On June 24th, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. In a historic decision, the Court declared that the constitutional right to abortion, upheld for nearly a half-century, no longer exists. This leaves abortion rights to be determined by states unless the U.S. Congress acts to legislate federal protection for abortion.
While this is not unexpected because of the leaked draft of a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the news is still an enormous shift that will have lasting repercussions for personal lives, businesses, and healthcare.
Let’s take stock of the development.
What this means across the United States
Since federal legislation appears unlikely in the near term, the ruling’s impact will vary from state to state.
First, abortions are now illegal in several states and will soon become unlawful in others. 13 states have “trigger” laws to prohibit abortion now that Roe has been overturned. Three of those, Kentucky, Louisiana, and South Dakota, already have automatic bans. Five additional states, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, will begin enforcement after their attorneys general certify the decision. Utah and Wyoming also have certification processes that will play out over the next several days. Finally, Idaho, Tennessee, and Texas will start abortion bans 30 days from now.
As many as 14 additional states had abortion bans that predated Roe v. Wade and are likely to move towards banning abortions. Most experts agree that between 24 and 27 States are likely to have bans or significant restrictions on abortions within the next few months.
What this means for businesses and their employees
No matter what side of the Roe v. Wade debate you lean towards, abortion access is not simply a personal and social issue. It has clear implications for businesses, macroeconomics, and healthcare provision. Organizations should consider the broad potential impact of this legal change.
- Benefit policy: Businesses—particularly those that operate in multiple states—must consider policy changes for travel, healthcare reimbursement, and benefits.
- Workplace stigma: Employees who become pregnant may experience (or worry about) increased judgment, backlash, and employment risk as they consider the narrower alternatives available. Stigma impacts wellbeing, engagement, productivity, and workplace culture. While the actual costs are difficult to estimate, employees who feel isolated are proven less productive and less likely to remain at their current job.
- Polarization: Many companies currently struggle with politics and polarization that seep into workplace conversations. These create disruptions, lost productivity, and negatively affect workplace culture. While effective communication, workplace policies, and mindful management can mitigate these challenges, Friday’s decision introduces the likelihood of a more difficult road ahead.
- Employee assistance: This significant change will impact people emotionally, financially, and socially. We expect employees to look to employers and leaders to help them navigate this change.
- Female employee impact: Economic experts focus on various possible economic effects on an already stressed economy, including decreased workforce participation, decreased earning potential, and adverse impact on the wellbeing of children. Fundamentally, the decision reduces women’s control over their careers and life choices, which will have far-reaching implications on how they view their viability in the workforce and how others view them as colleagues.
We have an upcoming blog that focuses on how businesses will be impacted, how they can approach and address the above changes, and more.
What this means for national mental health
The American Psychological Association continues to emphasize its deep concern about the significant harmful mental health impact abortion restrictions will have on the U.S. population.
According to APA President Frank C. Worrell, Ph.D., “Rigorous, long-term psychological research demonstrates clearly 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 continues, “In addition, there is no research to indicate that abortion is a cause for subsequent mental health diagnoses.”1
In a recent and pivotal study used in over 50 scientific papers and published in peer-reviewed journals, women denied abortions experienced higher levels of anxiety, lower life satisfaction, and lower self-esteem compared with those who could obtain abortions.2
The study also indicates that women, with or without access to abortions, foster emotional resilience and that their original mental health impacts improve—however, the physical and financial harms of being denied an abortion last significantly longer. The study also showed that women denied an abortion reported more migraines, joint pain, hypertension, higher exposure to domestic violence, and experienced increased poverty.
More than 60% of Americans are against banning abortions. As a result, overturning Roe v. Wade will likely have a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. In particular, the change will disproportionately impact women’s mental health and economic status.
This is a complicated topic related to personal and deeply held beliefs. Our goal is not to further polarize the debate but simply to help organizations, their leaders, and their employees:
- Understand the broader implications for this enormous shift in national constitutional rights
- Prepare an approach to address the overturning of Roe v. Wade
- Support their personal and teammates’ mental health
- Understand and support managing the mental health and cultural implications within their organization
- Find increased access to care for mental health and wellbeing
We will continue to provide resources and recommendations for these and many other challenges our members currently face.
- A.P. News: Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade: States Can Ban Abortions
- A.P. News: Live updates | Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade
- ABC News: Where Abortion Stands in Your State
- Advisory Board: The Business Implications of Overturning Roe v. Wade
- SHRM: Guidance on Handling Roe v. Wade Discussions in the Workplace
- HBR: How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work
Reproduction Rights Information and More
- PsychiatricTimes: Psychiatric and Personal Reflections on Abortion
- NPR: What to Consider About Contraception and Pregnancy After Roe v. Wade is Overturned
- Center for Reproductive Rights: Roe v. Wade Hub