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Reproductive Rights Are Disability Rights: Decisions about Roe v. Wade Affect All of Us

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Writer’s Note: Not all women have uteruses, and not all people with uteruses are women. This includes transgender folks, as well as people living with numerous medical conditions and the various treatments for those conditions. A woman is not defined by the state of her uterus, nor does a uterus make a person a woman. Onward.

It is currently Wednesday, May 11, 2022. A week ago, we learned via a leaked draft that the Supreme Court is planning to overturn Roe v. Wade

Dozens of articles already exist defining Roe v. Wade, and what the potential impact of this decision could be. (PBS, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Wired, and many more.)

In the last week, we’ve watched as various states have bolstered existing so-called “trigger laws”, or voted on new ones. Laws that would go into effect upon the overturning of Roe, laws that would criminalize abortion, restrict access to birth control, and criminalize our right to make choices about our bodies and health. (NPR, Time, The Daily Beast)

The domino effects of these decisions could be far-reaching. While it varies by state, people who are in jail or prison are often ineligible to vote while incarcerated, and many people who have an active probation and parole case are ineligible to vote as well. Which means this criminalization could lead to many people with uteruses losing their right to vote, at least temporarily. (It is a common misconception that all felons lose their right to vote, indefinitely. This is not currently true. State laws vary, please check yours for how it could impact you and people in your state.)

While the initial impact of overturning Roe v. Wade is on people with uteruses, ultimately it is much broader. It’s about privacy, it’s about autonomy, it’s about our very ability to make decisions for our own lives. 

I’m the social media editor here at The Mighty, and last week we shared on Twitter, “Reproductive rights are disability rights.” 

In the days since, between moderating comments like “abortion is murder” (it’s not) and “you’re a eugenicist” (no), and “I thought you were a disability org” or “I thought you were a mental health account!” (we are) — I’ve been reading and watching people share their stories of trauma. Stories people are sharing sometimes because they need to, and sometimes because they hope sharing their story will spark a change. 

None of us — not disabled people, not people sharing — owe you our trauma. We do not owe you our identities, our diagnoses, our stories. 

And yet we keep sharing. We share and we bleed and we share some more and we hope to whatever or whoever we believe in that someone, somewhere, is paying attention. 

Abortion is health care. The right to privacy, the right to autonomy over our bodies and lives, is health care — physical and mental.

I was drawn to The Mighty because it is a health care company, and a community focused on the experiences of people living with mental health challenges, disability, and chronic illness.

Abortion is health care. The right to privacy, the right to autonomy over our bodies and lives, is health care — physical and mental. 

That’s why I believe conversations about Roe v. Wade belong in the Mighty community. 

And there is nuance in this understanding. Multiple things can be true at once. 

Have disabled people, and Black, Brown, and Indigenous people been sterilized by force and without consent in our nation’s (and world’s) history? Absolutely yes. Abortion can and has been used as a eugenics practice.


Abortion is vital health care for people with uteruses. 

The issue underlying abortion as a eugenics practice isn’t abortion. It’s racism and ableism that lead to forcibly removing consent and autonomy. The medical practice of abortion does not cause that. People do. 

And the same underlying ableism and racism is at work in the current landscape — to remove consent, to remove autonomy, to remove choice from decisions about our health care, our bodies, and our lives. 

A lot of moms of disabled children have commented. Moms who were counseled to terminate and who chose not to. Moms who feel that The Mighty’s posts stood against their children. Mommas, please understand that I am not advocating against your children, but rather for all people, including your children, to have the autonomy and rights to choose. To make decisions about their health care and their lives. The same rights and autonomy you had.

Is there more work to do to counter the ableism that permeates the counseling so many pregnant people receive about disabled children? ABSOLUTELY. And that battle is about ableism, not abortion. 

Disabled people, and people living with mental and chronic illness, are and have been fighting daily battles to have autonomy over our health care and our lives. To be believed and trusted about the narratives of our lives and experiences. To access the care and accommodations we need, while living in a country that makes even routine care inaccessible for the majority. A country that throws us under the bus at every opportunity. A country that has made it crystal clear, especially over the last two years, that we are expendable. 

Further, this isn’t only a fight about reproductive rights. This is about the right to privacy, upon which Roe v. Wade rests, and how removing that right to privacy can (and will) lead to a rollback of a multitude of other civil rights. 

There is a domino effect that will follow the rollback of Roe v. Wade, and we are only seeing the very tip of the iceberg right now. Whether you have a uterus, know someone with a uterus, care about someone with a uterus, or simply live in this country — this will impact you. 

Reproductive care is just one piece of the battle we are already fighting. Reproductive rights are disability rights.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

Originally published: May 11, 2022
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