The Society for Clinical Neuropsychology (Division 40) of the American Psychological Association (APA) stands with APA and other psychology groups to express our strong opposition to SB8, the Texas bill that outlaws abortion after six weeks. As many of our APA colleagues have already strongly voiced (e.g., APA’s Jennifer Kelly, Division 35’s “Call to Action on Reproductive Justice” handout), we must show our solidarity in advocating against this unjust and harmful law, and continue to move our profession toward a scientist-practitioner- advocate model.
As psychologists, we are concerned that SB8 law will negatively impact the mental health of women and their children. Stress is well known to have deleterious effects on brain function both directly and indirectly. Further, empirical data indicate that women who bring an unwanted pregnancy to term are more likely to experience increased anxiety, lower life satisfaction and lower self-esteem. Bringing an unwanted pregnancy to term can negatively impact the mental health of their existing children as well.
We are also very concerned about the process adopted in this legislation that targets individuals who assist a woman seeking an abortion. Any citizen can bring a civil suit against someone who “aids and abets” a woman seeking an abortion. If the lawsuit is successful, the law provides a significant monetary reward and recovery of legal fees which incentivizes individuals to pursue civil suits against those who provide assistance to a woman seeking an abortion. This process contributes to increased divisiveness in our society and erodes trust.
This law not only infringes upon women’s rights, but also is unjust to transgender and nonbinary people assigned female at birth (e.g., to determine whether they want to birth a child), as well as differentially punitive to women of color. This law will exacerbate existing health disparities, further impacting women and communities who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC): communities with numerous barriers to care, fewer prenatal and childcare resources, and high rates of maternal and infant mortality.
Per a recent essay in The New Yorker, “The Lilith Fund provides financial assistance to people in Texas who are seeking abortions. In 2020, nearly three-quarters of its clients were people of color, around sixty per cent already had children, half did not have paying work, and more than forty per cent were uninsured.” Most physicians do not even advise scheduling an initial prenatal visit in the six-week timeframe. In fact, most women do not realize they are pregnant in that timeframe. Finally, this law applies to those who wish to terminate a pregnancy after six weeks gestation even in the case of sexual assault.
In addition to advocating for the health of our patients and communities, many neuropsychology trainees currently work and reside in TX. This legislation can directly impact our students, trainees, and colleagues both professionally and personally. As neuropsychologists and/or neuropsychologists in training, this law can have detrimental effects on clinical care. Patients and legislation may result in patients being more hesitant to disclose information that may be highly clinically relevant.
Overall, we encourage others to come together to take a stand against SB8. As our field moves toward a scientist-practitioner-advocate model, it is important SCN serves as a beacon for our trainees and neuropsychologists by engaging in appropriate advocacy efforts that align with APA’s mission and our professional responsibilities. To learn more about how to get involved, please refer to existing resources (e.g., Division 35’s Call to Action on Reproductive Justice) for helpful links and action items so we can advocate against this unjust and dangerous law together.
Rachael L. Ellison
Cynthia S. Kubu
Bahk, J., Yun, S. C., Kim, Y., & Khang, Y. H. (2015). Impact of unintended pregnancy on maternal mental health: A causal analysis using follow up data of the Panel Study on Korean Children (PSDC). BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 15(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-015-0505-4
Barton, K., Redshaw, M., Quigley, M. A., & Carson, C. (2017). Unplanned pregnancy and subsequent psychological distress in partnered women: A cross-sectional study of the role of relationship quality and wider social support. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, 17(1), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-017-1223-x
Greene Foster, D., Raifman, S. E., Gipson, J. D., Rocca, C. H., & Biggs, M. A. (2019). Effects of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term on women’s existing children. Journal of Pediatrics, 205, 183-189.