Overturning Roe, a New Mental Health Hotline, Russia: RAND Weekly Recap

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July 1, 2022

This week, we discuss what overturning Roe v. Wade might mean for women in the military; preparing for the launch of America's new mental health hotline; what determines a nation's global standing; the likelihood of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda seeking out biological weapons; cognitive dissonance in Russia; and the risks of Ukraine settling with Russia to end the war.

Lt. Col. Paula Neemann, 15th Healthcare Operations Squadron clinical medicine flight commander, demonstrates birth control options at the 15th MDG at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, May 6, 2021, photo by 2nd Lt. Benjamin Aronson/U.S. Air Force

Photo by 2nd Lt. Benjamin Aronson/U.S. Air Force

What Overturning Roe Might Mean for Women in the Military

Last week's seismic Supreme Court decision revoked the constitutional right to an abortion, allowing states to prohibit the procedure. Abortion bans have already taken effect in at least seven states.

Writing before the ruling, RAND's Kyleanne Hunter considered how restrictions could affect women in the U.S. military and how the Pentagon might respond.

To start, women stationed in states that have already banned abortion or are poised to do so will face sharp reductions in their health care options, she says. Of course, this is also true for civilian women, but restrictions may have an outsized effect on those in the military. Evidence suggests that women who serve are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy than their civilian counterparts. They are also more likely to experience sexual assault and intimate-partner violence—factors that increase the risk of unintended pregnancy.

Losing access to safe and legal abortions may also exacerbate the negative experiences often recounted by women in the military, Hunter says. The need to travel out of state for an abortion could increase service women's fear of the negative stigma associated with pregnancy and intensify privacy concerns. Abiding by new policies related to abortion may also reinforce harmful gender stereotypes in the ranks. And misinformation about Pentagon policies could create false impressions about health care options that are available to women in the military.

Overall, the repeal may add more stress and barriers to what is already a difficult process. “The Defense Department will need to respond to ensure that women have access to the full range of health care,” Hunter says. “How that response is communicated is crucial, leaving no room for misinterpretation that could heighten existing stereotypes and tensions.”

A suicide prevention sign on the fence on the walkway of the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey, January 12, 2022, photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

A suicide prevention sign on the fence on the walkway of the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey, January 12, 2022

Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

New Mental Health Hotline: Game-Changer or Missed Opportunity?

Someone dies from suicide in the United States about every 11 minutes. To help prevent such tragedies, a new national mental health emergency hotline, “988,” is set to launch on July 16. But a recent RAND survey finds that mental health program directors across the country don't feel prepared for the 988 rollout. States and counties need more funding to be able to support the new service and to make sure that people know it's available. Overcoming such hurdles will require political will and leadership, say RAND experts.

A crowd of people standing in a star formation over a background of red stripes of a U.S. flag, images by adimas and bennymarty/Adobe Stock

Images by adimas and bennymarty/Adobe Stock

What Determines a Nation's Global Standing

Why do nations rise and fall? Succeed or fail? Enjoy stability or descend into chaos? A new RAND report examines one key factor: the quality of a nation's society. Author Michael Mazarr identifies seven societal traits of competitively successful nations, including national ambition and will, effective institutions, and competitive diversity and pluralism. He then explains where the United States stands in these areas and lays out a framework for rejuvenating “America's engine of societal dynamism.”

A collage of the COVID-19 virus, armed terror groups, and a biological response team

Images by RDVector/Adobe Stock, Rafael Ben-Ari/Adobe Stock, and Alamy Stock; design by RAND Corporation

The Risk of Terrorists Seeking Out Biological Weapons

After COVID-19 hit, governments around the world struggled to respond to the deadly outbreak. A new RAND report considers whether the Islamic State or al-Qaeda might try to exploit these vulnerabilities by obtaining deadly viruses to use as weapons. The authors say that neither group seems likely to do so. The degree of difficulty in developing biological weapons is high. Conventional weapons, on the other hand, are readily available alternatives that meet terrorists' deadly objectives.

Ballet dancers perform Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the Mikhailovsky theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 28, 2016, photo by Grigory Dukor/Reuters

Ballet dancers perform Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the Mikhailovsky theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 28, 2016

Photo by Grigory Dukor/Reuters

Cognitive Dissonance in Russia

According to cognitive dissonance theory, people experience psychological discomfort when two things they understand (or think they understand) are at odds. This may help explain why some Russians refuse to believe their Ukrainian family members' accounts of the war, says RAND's Alyssa Demus. However, there are still many Russians who are frustrated by, receptive to, and curious about the reality in Ukraine. That's why it's important to continue trying to break through the so-called digital Iron Curtain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin watches a military parade on Victory Day in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022, photo by Mikhail Metzel/Pool via

Russian President Vladimir Putin watches a military parade on Victory Day in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022

Photo by Mikhail Metzel/Pool via Reuters

Should Ukraine Settle with Russia?

Some argue that the United States and Ukraine should offer concessions to Russia to reach a political settlement and quickly end the war. But taking the “settler approach” could backfire, says RAND's Raymond Kuo. Russia is unlikely to recognize, reciprocate, and preserve concessions to avoid humiliation, he says. This might mean that military defeat or political surrender are the only options for solving the crisis in Ukraine.

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