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Social Work Ethics & Roe v Wade Supreme Court Decision
On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court published a controversial decision in the Mississippi case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that effectively overturns Roe v. Wade (a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States generally protects the liberty to choose to have an abortion.)
With this ruling, the Court allows Mississippi to enforce its 15-week ban on abortion and permits state legislatures to further restrict and ban abortion. In many states, these restrictive measures will even go so far as to criminalize providers - including social workers - who may simply be doing their jobs by supporting a pregnant person in making decisions regarding reproductive care. Moreover, this decision may have a disproportionate impact on women of color, low-income women, women with disabilities, young people, and women who live in areas with limited healthcare resources.
The Dobbs decision has introduced compelling ethical challenges for social workers who provide services and information related to reproductive health. How can I protect my clients' privacy and confidentiality if my records are subpoenaed? How should I document conversations with clients about their reproductive health choices? Am I permitted to refuse to serve clients seeking abortion-related information and services? Am I at risk of a lawsuit, licensing board complaint, or criminal prosecution if I serve women seeking abortion-related information and services?
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