Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 146

Would I Do the Same Approving of Abortions for Psychiatric Reasons as I Did 50 Years Ago?

Roe v. Wade has been overturned. How will this affect the mental health of both mothers and fetuses?

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Well, it is that time for a pop-up column again. As anticipated, the Supreme Court has just overturned Roe v. Wade, removing the constitutional right to abortion and opening up the likelihood of more formal legal denials of abortions in many states.

Though I am unofficially “retired” from clinical practice, I still have my medical license. In anticipation of this happening, I wondered on and off if I would return to doing what I could when the need for abortion seemed to be endangering the mental health of the would-be mother and fetus—yes, and fetus.

During medical school, my original required research project was about whether a pregnant woman’s emotional status influenced the development of the fetus, especially mental-health wise. I hypothesized it did, but never got to complete the research, choosing one on depression in medical inpatients instead. But, thankfully, by now there is more research on how emotional distress in pregnant mothers can adversely affect their babies.

My experience in the first half of my psychiatric residency at the University of Chicago had also been mentioned in the New York Times article by the psychiatrist Sally Satel on June 4, “The ‘Open Secret’ on Getting a Safe abortion Before Roe v. Wade.”1 She suggested that I and others were committing small acts of rebellion by stretching ethical boundaries. She quoted me out of the context of the recent Psychiatric Times article that I had written May 3rd on abortion, “Calling for a Psychiatric Analysis on the Mental Health Implications of Roe v Wade”2:

“I recommended abortion for all. My mental health analysis at the time was not only about the mental health of the would-be mothers, but their upcoming children if abortion was not done.”

However, the point of my original article was not what I did, but the need for organized psychiatry to prepare how we might respond if Roe v. Wade ended. It has ended, but I have not seen any such plans. Most of us were taking risks to our reputations with our more underground involvement back before Roe v. Wade. Nevertheless, I would do it again if needed. After all, I have proudly been called a gadfly.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

References

1. Satel SL. The ‘open secret’ on getting a safe abortion before Roe v. Wade. The New York Times. June 4, 2022. Accessed June 24, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/04/opinion/sunday/psychiatrists-abortion-roe.html

2. Moffic HS. Calling for a psychiatric analysis on the mental health implications of Roe v Wade. Psychiatric Times. May 3, 2022. Accessed June 24, 2022. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/calling-for-a-psychiatric-analysis-on-the-mental-health-implications-of-roe-v-wade