Swearing-in ceremony for Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 (Photo released by the U.S. Supreme Court)
There is an uncomfortable truth that must be recognized. Any society that treats the disability community as less than, as less worthy of life and liberty, or of justice, has a primed argument against the rights of everyday “ordinary” people. No one is truly immune from oppression.
The arguments used against people with disabilities about their own medical and life decisions, although different at first glance, share an attack on fundamental autonomy. In 2007, then-judge 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 for a government agency (District of Columbia Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration). According to the rules of this agency, two of them had abortions. They took legal action, arguing that their wishes had not been taken into account. 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 ”.
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 “pro-life” Kavanaugh was okay with forced abortions, it’s clear that the real issue is controlling people’s bodies, and in this case, people with disabilities becoming parents.
This prejudice stems from the history of eugenics rooted in disability and racial history, the forced sterilizations of around 65,000 people, on the basis of their “weak-mindedness” or the determination that they were. “insane”, “criminals”, “deformed”, “crippled”, “epileptic”, “drunk”, “sick”, “blind”, “deaf” “and” dependent “(including orphans and poor people). Racially motivated eugenics sought to prevent the resulting intermarriages and mixed families, and sterilized women seen as disabled or mentally “unfit”. The era of eugenics lasted surprisingly longer in some areas: it wasn’t until 1974 that the state of North Carolina’s sterilization program was shut down.
Disability rights justice seekers reject the paternalistic view that they are unable to make their own decisions, that someone else is better qualified than them, such as a parent or conservative, or a public body. The reproductive justice movement, launched in 1994 and led by feminists of color, is also a response to the struggle for liberation from a paternalistic and oppressive agenda that imposes particular reproductive choices on women of color. Justice for persons with disabilities and reproductive justice are overlapping movements that share a common framework. They both oppose a paternalistic point of view, and both are concerned not only with reproductive rights, but also with the “human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, to have children, not to have children.” children and raising the children we have in safe and sustainable communities ”.
Kavanaugh, in 2007, said “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 threatened by denying this right to women “. It appears he would argue the same in Mississippi’s current challenge against Roe against Wade, challenging the constitutionality of the right to abortion. Of the case, Mark Sherman of The Times of Israel noted that “the conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history or tradition,” says Mississippi . “
Attorney Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights is quoted in the case: “What is essential to remember,” she argues, “is that the court has long said that the liberty rights of A woman is unique when it comes to pregnancy, and her body and health are profoundly affected by pregnancy, as is the course of her life, her ability to work, attend school and prosper.
Will the Supreme Court reinterpret the Constitution for all people capable of pregnancy? Will they attempt to usher in a regressive era that is once again both paternalistic and oppressive? Not only is it important to examine the parallels with disability and the history of racial reproduction, but we must 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, reproductive justice is described this way: marginalized individuals, women, and minority communities are elevated. By deduction, the community of people with disabilities is included.
Justice for people with disabilities is social justice. Reproductive justice is social justice, say activists, including this one. Freedom. Justice. Words in Danger in our Constitution. Americans’ rights to liberty and justice at risk. 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 into holistic reproductive justice goals, 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.
The Challengers of Roe v. Wade 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, campaigners will have ample time to raise the 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 chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Disability Caucus, organizer of Science for Safe Schools, and artist / activist from Reinbeck, Iowa.