In the wake of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, if you believe in abortion, reproductive health, or myriad other human rights, you may be feeling, well, a lot. Anger. Fear. Sadness. That hand-wringing feeling you get when you just want to do something but don’t know where to start.
All of it is totally valid, says therapist Moraya Seeger DeGeare, MA, LMFT, co-owner of BFF Therapy and an anti-racism business consultant. It makes sense that this would impact you emotionally in a big way, whether you live in the U.S or not. This decision will have calamitous consequences on us all. A 2017 study found one in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion at some point in their lives, and now more than half the states in the U.S. will essentially ban or severely restrict abortion.
In this new world, people will be forced to stay pregnant. Lives will be changed, and, in some cases, ended. The impacts will be great on everyone but will be particularly colossal on folks who live in states that ban abortion, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, low-income folks, and those who live in rural areas.
And this is just the beginning. The Fourteenth Amendment implications of the decision could affect more than just abortion — it may alter future decisions on birth control, LGBTQ+ marriage and relationships, interracial marriage, and more.
Here, we’ve asked DeGeare where to start when coping with all the many feelings you're likely having, and how to channel them into action.
Know it’s okay to be angry or sad or however you feel
Acknowledging your feelings, rather than burying them, is a great first step. “Being angry is absolutely okay," DeGeare says. “This is a really appropriate thing to be angry about. I would first validate your feelings.”
Take time to grieve in the days, months, and even years to come. There are many ways you can do this, DeGeare says. Sometimes talking helps. Other times, it's not enough and you need to involve your body. DeGeare says she finds screaming into the woods near her home is the only thing that works for her sometimes.
There are other tools you can use to help you through your grief as well. In the days leading up to the decision, for example, Rosann Mariappuram — the executive director of Jane’s Due Process, who spends much of her time thinking about abortion access — had a member of her staff send out something called The Artist’s Grief Deck, which involves pulling virtual cards that help you tap into how you're feeling. She’s tried to set aside time to engage with the deck, even though things have been especially chaotic in her world of reproductive advocacy world. In the days before the decision, she told me: “I pulled the chalice, or a cup that represented that sometimes you feel too full of the feelings and the only way to deal with it is to pour it out and express your grief,” she says. “It was a reminder that, ‘Oh yeah! It’s good to do that.”
DeGeare also says a good way to cope is to rest. “When it feels hard to slow down, remind yourself that, when rested, you can work and make change more effectively and in less time,” DeGeare says.
She also recommends yoga nidra, a deep relaxation technique that allows you to rest while connecting to power. Tracee Stanley has a book on this called Radiant Rest that may be helpful in the coming days.
Arm yourself with the facts
“Once you validate your feelings, do your due diligence and do some research so you know what’s going on and what you can do to help,” DeGeare says. Sometimes, the facts are unpleasant and scary (especially now), but it’s good to know what, exactly, they are so that you can take action and quiet your mind a bit.
Read some articles on the topic, and look for answers to any questions you find yourself having — especially if there’s a particular point you find your mind catastrophising (which, we gotta say, is a fair thing to be doing, as, for many, this will truly have catastrophic impacts). Still, it’s good to have the facts, so you’re “not just whirling around in it,” DeGeare says.
From there, you can find out where you can have a voice and use your power, whether that’s calling your legislators and making sure you're registered to vote if you live in the U.S, protesting, donating, or doing "anything that feels actionable so you’re not just sitting in these feelings." This brings us to our next point.
Take action, if you're able
Using your voice to make change — in big and small ways — can be relieving when you’re stewing in a lot of big feelings, says DeGeare. Supporting causes you care about is not only a kind and actionable thing to do, it actually helps your mental health too.
There are plenty of ways to take action. You can do the things we’ve already mentioned — donating, demonstrating — and you can also have conversations with those around you to try to destigmatise abortion. We Testify also has a great resource guide on how to help.
Take a social media break
There’s a difference between making an active choice to have more knowledge on this topic and doom-scrolling, DeGeare says. “When you’re going through social media, you’re scrolling through puppy videos... and then you’re hearing about the impacts of Roe,” she says. “That’s very jarring for the body, and you doing that is probably not making any major change. People feel guilty if they’re not always watching.”
But if you want to be up on what’s going on, dedicate a set time to read some articles from trusted sources on it, and then put your phone away. If you have a hard time staying off social media, try using tools like Instagram’s timer setting, or setting your own timers on your phone so you don’t scroll yourself into a tizzy.
Lean on others
Know that other people are angry or upset too. Reach out for support where you can. Going to protests or online panels and events about the topic may make you feel less alone. Talk to your friends. Talk to a therapist, if you’re able.
Meanwhile, if you have the capacity, check on your friends, family, and people. Especially if they’re in a more vulnerable state or are part of a population more vulnerable to the impacts of the decision. A simple “how are you doing with all this?” text will work. If you’re going to do this, be a trustworthy friend. If someone tells you they’ve had an abortion or need one, respect their privacy and safety while also providing support.
The bottom line
Take care of yourself, so you can take care of others and make change.
And whether you’re coping by talking, chanting at protests, screaming, meditating, or something else, remember to take care.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety, please contact Lifeline (131 114) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636). Support is available 24/7.