People often talk about the joys of pregnancy and childbirth – that is, when you want to get pregnant.
Abortion providers and mental health experts say having a child when you don’t want to can be shocking and traumatizing. Some are young, financially unstable, and unwilling to move on to parenting. Others cripple under the shock, panic, and pressure of a time-sensitive but life-changing event, making them feel like they are trapped with little control.
Maleeha Aziz, the Texas Equal Access Fund community organizer, had her first abortion as an aspiring college student (while on birth control). She recently had a second abortion as the mother of a 1 year old child.
“Unwanted pregnancy is traumatic,” says Aziz. “It won’t go away on its own. You have to do something about it, and it’s not easy.”
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The new Texas law is the latest attempt to make abortion more difficult for women. On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott signed a law banning most abortions after six weeks of gestation – a move that disproportionately affects low-income and marginalized communities.
Experts say having the right to have an abortion can help prevent depression, anxiety, or PTSD. But now, many pregnant people in Texas no longer have that choice.
“If we deny these people access to abortion, we deny them control over their own bodies, their lives, their fate, their happiness. Of course, that has a big impact on their lives, ”says Dr. Bhavik Kumar. a Houston-based provider in the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice.
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The trauma of an unplanned pregnancy
Regardless of age, belief, or relationship status, says Aziz, “it is never a good feeling to find out that you are pregnant when you don’t want to”.
According to the American Psychological Association, experiencing unwanted pregnancies can lead to psychological effects such as lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety.
In situations “where we are victim of circumstances, it is understandable that we should get caught up in a spiral of shame or continually questioning ourselves and our experience,” says Christina Jeffrey, a licensed mental health advisor and chief reputation officer at Humantold, a Psychotherapy provider based in New York.
“Add to this the social and cultural pressures many women experience in connection with childbirth that clash with their own internalized value systems and desires, and it’s a perfect storm for anxiety and self-esteem problems.”
In addition to dealing with physical and psychological symptoms, women seeking an abortion bear the brunt of the harsh, misogynistic judgments about their decisions, including those about their bodies. It is often believed that only immoral, selfish, and carefree women are aborted and that they deserve to be shamed and ostracized (while men, ironically, escape the stigma).
Kumar says that because of this abortion stigma, his patients often tell stories “so they don’t want to tell anyone and are concerned that others will find out”.
“It’s not uncommon for me to see patients here in Houston who have traveled from other cities simply because they don’t want anyone they know to know.”
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Often more stressful than pregnancy itself, however, is finding ways to deal with it, thanks to the “added trauma of the legislature”.
When Aziz faced her first unwanted pregnancy in Texas, she traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado for an abortion because “Texas made it so difficult”.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, the average drive distance to an abortion clinic in Texas would increase from 19 to 248 miles – 20 times the distance – if the state’s statutory abortion service ends.
“I thought it was easy. I thought I could go to a clinic, have an operation and be done,” says Aziz. “I felt so many emotions at the same time. Confusion, fear, fear and I was also impatient because I just wanted it to be done, but I couldn’t go one day, take care of it and be done.”
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Texas Abortion Bounty May Isolate Pregnant Women Who “Really Need the Support”
Unlike other restrictive abortion laws, Texas law provides a bounty of $ 10,000 or more to sue anyone who helps get or get an abortion in the sixth week of pregnancy or later.
These aren’t just doctors at risk: any parent or friend who drives someone to have an abortion or helps fund the procedure can be sued by a private individual – including a nosy neighbor.
Reproductive rights activists fear that this will discourage women from seeking social support for an already difficult situation and instead resorting to unsafe abortions in isolation.
“You won’t want to endanger family members or loved ones, so more people will be forced to manage their pregnancies all by themselves,” says Aziz. “And that’s terrible because some people really need the support.”
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Jeffrey reminds that pregnancy is difficult enough when it is a desired outcome. But if you add that not every pregnancy is wanted, the situation becomes even more complicated. That’s why it’s important to get help, she says.
“We were not made to lead a life of isolation … The fear of retribution leads many women to withdraw from the community and to internalize their pain and fear in silence,” she says, adding that the subsequent isolation and Loneliness can lead to decreased immune function and insomnia, anxiety, depression and increased substance abuse and abuse.
While the law may be frustrating and daunting to some, Aziz reminds that those coping with an unwanted pregnancy should not go through this “difficult time” alone.
“We were put in a bad situation and it’s really unfair, but we have to stay strong and get through this together.”
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