GUEST COLUMN: Kavanaugh’s treatment of the reproductive rights of women with disabilities an overview | Guest columnists

An uncomfortable truth that must be recognized. Any society that treats the disabled community as less than, as less worthy of life and liberty or justice, has a primed argument against the rights of “normal” people. No one is immune from an oppressive regime.

The arguments used against people with disabilities about their own medical and life decisions, although different at first glance, share an attack on basic autonomy. In 2007, then judge Brett Kavanaugh, considered a “pro-life” judge, heard an appeal case (Doe Tarlow V. District of Columbia) comprised of three women with intellectual disabilities who were tried legally incompetent. They had been forced to undergo medical procedures against their will while working with a government agency (District of Columbia Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration). Under the agency’s rules, two of them had abortions. They filed a lawsuit, arguing that their wishes had not been factored into the decision. Kavanaugh ruled against them, claiming that “the right to be involved in their own medical decisions is not ‘deeply rooted in the history and tradition of this nation” and that “neither freedom nor justice” is were endangered by denying women’s rights ”.

People also read …

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh before an oath-taking ceremony on October 8, 2018, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.


It was not a decision expressly on abortion, but rather on the autonomy to make a medical decision. Disability rights activists have been shocked by the widespread rejection of the right to have their wishes taken into account. If Kavanaugh was okay with forced abortions, it’s clear that the real argument is control over people’s bodies, and in this case, against people with disabilities who become parents.

This bias stems from the rooted history of eugenics in disability and racial history, the forced sterilizations of approximately 65,000 people, based on disability, including orphans and the poor. Racially motivated eugenics sought to prevent Métis marriages and the families that would result from them, and sterilized women perceived to be disabled or mentally incompetent. The eugenic era shockingly continued for longer in some areas: It wasn’t until 1974 that North Carolina’s state sterilization program was shut down.

Those seeking justice for the rights of people with disabilities oppose the paternalistic view that they are unable to make their own decisions. The reproductive justice movement, launched in 1994 and led by feminists of color, is also a response to the struggle for the freedom to impose reproductive choices on women of color. Justice for persons with disabilities and reproductive justice are overlapping movements that share a common framework. Both relate not only to reproductive rights, but also to the “human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, to have children, not to have children and to raise the children we have in safe and secure communities. sustainable ”.

It appears Kavanaugh would follow the same logic of his 2007 decision in Mississippi’s current challenge to Roe against Wade over the constitutionality of the right to abortion.

Will the Supreme Court reinterpret the Constitution for all people capable of pregnancy? Will they try to usher in a regressive era, once again both paternalistic and oppressive? It is not only important to examine the parallels with disability and the history of racial reproduction, but also to assess and contrast the current climate of activism around social justice.

American scholar and social justice advocate Dorothy Roberts writes in “Killing the Black Body,” “Reproductive freedom must encompass more than protecting an individual woman’s choice to terminate her pregnancy. It must encompass the full range of reproductive activities, including the ability to bear a child, and it must recognize that we make reproductive decisions in a social context, including inequalities of wealth and power. Reproductive freedom is a matter of social justice, not of individual choice.

In the University of Alabama blog at the Birmingham Institute for Human Rights Blog, reproductive justice is described this way: marginalized women and minority communities are exalted. By deduction, the community of people with disabilities is included.

Justice for people with disabilities is social justice. Reproductive justice is social justice. Freedom. Justice. Words in Danger in our Constitution. Framing the debate this way instead of a ‘personal choice’, while unquestionably a personal choice, lends weight to our understanding of the complex and nuanced environment in which this decision takes place, as well as the autonomy and autonomy. the freedom in which it must take place.

Access to reproductive health services is different for people with low income or without insurance. It looks different for rural Iowa communities where there are no nearby labor and delivery services. It is different for people discriminated against by the health care system because they are disabled. The situation is different for a white woman with sufficient income and able to exercise her reproductive rights. But when reproductive rights and social justice / disability are combined, a more equal and inclusive framework for all is possible. It is not only access to health care decisions, but the social and economic supports that make it possible to live with those decisions.

Roe vs. Wade’s challengers may think they can turn back time, but what they can’t anticipate is that between now and next summer, when a decision is made, activists will have ample time to raise your voice. It is time for our Democratic leaders to pass federal legislation in support of reproductive justice so that we do not return to the path of an oppressive, regressive and dangerous regime. We must protect not only marginalized groups like the disability community, but all Americans who deserve reproductive health and justice. The first step is to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.

Julie Russell-Steuart is the Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Disability Caucus, a Science for Safe Schools organizer, and a Reinbeck artist / activist.

About Antoine L. Cassell

Check Also

IMU-838 treatment associated with low rate of confirmed disability worsening in relapsing MS

Recently reported interim data from the Phase 2 EMPhASIS trial (NCT03846219) of Immunic’s investigational agent, …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.