As clinical Social Workers in Washington DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia (the DMV), we, the Greater Washington Society of Clinical Social Work (GWSCSW), are dismayed and alarmed by the US Supreme Court’s decision on June 24, 2022 to revoke Roe v. Wade 50 years after its passage, and the various states poised to enact laws to restrict access to abortion and reproductive health care, many of which have already done so. Like the National Association of Social Work (NASW), the largest organization of professional Social Workers, we affirm all individuals have a right to bodily autonomy, that abortion is health care, and that all individuals have the right to freedom of choice in accessing essential health care services, most especially their reproductive health. We have serious concerns that women’s physical and mental health, and treatment for these issues, will be put at risk.
As Social Workers, we are proud of the legacy of our profession in protecting the right to self-determination for all individuals, including in the realm of reproductive freedom, and in honoring and assisting our clients to make decisions regarding their reproductive health. Those decisions may include whether or not to: take birth control, choose to become a surrogate for another woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy to term, have in-vitro fertilization (IVF), put a child up for adoption, or carry a fetus to term with the goal of becoming a parent. Social Workers work in settings that have a deep impact on reproductive decision-making and child welfare, from foster care, to infertility, to adoption. The DC Abortion Fund, which provides financial assistance for those needing an abortion who can’t otherwise afford one, was founded by a Social Worker.
We, as Social Workers, stand with our clients and with all people as they strive to make decisions that are best for their own lives, circumstances, and emotional well-being. We understand that the decision to become a parent is a potential and likely radical change in economic status, lifestyle and identity, and one that profoundly impacts the life, health and mental well-being of parents. We also know the likelihood of negative mental health impacts if parents are forced to have a child against their will are profound.
As Social Workers with a commitment to social justice, we are deeply disturbed by the reality that the brunt of the impact of this decision will fall upon Black people and people of color. In our region, which mirrors national statistics, maternal mortality rates are highest among Black people. Having a baby is a dangerous proposition for any woman, and particularly for Black women, a reality we keep in mind as we condemn this decision. As found in the American Group Psychotherapy Association’s statement on Roe, a recent study from Duke University found that a total nationwide abortion ban would increase pregnancy-related mortality risk for pregnant individuals by an estimated 21% overall, while pregnancy-related mortality risk for non-Hispanic Black women would increase disproportionately by 33%.
Further, as Clinical Social Workers, we know that postpartum depression (PPD) is the most common psychological condition following childbirth.
We join with maternal health specialists, the Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA), the Council on Social Work Education, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Group Psychotherapy Association, The American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama, The American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Black Lives Matter in condemning this SCOTUS decision on a variety of grounds. These include the interference by the government in the provider-patient relationship; the detrimental impact this ruling will have on mental health; and its disproportionate and negative impact on Black people, people of color, non-binary people, transgendered people, indigenous people, and those living in poverty and rural areas.
As a collective of Clinical Social Workers committed to our profession’s Code of Ethics and to the self-determination of the people we work with, the GWSCSW is now looking toward action and efforts we can make to further these principles despite this ruling. Those currently include:
Providing continuing education workshops on the legalities and ethics of clinical social work under this new ruling, so that we can inform ourselves on how to continue to support our clients in their decision-making about reproductive health in this new legal environment. If you are able to provide such a training or know someone who is, please reach out to Brian Rink, GWSCSW Education Branch Director at email@example.com.
Encouraging our membership to make their voices heard through voting in all local and national elections and through advocating their views directly with lawmakers who represent them.
Lisa Kays, LICSW, LCSW, LCSW-C President Greater Washington Society of Clinical Social Work
Karla Abney, LGSW, RN
Greater Washington Society of Clinical Social Work
PO Box 711 | Garrisonville, VA 22463 | 202-478-7638 | firstname.lastname@example.org