Abortion Ban News Can Be Triggering & Here’s How People Are Coping
Last week, when the Alabama senate passed a near-total ban on performing abortions in the state, people all across the country expressed grief, anger, and frustration at the news, which followed just on the heels of a "heartbeat bill" — aka a ban on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected — passing in Georgia. This abortion ban news was then followed by a bill in Missouri, which banned abortion at eight weeks' gestation. Each of these pieces of legislation is expected to be blocked by legal challenges, with the ultimate goal of setting enough precedents to overturn Roe v. Wade. But while abortion continues to be legal in the U.S., for many people, constantly hearing about these threats to Roe v. Wade can have a huge impact on their mental health.
No matter how you feel about abortion personally, the fact remains that nearly 70% of people across both Democrats and Republicans don't want to see Roe overturned, according to a 2018 poll of almost 1,500 people from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Abortion is an essential component of reproductive healthcare, and the prospect of losing access to this right can trigger feelings of hopelessness, despondence, anger, and more.
From people who've had abortions, to reproductive rights organizers, to non-binary folks affected by these bans, everyone will have their own unique experience relating to this news. Bustle asked five women and non-binary folks about how they're responding to and coping with the continued news around the bans — here's what they said.
1. Irma Garcia, Director of Client Services At Jane's Due Process, 27
"Apart from myself, co-workers and other movement organizers are currently feeling overwhelmed due to the constant flow of bad news with the abortion bans. It's added negative emotions on top of our daily duties helping Texas folks obtain the abortions they desire, while organizing and protesting legislative attempts to restrict abortions further in our state (HB 16 and SB 22 currently).
[My coworkers and I] are in therapy once a week, but sticking to our work boundaries (disconnecting from our work phones and email) hasn't been successful, due to the urgency of certain cases and the current political climate. At the moment, we haven't had much self-care — it’s not a very feasible thing for organizers at the moment.
Last week, a Texas fund took its employees on a road trip/retreat to disconnect. Other organizations don't have the capacity to do things like that due to funding, but having folks who are on their board or executive directors offer to take on certain responsibilities that staff usually do in order to offload and give a sense of relief [can help].
It's important to take care of one another in order to get through the current attacks, but to also stick with each other when the tides are low, because the work doesn't stop."
2. Kelly Smith, 24
"The news is extremely triggering and upsetting for me. To cope, I have tried to mute as much of it as possible, but it still falls through the cracks. I had to delete my Facebook app on my phone because it's all over my news feed.
I was forced into sex many times by an abusive ex-boyfriend. I ended up getting pregnant and he forced me to have an abortion. I believe in being pro-choice, and looking back I definitely would have made the same decision, but the fact that it wasn't *my* decision is something that still haunts me to this day. I feel awful for the women who will be affected by this, because it's something that takes up the majority of my mental space and has been very difficult to navigate as my life has moved on from him and I've been meeting new people.
It's to the point where someone texted me about it today … and I had to tell him i didn't want to talk about it because I felt ill. I think being patient with myself is the biggest boundary I've set, but it's seriously everywhere right now."
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
3. Shelly, 28
"I'm AFAB nonbinary and newly pregnant (planned) and I'm getting the triple whammy of feeling erased by most coverage excluding everyone but cis women, having a ton of anxiety about the bans themselves, and feeling totally unable to talk about the parts of this process I'm actually excited about because most of my support system is full of so much (totally understandable!) anger about what's going on. My "coping" has been a mix of watching baking shows on Netflix (the less useful) and volunteering on a reproductive health talkline (hopefully more useful).
The best way I can describe the way I feel when I read this coverage is that it comes with an immediate flinch. Even coverage by neutral and pro-choice media tends to use language that is so focused on cis women, and I have to grit my teeth to read through it because so much of it is trying to be helpful or to promote action items — I just have to get through the other-ing experience. It's just unthinking — the idea that men want to control women's bodies is much simpler to people, and the sense of urgency people have to mobilize is outweighing the need to be inclusive.
I do feel some sadness about the way the timing is intersecting with my pregnancy. We texted a friend after we had an ultrasound because we had been excited about hearing the heartbeat, and our friend texted back 'it's not a heartbeat, it's just fetal pole activity.' Which we know! But also, read the room, you know? The friend later texted back to apologize … but it was this wake-up moment for us that maybe we should just keep this experience at home. We want to share the moments of joy, even more so now because the world is such a mess, but the feeling of uncertainty is definitely there in a way it previously wasn't.
Ultimately, I wish people would keep in mind that reproductive justice goes so far beyond the binary, and that pregnancy is possible for more than just cis women. It's so easy to swap 'pregnant women' to 'pregnant people' or 'people who can get pregnant', or 'women's health' to 'reproductive health.' It just takes a willingness to prioritize inclusive language over simplicity and appeal to the easiest audience, and I think unfortunately that's where the challenge lies."
4. Anonymous, 28
"I had an abortion back in January 2016 (more reasons why 2016 was a horrible year). The news coming from Georgia, Alabama, and now Missouri, doesn't necessarily bring up negative feelings about my abortion. I had a very positive experience when I had my abortion. I had a really hard pregnancy and I was an emotional mess that day. I felt so taken care of by the nurses and midwives — they really kept me calm throughout. All I felt was a sense of relief when I sat in the recovery room.
There also wasn't a moment since finding out I was pregnant (I was exactly six weeks for reference) that I didn't take for granted how I had the choice and the access to a safe procedure. This week has brought up a lot of feelings of anger that there are politicians who have been trying to chip away at these rights for years.
It just feels like things are out of my control, short of donating to the right causes/non-profits (I set up a monthly donation to Planned Parenthood after my abortion). It was exactly how I felt while I was pregnant. I was witnessing the symptoms change my body in a drastic way and it was unnerving to not have control over it. Maybe I would have found that to be a wonderful experience had I wanted to be pregnant, but instead, I felt trapped. I was grateful knowing that I had easy access to Planned Parenthood (just three stops away on the MTA) and someone willing to pay for it for me. From my experience, I feel a great deal of sympathy for any woman with an unwanted pregnancy that isn't receiving help, let alone politicians trying to make it outright illegal.
I can't say whether I'm managing it well. It's mostly just been me DMing my (female) friends, airing out our frustrations, or tweeting/Instagramming about it. It just feels cathartic to get it out. I don't necessarily air out my frustrations in relation to my own abortion because most people in my inner circle already know about it. … I don't feel like this is about me. I live in a state where I know my reproductive rights are going to be protected no matter what. The women in Alabama, Missouri, Ohio, Georgia do not have that same privilege.
I think it's also important to remember that a lot of people don't actually want to ban abortions. So instead of talking about my own experience, which I think would be a distraction, I'd rather be asking, why are lawmakers not following the will of the people, and what can we do to get those lawmakers out?"
5. Konstantina Buhalis, 24
"I was born in Romania shortly after former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu was executed. But I was born while the country was dealing with Decree 770 [an abortion ban instituted in 1966]. Women were required to be observed by a gynecologist monthly, and should signs of pregnancy occur the pregnancy would be followed to the end of the term. In the '90s, abortion was legalized, and the birth rates steadily [went] back to normal.
I was born in 1995, years after the regime had fallen, but the orphanages were [still] full of children. I lived in the orphanage for six months before being adopted and brought to the States. My brother and I were fortunate and had been under the care of a nurse in particular who did as much as she could for us. However, living with the knowledge of what was going on in the country just a few years before has always left me with anger, and a sense of survivor's guilt. I know my biological mother was part of the decree, and so I have always taken my reproductive rights seriously.
As an adult right now, I am both terrified and incredibly sad. When I was born, there were an estimated 100,000 children left in the orphanages, and it breaks my heart to know that the states will be headed for a similar future if nothing changes.
Coping has been a struggle. I am doing the best that I can to raise awareness and to talk about Decree 770 in the hopes of providing a cautionary tale that might provide perspective on what we will face. I have cried a few times, and I find myself wanting to turn the other way, but I know that I can't. I was brought to this country under the pretense that as a woman, I would have opportunity and rights, things my biological mother couldn't have, but this ban is stripping women of what we deserve."
If you're feeling angry or frustrated by this news and want to do something, you can support people affected by these bills by donating to or volunteering for Planned Parenthood or the American Civil Liberties Union in the states that passed these bans. You can also contact your representatives at the local, state, and federal level to let them know how you feel. And if you need more help, you can text the Crisis Text Line, reach out to a friend, or contact your doctor about finding mental health support.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.