Already stressed minority students now worry about abortion
As the dust settles after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women‘s Health, experts are increasingly concerned about the negative impact of the decision that overturned Roe vs. Wade can have on the mental health and well-being of students, especially those from marginalized communities, including first-generation students, LGBTQ+ students, and students with fewer resources.
“This is a generation that has seen a lot of progress in justice and equality, like marriage equality, but that’s changing,” said Dr. Sharon Custer, director of family science and education education. social work, partnership specialist and community justice and welfare liaison. at the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio. “There is a layer of impending doom, that this is not the right time to emerge as an adult. It feels like a giant leap backwards, and it impacts their hopefulness and feelings of depression and anxiety.
Denying abortion to those seeking care has been shown to not only increase an individual’s anxiety, but also decrease their life satisfaction and self-esteem.
“Ninety-five percent of people have no regrets about choosing to terminate their pregnancy,” said Dr. Laura Erickson-Schroth, chief medical officer of the Jed Foundation (JED), a non-profit organization working to improve mental health and prevent suicides among young people. people. “As well as negatively affecting individuals, the broader policy change of banning abortion sends the message to people that they no longer have autonomy over their own bodies.”
Erickson-Schroth added that the Dobbs will place additional barriers and burdens on those who are already negatively affected by discrimination.
“Trans men and non-binary people living in states that ban abortion will be put in a difficult position,” Erickson-Schroth said. “They will now face a new myriad of physical, social and economic challenges, including the possibility of traveling long distances for an abortion. If they travel to other states for abortions, trans people will have to seek out providers in new areas where they may not know how providers will support their identity.
Custer added that the decision will affect women of color and low-income first-generation college students, those who don’t have access to strong support networks or financial resources. “I don’t think colleges are prepared for this,” Custer said.
Many K-12 education programs offer little sexual health education beyond information about abstinence only and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Custer said parents and students might be surprised to learn the amount of student sexual activity on campus and that 25% of female students report having experienced sexual assault or rape in college.
“I’ve spoken with students who aren’t sexually active and are considering getting birth control in case they’re raped,” Custer said. “That’s not what worries the average student.”
The Supreme Court’s decision sparked outrage across the country and on college campuses. A group of students showed up at the main gates of Pennsylvania State University at 7 p.m. on the day of the decision, ready to protest, according to Dr. Alicia C. Decker, associate professor and head of the department of studies on women, gender and sexuality at Penn State. .
“[This decision] will lead to students who are able to get pregnant dropping out of school and other crises due to additional complications,” Decker said. “These restrictive laws have a greater effect on those already bearing the brunt of oppression, the incarcerated, LGBTQ+, those with different immigration status, those in rural areas, those living in poverty. As a land grant in the middle of Pennsylvania, we have all of our student population.
Decker said her department as well as other cultural centers and ethnic studies programs “concerned with the intersectional axis of oppression” will continue to share all available resources with their students, but she is keeping an eye on the government. of Pennsylvania.
“The election is going to determine a lot of things,” Decker said. “The race for midterms and for governor is really crucial. If abortion is banned here in the next few months, we may find ourselves unable to speak as freely as before.
Custer also monitors his state’s laws. Ohio has already banned abortion for the past six weeks, a time when many people don’t even know they’re pregnant. But House Bill 480, currently in committee in the Ohio House of Representatives, could ban abortion altogether.
The stress and worry of her students and clients are impacting her and her fellow teachers, she said.
“The worries of what I can say, do, teach, how can I help, what’s appropriate and what’s not,” Custer said. “Self-determination in general is one of the [social work’s] fundamental values. If abortion is illegal and that is what [the client] want to do, do I have an obligation to help someone access a legal abortion? »
To cope with the moment, Custer advised institutions to work closely and intentionally with their students, faculty, parents, and community to prepare for their incoming fall students, taking every available opportunity to provide students with resources well ahead of their potential needs.
“Take a multi-pronged approach to getting the information to them. It’s critical in a place like Ohio, if you’re only six weeks old, you have to get that information to them before they need it,” Custer said. “Whether it’s Instagram or a flyer in a bathroom, on-campus programming, guest speakers, Greek houses and athletic departments, scour campuses and figure out what’s ways to reach diverse students and how.
Liann Herder can be contacted at [email protected]