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A Trauma-Informed Right To Early Medical Abortion

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Why are people really upset about the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday that abortion is not in and of itself a Constitutional right? (1)

Even the most restrictive bans–such as Arkansas’ Human Life Protection Act (2), which was immediately implemented by the state’s Attorney General in the aftermath of the decision (3)–allow for terminating a pregnancy where the mother’s life is at risk.

Part of it is surely the fear that a victim will be forced to carry the pregnancy caused by their attacker to term. Obviously this is humane, and most people understand that the mother and the life within the mother’s body have rights.

In response to this concern, more awareness will be needed around the reasons why rape-induced trauma **is indeed a life-threatening medical emergency.**

The reality is that sexual assault, overt or covert (normalized or the victim manipulated into thinking it’s consensual) is traumatic. The result is potentially life-threatening bodily symptoms, illness and disease. See chart (4).

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/

Compounding the original rape trauma is the trauma associated with carrying a forced pregnancy to term.

Thinking about the true meaning of a “life-threatening” situation, medically terminating the pregnancy immediately after the assault (using an “abortion pill”) is well within the scope of any existing or contemplated anti-abortion law.

Instead of politicizing the issue, let’s have a sane conversation that portrays the law accurately, integrates morality and medical science, and refrains from gratuitously triggering people into extremist rhetoric and potentially violent acts.

(1) Hurley, Lawrence, and Andrew Chung. “U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Ends Constitutional Right to Abortion | Reuters.” Reuters, http://www.reuters.com, 25 June 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-supreme-court-overturns-abortion-rights-landmark-2022-06-24/.

(2) Human Life Protection Act, Ark. Act 180 (2019),

(3) Simpson, Stephen. “Arkansas Attorney General Implements State’s Abortion Ban; Governor Hails Court’s Decision.” Arkansas Online, http://www.arkansasonline.com, 24 June 2022, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/jun/24/watch-live-arkansas-attorney-general-governor-to-certify-trigger-law-discuss-rulings-effect-on-state/.

(4) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/


By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal (Dossy). All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.

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