman, MD, for Vox highlights how these laws have led to heightened anxiety and depression among women. This research is crucial for understanding the emerging mental health issues that are emerging as women rights and bodily autonomy diminish. Over the last year I conducted my own research that also examined this topic research takes these findings a step further showing that the psychological toll extends across our nation even in states where abortion laws are still intact.
My study, titled "The Impact that Overturning Roe v. Wade has on Teenagers’ Autonomy, Equality, Mental Health, and Future Goals," reveals a disturbing trend: 88.74% of teenage participants from various states — not just those with strict abortion laws — reported deteriorating mental health, intensified anxiety, deepening depression, growing fear, and a profound sense of losing control. This emotional turmoil stems from a perceived attack on their autonomy and future, a nationwide crisis that transcends state policies.
The data from Johns Hopkins University cited by Vox highlights the immediate mental health repercussions in states enacting trigger bans post-Dobbs decision. My research corroborates these findings but also paints a more comprehensive picture of the despair and uncertainty permeating the lives of young high school aged women across the country. Regardless of local legislation, these teens are acutely aware of the national discourse and its implications on their rights and futures.

This sense of instability is not only about the present but also about the long-term implications. Choices about education, such as selecting a college and choosing a state to live, are now fraught with additional concerns about reproductive rights. The message being sent to our young women is clear: their autonomy and ability to make life-defining decisions are being undermined.

As Landman's article points out, the mental health of women in non-trigger states has seen some improvement, likely due to the protection of reproductive rights. However, it misses the younger women still in high schools that remain fraught with anxiety, fear, and depression due to a loss of autonomy due to the ripple effects of the Dobbs decision.

As policymakers and society grapple with the consequences of restricting reproductive rights, it is crucial to acknowledge that the impact is not contained by state lines. The mental health crisis among our young women is a national issue that demands a national response. It is not only about preserving access to abortion but also about protecting our collective future by safeguarding the mental health and autonomy of the next generation.

We must act swiftly to reverse this trend. As my research has taught me, the stakes are incredibly high — not just for individual states, but for the entire nation.
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