Senate Fails to #StopTheShock

Capitol buidling

ASAN is heartbroken and furious that the United States Senate has failed to ban the use of the electric shock devices used at the Judge Rotenberg Center in their final FDA bill.

In 2020, after decades of advocacy from disability advocates, the FDA banned the use of electric shock for behavior modification. Unfortunately, the FDA’s ban was struck down on technical grounds in 2021. The disability community turned to Congress to fix this miscarriage of justice and ban the use of these harmful devices. The bipartisan effort to #StopTheShock was included in the House version of the FDASLA Act, and was added to the Senate bill following a committee hearing. But yesterday, Congressional leadership announced that the final bill would be a “clean” bill that drops many important provisions, including the ban. This was done in order to quickly include the bill in a larger, fast-moving spending bill. This is beyond unacceptable. The people with IDD being electrocuted at the JRC for getting out of their chairs don’t have the luxury of indulging Senate politicking.

For decades, our community has advocated to ban the use of these devices, which are now only used on people with disabilities at one institution. We are not alone in this fight; in 2019, over 290,000 people signed a petition in support of the ban and 244 organizations signed on to a letter urging the FDA to finalize its rule to ban these devices. Congress must act: every day without this ban is a failure of leadership. We are exploring ways to include the ban in other must-pass legislation before the end of the year, and we will update our members when next steps are clear. ASAN will continue to use every tool at our disposal and work with state and federal policymakers to end the torture at the JRC and all other uses of aversive treatment. While Congress dawdles, we urge the FDA, CMS and the Department of Education to act on the FDA’s findings that skin shock poses an unreasonable risk. No federal dollars should pay for the torture of people with disabilities.

Our community is outraged on behalf of the many disabled people who will continue to experience daily abuse as a result of this decision. But our fight is not over, and we are not giving up. We thank our members for their relentless advocacy, and we call on our leaders to take up this fight with even a fraction of our community’s fury and care. We will not rest until no disabled person is subjected to torture in the name of “treatment.”

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!