Therapist Sarah Harte Offers Coping Strategies To Women Under Stress After The Overturn Of Roe V. Wade - Exclusive

On June 24, 2022, The Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Their decision overturned the court's previous ruling on Roe v. Wade, which protected the right to abortions under the constitution. In light of the Dobbs ruling, legal access to abortions will be determined by states. Abortion has always been a polarizing topic in the U.S., and while many were happy to see Roe v. Wade overturned, on the other side, the decision and consequential abortion bans across many states have caused a lot of distress.

Prohibiting access to abortion has been shown to increase mental health risks for many, particularly young women. As a therapist, Sarah Harte, LICSW, has seen how this issue can impact people's lives. Harte is the director of The Dorm, a full-service treatment community treating patients aged 18-35. She also works as an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University's School of Social Work. Harte gave an exclusive interview with Health Digest to offer her expertise on how overturning Roe v. Wade may negatively impact mental health and how those experiencing that impact can cope.

How you can cope with increased stress

As a mental health professional, Sarah Harte, LICSW, shared her concerns regarding the added stress abortion bans are likely to put on women and people with uteruses. "Removing the opportunity of choice to terminate a pregnancy can create feelings of being trapped and stuck while making previously existing conditions worse, both mental and physical," she said, adding later, "Compared to having an abortion, the process of being denied a desired abortion may be associated with a greater risk of experiencing adverse psychological outcomes in the short term." 

The therapist also cited the Turnaway Study, which found abortion doesn't worsen mental health. The study found that abortion doesn't increase the risk for "depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, or stress in the short term, or even over five years."

While it's likely the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will cause psychological distress for many, Harte advised everyone to do their best to take care of themselves in simple ways. "Focus on the fundamentals: Make sure you are taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep, nourishing and moving your body, and reaching out to your trusted family and friends for emotional support," she said. However, for some, those fundamentals may seem challenging. For anyone who may "find their emotions are keeping them from taking care of important things, finding pleasure in life, or impacting their relationships," Harte advised it may be time to seek professional help.

Advice for advocates

Although not everyone sees eye to eye on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, for those who have been fighting for women's reproductive rights or advocating for women's issues, abortion bans can feel like a huge loss. Sarah Harte acknowledged that it's perfectly natural and normal to have "strong reactions" to this decision. No matter how you're feeling, she advised, "It is helpful for people to find supporters who will encourage them to share their feelings, provide comfort and reassurance, and remind them that while this feels very permanent right now, they still have a voice and the ability to change this decision in the future."

While it's easy to feel hopeless, Harte said, "Learning to productively channel our feelings and reactions into action and positive change is an invaluable life skill that everyone should have the opportunity to practice." She also pointed out that because there are so many opposing views on the issue of abortion, it's essential to keep the conversation going. "I encourage people who are passionate about these issues — on any side — to keep debating on the topic in a civil and respectful way [and] to work toward gaining an understanding of each other's positions," she said.

For more information on The Dorm and its mental health treatment services, please visit