The ‘Open Secret’ on Getting a Safe Abortion Before Roe v. Wade

June 4, 2022
By Sally L. Satel

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, will psychiatrists resume their pre-Roe role as arbiters of abortion access? The law once compelled psychiatrists and pregnant women to perform dishonest rituals to get abortions. Will psychiatrists once again need to be complicit post-Roe?

Before Roe v. Wade, a number of states allowed abortions if doctors could certify that the mother’s health, not solely her life, was at serious risk. A great number of those certifications were granted by psychiatrists; some of them by the professors who taught me as a resident in the mid-1980s in Connecticut.