ASAN condemns today’s ruling dismantling Roe v. Wade and its protections. In light of the critical role that the Supreme Court plays in interpreting and enforcing laws that affect people with disabilities, we are disgusted that the Court has thrown out decades of settled law to attack our rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination. This decision will have dangerous ripple effects far beyond abortion, and we have grave concerns about its effects on people with disabilities.
Today’s ruling does not make abortion illegal in all 50 states. It does make safe, legal abortion much harder to access for many people who need it, because it allows individual states to pass laws making abortion illegal. This ruling will especially hurt people with disabilities, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ people, immigrants, and domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors.
There are many reasons why abortion access is especially critical for disabled people. Some disabled people are not able to safely carry a fetus to term, either because of our disabilities or because of medications or other treatments for our disabilities. Some people with disabilities are more likely to miscarry, and may be at increased risk for criminalization in states that outlaw abortion. Disabled people are also more likely to face sexual assault and domestic violence. This is especially true for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. More limits to abortion access will create further barriers for disabled people who can become pregnant when they try to escape their abusers.
People with disabilities already disproportionately struggle to access abortion care. Disabled people are more likely to live in poverty and have difficulty paying for travel to receive an abortion, especially in states where there is not access to a clinic. Travel itself can be a major barrier for many people with disabilities. Disabled people are more likely to be wage workers rather than salary workers, and may not be able to afford to take time off of work to travel and recover. Abortion clinics may be inaccessible or may not provide the supports people with disabilities need. People with disabilities are more likely to rely on Medicaid or Medicare for health insurance–but Medicare and Medicaid cannot legally cover the cost of an abortion. Some states, like Texas, have created legal liability for people who help someone get an abortion. This may put people who provide supports to disabled people trying to get an abortion at risk of being sued or of criminal penalties if states make helping someone get an abortion a crime.
The way the Court decided this case will almost certainly encourage attacks on other important civil rights. Reversing Roe in this way invites attacks on other important civil rights related to bodily autonomy. This decision invites people and groups to bring cases to try to reverse Lawrence v. Texas, the case that covers the legal right for consenting adults to have sex without persecution from the state or federal government. The way the Court made this decision also threatens the wider right to privacy, which is really a right to make certain choices without government interference. The right to privacy includes the right to access birth control and other contraceptives – which some people with disabilities may need for health reasons – the rights for two adults of the same gender to get married, the right for two adults of different races to get married, the right of people to not be sterilized if they do not want to, the right to make our own medical decisions, and more. This decision may lead to the reversal of many of the cases supporting these rights, which we explain in more detail here. This decision also attacks the stability of the whole legal system. Even rights that are not directly threatened by this opinion are in jeopardy because the Court has made it easier for itself to overturn its own past decisions. This means that future cases will damage protections that are important to people with disabilities. The decision is likely to lead to the weakening of the ADA and other important disability and civil rights laws.
We are outraged at the harm this will cause in our community. We demand that Congress respond to this dangerous decision immediately. Congress should protect bodily autonomy and self-determination by codifying the right to an abortion in federal law. The disability community has fought long and hard for bodily autonomy and self-determination, and we will always oppose attacks on these rights. Disabled people have faced eugenics throughout history. We still do today. Disabled people must be the only ones who decide whether we have children or not, and when. We should not be forced to continue fighting for our right to both pregnancy and abortion on our own terms. Enough is enough. We must move forward instead of back.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!