The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities is deeply concerned about the overturning of Roe v Wade and what it means for the control people with disabilities have over their reproductive health. As an organization that is dedicated to addressing healthcare inequities faced by people with disabilities, we know that a more reproductively just system would reduce healthcare inequities among this population.
While many urge for reproductive rights, arguing that people should have access to abortion so that they are able to control whether or not they are pregnant, we would also like to call for more reproductive justice. By this, we mean that we call for a system that looks at unjust reproductive control as a whole. Unfortunately, disenfranchised people, and including people with disabilities, not only lack access to the option to terminate a pregnancy, but also lack the support and healthcare to choose to become pregnant. Many of these women are usually multiply marginalized (BIPOC, Poor, Queer, etc) and often report not having equitable access to any type of reproductive medicine. Thus far, their stories have been excluded from much of the dialogue around the overturning of Roe.
Research shows us that these healthcare inequities for people with disabilities exist due to a system rooted in ableism and stigma that produces a lack of access. This begins with a lack of access to sex education, which leads to many people with disabilities deprived of a full understanding of their options for controlling their own reproduction. For those that have had access to sex education within their communities, many people with disabilities report being removed from these opportunities due to ableism and stigma that people with disabilities are de-sexualized and are not or should not be having sexual relations to begin with. This de-sexualization of people with disabilities also further creates gaps in access to birth control and/or morning after pills as providers often make ableist assumptions about reproductive health.
Access to abortion and reproductive health is a matter of healthcare equity and must be part of trauma informed care. Many people with disabilities experience health conditions associated with their disability that require abortion access. These health conditions make pregnancy risky for the life and health of the disabled person. Further, we know that 83% of women with disabilities (Stimpson & Best, 1991) experience sexual violence in their lifetimes. This number is double to that of their nondisabled peers. Access to abortion services is vitally important in these situations.
The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities strongly encourages a framing of reproductive justice that takes a more holistic view of access to reproduction and all of the health supports it entails. The health care inequities against people with disabilities is explicit and interferes in people’s reproductive choices at all levels- in both choosing a pregnancy and in choosing to terminate a pregnancy.