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Limiting Access to Women’s Rights to Healthcare Detrimental to Mental Health and Wellbeing

The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy agrees with the American Psychological Association’s concern regarding the potential that the U.S. Supreme Court will eliminate the constitutional right of women to obtain an abortion. The threat to loss of rights serves as a trauma reminder and especially so to our most marginalized women and girls who have faced historical trauma, racial trauma, microaggressions, and discrimination (National Child Traumatic Stress Network Justice Consortium, Schools Committee, & Culture Consortium, 2017). One’s ability to choose when and if to have a child is tied to their socioeconomic status and earning potential. Thus, laws restricting access to safe, legal abortions not only affect the mental health of our most vulnerable communities, they also maintain the abject marginalization and poverty cycle.

The negative impact on the mental health of women who are denied abortion is well-documented in the psychological literature. Given that nearly half of all pregnancies in this country are unintended, restricting access to safe, legal abortion will likely contribute to a serious mental health crisis, and one that will disproportionately impact women living in poverty, women of color, and those living in underserved communities.

Among women who have an unplanned pregnancy, research suggests that the relative risk for mental health difficulties is similar for those who elect to have a first-trimester abortion compared to those who deliver their pregnancy (APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, 2008). In contrast, we further underscore the endemic effects of mental health difficulties and physical health detriments of those unable to seek legal, safe abortions. Women unable to have an abortion experience higher levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, and lower life satisfaction compared to women who are able to have an abortion (Worrell, 2022). These detrimental mental health effects are also risk factors for additional mental health difficulties and adverse outcomes, such as depression and suicide. Further, adding barriers to accessing abortion services appears to increase stress, anxiety, and depression.

Finally, overturning Roe is likely to increase state laws that limit access to reproductive health care, broadly. This is problematic because of the strong relationship between unwanted pregnancy and interpersonal violence/domestic violence, which has detrimental long-term effects on children and survivors.

In summary, ABCT highlights our concerns for the immediate and long-term detriments to mental health for our most vulnerable communities including women, and especially women with intersectional identities (e.g., women who identify as Black and Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color), gender and sexual minority identifying individuals, those living in poverty, and those living in rural communities.


American Psychological Association, Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion. (2008). Report of the Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Justice Consortium, Schools Committee, & Culture Consortium. (2017). Addressing Race and Trauma in the Classroom: A Resource for Educators. Los Angeles, CA, & Durham, NC: National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

Worrell, F. C. (2022). Restricting access to abortion likely to lead to mental health harm, APA States.

Our sincere thanks to Michelle E. Roley, Ph.D., Jessica A. Latack, Ph.D., who prepared this statement.

What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of treatment that is based firmly on research findings.  It places emphasis on changing your cognitions (thoughts) or behaviors (actions) in order to effect change in how you feel. These approaches help people in achieving specific changes or goals.

Changes or goals might involve:

A way of acting: like smoking less or being more outgoing;
A way of feeling: like helping a person to be less scared, less depressed, or less anxious;
A way of thinking: like learning to problem-solve or get rid of self-defeating thoughts;
A way of dealing with physical or medical problems: like reducing back pain or helping a person stick to a doctor’s suggestions.

Cognitive behavioral therapists usually focus more on the current situation and its solution, rather than the past. They concentrate on a person’s views and beliefs about their life. CBT is an effective treatment for individuals, parents, children, couples, and families. The goal of CBT is to help people improve and gain more control over their lives by changing behaviors that don’t work well to ones that do.

How to Get Help

If you are looking for help, either for yourself or someone else, you may be tempted to call someone who advertises in a local publication or who comes up from a search of the Internet. You may, or may not, find a competent therapist in this manner. It is wise to check on the credentials of a psychotherapist. It is expected that competent therapists hold advanced academic degrees. They should be listed as members of professional organizations, such as the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies or the American Psychological Association. Of course, they should be licensed to practice in your state. You can find competent specialists who are affiliated with local universities or mental health facilities or who are listed on the websites of professional organizations. You may, of course, visit our website ( and click on “Find a CBT Therapist”

The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) is an interdisciplinary organization committed to the advancement of a scientific approach to the understanding and amelioration of problems of the human condition. These aims are achieved through the investigation and application of behavioral, cognitive, and other evidence-based principles to assessment, prevention, and treatment.