Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Recent Supreme Court Rulings Could Increase Risk of Intimate Partner Violence

Clinicians should be on the lookout for more people of childbearing age experiencing intimate partner violence following two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. So wrote Elizabeth Tobin-Tyler, J.D., an associate professor of health services, policy, and practice at Brown University, in a perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization allows states to ban or restrict access to abortion; New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen struck down state limits on who may carry a firearm in public.

“[Intimate partner violence] encompasses physical and sexual violence and intimidation, as well as psychological abuse,” Tobin-Tyler wrote. Overall, 1 in 3 U.S. women experiences such violence, she noted.

She described several studies demonstrating the association between pregnancy, intimate partner violence, and homicide. “Most vulnerable in this new legal landscape will be people who have limited access to resources and services and inadequate protection against violence, especially those living in overburdened communities—primarily young, low-income women from historically marginalized racial or ethnic groups,” she continued. “Legal restrictions on reproductive health care and access to abortion will leave people more vulnerable to control by their abusers. Policies permitting easier access to firearms, including the ability to carry guns in public, will further jeopardize survivors’ safety.”

Clinicians have a vital role to play in supporting and helping to protect patients experiencing such abuse, Tobin-Tyler concluded. “Health care systems should provide training to all staff to help them understand the dynamics of [intimate partner violence], especially during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and to assess risk of homicide; should implement best practices for creating safe, supportive, and empowering environments for patients to disclose [intimate partner violence] and seek assistance; and should fund partnerships with domestic-violence experts and lawyers to facilitate protection, safety, and independence from abusive partners.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News articles “Restricting Rights to Abortion Is Direct Assault on Women’s Mental Health” and “Congress Passes First Significant Gun Safety Bill in Decades.”

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