Reproductive Health = Mental Health
Did you realize that May has been Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949? Yet as of May 24, 2021, the Census Bureau reported that 30% of American adults had symptoms consistent with an anxiety or depression diagnosis. While the pandemic has exacerbated underlying mental health issues for many Americans, barriers to receiving mental health care have existed for years. Over one-third of Americans live in areas lacking mental health professionals. An additional 6,398 mental health providers are needed to fill the gaps.
Sadly, rather than deal directly with a clear medical problem in the US, we are now preparing to make it worse. Because the fact is that for women, reproductive health and mental health go hand in hand. Barriers, misinformation, and coercion affecting contraceptives, abortion, and pregnancy care are an ongoing danger to women's mental health and the well-being of their families. Mental health professionals are best qualified and have an obligation, to know the facts, apply them, and provide accurate information to protect women's health. This is not a job we should turn over to the courts. We have a law to protect women’s reproductive health. But conservative justices, the majority of which are men, want to take away a women’s right to decide her best choice of care.
I am proud of the women that are speaking out about having abortions and many of them admit their reasons were mental – frightened of their ability to mother or worried that they did not have the financial resources to adequately raise a child. And then there are the women who have an ectopic pregnancy, a stillborn baby, or other illnesses proven to kill the child the moment it is born. These stories are heartbreaking and the reason that pregnancy and birth must be left to medical professionals and the woman involved.
With the Senate unable to codify Roe v. Wade, women’s reproductive and mental health will soon be determined by a state by state basis. That forces women across the US to campaign for their basic rights which can hardly be considered a healthy idea.