A Framework for Action: Roe v. Wade
This framework was released to the SPA Membership on August 25, 2022. Access the co-released Statement of Action re: Roe V. Wade with this link.
A Framework for Action: Roe v. Wade
In my role as chair of the Diversity and Social Justice Committee, it is my responsibility to co-lead with the committee, SPA’s initiatives dedicated to advancing diversity and social justice within our society. This is not an easy task and ensuring the health and stamina of DISJ Committee members so we can execute this difficult work is my top priority. Although our committee is still digesting what the current political climate means for us personally and for society at large, we are also attempting to metabolize the impact this has on our profession and the people we serve. What follows is our first attempt to identify the nuances we want to recognize first as assessment professionals and identify ways that we can advocate and advance justice and equity. If you have feedback for the committee, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or to any of the individual committee members if you have a more personal relationship with them.
As was shared in the SPA Board Statement, we do believe that the overturning of Roe v. Wade has already impacted the work we do in the U.S. It has both known and unknown implications for our work and the people we serve. We center the impact as the primary concern guiding the framework outlined later in this statement.
Assessment is Clinical Work
Personality assessment is clinical work. When we conduct assessments, we are doing clinical work. Reproductive injustice impacts our most systematically oppressed communities because it is intimately linked (intersected) with the social realities of inequities in access, supports, privacy and control, economic justice, the environment, immigrant’s rights, disability rights, racial and sexual discrimination, and more. All these issues factor into the decision to have a child, not have a child, parent children people bring into their lives, influence decisions regarding health and wellness, or are a part of reducing further trauma in cases of sexual violence. These issues do not exist in the abstract. Whether or not we are personally impacted, these matters interface with our clinical work and where our profession intersects with the law and/or how the impact of these issues show up in the assessment encounter are primary sources for concern. Personality assessors are found in a myriad of settings and clinical issues like trauma, depression, anxiety, identity development, personality, etc. all interface with legal concerns.
Loretta Ross (2007) of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective in a piece titled “What is Reproductive Justice,” highlights the Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice (ACRJ) framework for fighting reproductive oppression in an effective way. This three-pronged approach includes service delivery (reproductive health), advocacy (reproductive rights/legal issues), and movement building (reproductive justice). All three parts work together to form a comprehensive approach/solution to tackle reproductive oppression. Our committee is aware that this is an approach that is applied by many organizers and advocates for all social justice issues. SPA Leadership spent the last few months considering how SPA can use this to frame our response to all matters related to diversity and social justice as health care professionals. Applying this three-pronged framework to our work and spending time looking at community conversations, we came up with the following things that are on the minds of the assessment community:
- Service delivery - In very sterile terms the process of doing an intake, administering tests, and providing feedback is service delivery. It involves an exchange between a patient/client and a clinician where the clinician is ideally providing the assessee with collaborative movement toward something that they could not figure out on their own. When we consider the recent Roe v. Wade decision, there are already significant impacts to our service delivery process regardless of if we are in a state that is significantly impacted by this decision or not. This includes:
- Report writing
- HIPAA (Where do our documents go? Who are we accountable to?)
- Duties to Warn
- Managed Care
- Treatment Setting or Treatment Issue
- Advocacy (legal issues) - For our field, this may mean taking some of the legal questions we outlined above and not only figuring out how to address them in our work but how to support groups of our members who are particularly interested in and familiar with political organizing efforts and collaborating with them to direct those efforts to protect our work and the people we serve.
- Movement building (organizing) - This focuses not on the divisive debates regarding social issues (who agrees with what) but rather on the neglect and real-life experiences of the people who it impacts and what kind of outcome they want for their lives, like healthier families, better access to care, and sustainable communities. This can only benefit all people. The question for SPA here is what does it look like for us to do this?
Advocacy & Movement Building: Boycotting, Buycotting and the Annual Convention in Austin, Texas
When thinking about our Annual 2023 Convention being held in Texas, the committee discussed and thought it important to ask SPA members at large to consider, who does boycotting/buycotting actually impact? What makes a boycott effective? How do we decide which issues are more important than others? By limiting SPA Convention locations to states that protect reproductive rights, are we limiting our outreach and engagement to communities that may benefit from hearing our perspectives? How do we decide which issues are important enough to take into consideration, as every state and every city has some issue of inequity to a community that SPA might care about.
When we engage in advocacy and movement organizing it is easy to be driven by our anger about the mounting injustices in a world increasingly on fire and make decisions that move our privilege (in this case our presence, ideas, and our money) around in ways that do not consider who is truly being affected by those decisions. This is not a zero-sum game in which team A gets a point and team B loses a point if we choose not to go to Texas. Different groups of people could be impacted by a decision to boycott a Texas convention and the “team” that we hope to support may be among them. The hotel workers and the local businesses who may experience some revenue from the convention are usually the most disenfranchised and therefore in the spirit of the intersections outlined earlier, may be in the line of hurt by our decision to pull out of Texas. Our Texas-based SPA members are also in the line of hurt and may occupy some of the intersections we outlined earlier.
We hope that you also consider our natural tendency to unite and not divide as a consideration in your decision about whether to attend. What is the message that we send to the local SPA community in Texas by 1) not ever having held a convention there and then 2) deciding to pull out at the last minute? Why is the question, “why are we going to Texas if SPA is really a social justice-oriented organization,” versus “what is SPA going to do while we are there to advocate and movement-build?” “What is SPA doing to ensure that I feel safe enough and welcome if I choose to come to Austin?” “In what ways can I change my research/work and the presentations I submit to reflect the depth to which these issues are of concern to me?” Are we saying that our colleagues living in Texas are not advocates for these major issues concerning them by living there? We need to consider the ways in which pulling the convention from Texas might be missing an opportunity to unite with SPA members in the trenches who need our support right now. When making decisions such as these, we need to be savvy about what systemic factors are truly at play, and how those in power are utilizing their tools to maintain these unequal systems. With this in mind, SPA Leadership is working with SPA staff to come up with meaningful ways we can collaborate with community members in Texas to have impact while we are in Austin while balancing that choosing to focus on specific issues may appear to neglect others. Intersectionality again should be a constant reminder that focusing on some things is not necessarily to the exclusion of others.
We also want to acknowledge that some members of SPA, particularly those who are multiply systematically oppressed have expressed concern about their own personal safety in Texas during the convention given the political climate. Although we do not know how the political tide will change before the convention, we also acknowledge the real risk concerns, especially those explicitly expressed to us by LGBTQIA2S+ members of the SPA community and people who have concerns about needing emergency abortive care while in Texas. As noted, we have members who live and work in Texas for whom this landscape is their daily reality. We understand, and SPA staff is working with local legislators and hotel leadership to create some measure of safety while at the convention. Of import, Austin City Council recently passed the GRACE Act (The Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone Act), aimed at providing a workaround for those seeking abortion access in Austin and are attempting to outline what comes next. There may be more to come in either political direction and we understand that our members need to make choices that make the most sense to them.
A Call to Action
If we zoom out for a moment from reproductive justice, the accumulation of the national and global traumas we have experienced as a society continues to be compounded by the ongoing oppression, suppression, and violent exclusion and erasure of certain groups of people – “waste populations” (Tyler, 2013). As it concerns Roe, the SCOTUS decision is just one step on a path of many more rights that are up for challenge for the US Supreme Court and none of these decisions are completely removed from potential international impacts. Everything that we face has and will continue to show up in our testing, and it is deeply important to hold intersectionality in mind. We must not contribute to the harm we are trying to fight through the work we do and the choices we make. Therefore, it is equally important that we look inward as well as out, and “get our field together,” so-to-speak and ensure that we are on the cutting edge of directing the response to such assaults on our communities.
As communications continue to emerge about the annual convention in the coming months, please look out for the ways we intend to advocate and movement-build, whether you choose to attend the annual convention or not. We encourage you to review some literature associated with this statement if you are new to advocacy efforts and are trying to figure out how to be effective and impactful in making change. We invite our members to consider contributing pieces related to these matters in our newly revived SPA Exchange or SPA Blog, as well as collaborate on policy and guidance to address some of the questions that assessment psychologists are asking which we outlined in the service delivery section of this statement. We further encourage you to reach out to the Diversity & Social Justice Committee if you want to get involved. We have so much that we want to do and always need more people to assist even if it is temporarily with specific projects.
We know that these issues are incredibly complex, and we are holding the complexity with all of you.
Ksera Dyette, Psy.D. ~ Chair, Diversity & Social Justice Committee
Cited or Relevant Literature & Resources
- APA Resource Page re: Abortion
- BallotPedia - Supreme Court cases, October term 2022-2023
- American Psychological Association. (2022, May 3). Restricting access to abortion likely to lead to mental health harms, APA asserts [Press release]. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/05/restricting-abortion-mental-health-harms
- Glickman, L.B. (2009). Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL.
Goodwin, M. (2020). Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK.
- Griffith, B. (2022, July 29). Austin, Texas, partially decriminalizes abortion: What comes next?. Liberation News. https://www.liberationnews.org/austin-texas-partially-decriminalizes-abortion-what-comes-next/
- McGhee, H. (2021). The Sum of Us. What Racism Costs Everyone and How we can Prosper Together. Penguin Random House: New York, NY.
- Orleck, A. (2005). Storming Caesars Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty. Beacon Press Books: Boston, MA.
Roberts, D. (1998). Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. Penguin Random House: New York, NY.
- Severson, M. (2022, July 25). Austin City Council passes GRACE Act to decriminalize abortion despite statewide ban. The Daily Texan. https://thedailytexan.com/2022/07/25/austin-city-council-passes-grace-act-to-decriminalize-abortion-despite-statewide-ban/
- Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective & Pro-Choice Public Education Project (2007). Reproductive Justice briefing book: a primer on reproductive justice and social change. https://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/courses/fileDL.php?fID=4051/
- Tyler, I. (2013). Revolting Subjects. Zed Books: London.