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Abortion Ruling Exacerbates Overly Stressed Workplaces

The mental health of employees and their dependents is likely to garner greater attention from employers and human resources units following the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

supreme court 546279 1920American Psychological Association president Frank C. Worrell condemned the ruling that abolished the constitutional right to abortion, noting it “ignores not only precedent but science, and will exacerbate the mental health crisis America is already experiencing.”  Employers will be among those that will have to deal with the consequences for workers who are not able to receive an abortion as “decades of scientific research demonstrating that people who are denied abortions are more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety, lower life satisfaction and lower self-esteem compared with those who are able to obtain abortions,” he says.

“A person’s ability to control when and if they have a child is frequently linked to their socioeconomic standing and earning power,” Worrell adds. “Therefore, restricting access to safe, legal abortions is most likely to affect those living in poverty, people of color, and sexual and gender identity minorities, as well as those who live in rural or medically underserved areas.”

And even if an employee is not directly impacted by an abortion ban, they may have to contend with an adolescent or teenager or other dependent who becomes pregnant. Those employees won’t be immune to the mental angst in their household as they confront such situations and that stress likely will spill over into the workplace.

On top of Roe v. Wade, the COVID-19 pandemic has strained the mental well-being of employees and their families, with rates of clinical anxiety and depression for youth doubling over the last two years, Fast Company reports. New laws, including anti-LGBtQ+ legislation and abortion bans and restrictions, will further stress out families and their young dependents.

Ensuring the health of children is imperative “to maintain the health of corporate America,” Naomi Allen, cofounder and CEO of Brightline, writes for Fast Company. Her firm provides virtual behavioral healthcare for families.

Employers can look to the pandemic and how that experience spotlighted companies’ long-time failures to support the mental health of their employees with dependents. “…As employers rushed to incorporate mental health resources like meditation apps and therapy reimbursements into perks and benefits offerings, working parents, caregivers, and their families were left behind,” Allen writes. “This is especially evident in data on women, particularly mothers, leaving the workforce entirely.”

The Turnaway Study by the University of California, San Francisco in 2020 examined the consequences for women who had unintended pregnancies. It found that “denying a woman an abortion creates economic hardships and insecurity which lasts for years.”

Among those hardships is:

  • Living in poverty for at least four years compared with women who were able to receive an abortion
  • Increased likelihood of staying with a violent partner
  • Years of struggle to pay for basics like food, housing and transportation
  • A lower credit score
  • Mounting debts that could lead to bankruptcies and evictions

“Women who receive a wanted abortion are more financially stable, set more ambitious goals, raise children under more stable conditions, and are more likely to have a wanted child later,” the study found.

There also is the question of whether employers are offering mental healthcare and support to their workers. Uprise Health, a digital employee assistance program, conducted a study and found that 35% of employers don’t provide mental health and wellness benefits, and 43% acknowledge that when offered, their employees have a difficult time accessing such care. So reports Employee Benefit News.

“Everything from the economy to the war in Ukraine, to major changes in people's healthcare with the recent news from the Supreme Court, you would imagine mental health benefits would be top of mind for employers,” says Mike Nolte, CEO of Uprise Health. “There's still a third of folks that basically have done nothing, which just seems completely out of character with the several years of pressure on their employees.”

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