Including Disabled People in the Battle to Protect Abortion Rights: A Call-to-Action


The battle to protect abortion rights in the United States has not been this fierce in fifty years. From the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision to a precipitously growing number of states passing draconian laws that drastically limit—and in some states, entirely ban—access to safe and legal abortion services, reproductive freedom is under siege at every turn. The current assault on reproductive freedom has had devastating consequences for all people, but most acutely for historically marginalized communities, including people with disabilities. Critically, this attack most adversely affects people who live at the intersection of disability and other marginalized identities or statuses. Nonetheless, when disability is invoked in discourse concerning abortion, it is typically done to either support or oppose abortions based on fetal disability diagnoses. By framing disability and abortion only in the context of disability selective abortions, activists, scholars, legal professionals, and policymakers fail to recognize that it is actual disabled people—not hypothetical fetuses with disability diagnoses—who are harmed by abortion restrictions. Indeed, disabled people disproportionately experience pervasive and persistent disadvantages that increase their need for abortion services. They also experience considerable structural, legal, and institutional barriers that already put access to safe and legal abortion out of reach for many.

In response, the Article proposes a blueprint to help activists, scholars, legal professionals, and policymakers as they imagine the next steps in the battle to protect abortion rights in a way that fully includes people with disabilities. First, the Article situates the current battle to protect abortion rights within the social and institutional contexts that propagate reproductive oppression of people with disabilities by examining how reproduction has been weaponized over time to subjugate disabled people as well as presenting contemporary examples of such injustices. Thereafter, it explores disabled people’s unique needs for abortion services and the myriad ways they are disproportionately and adversely affected by restrictions on abortion rights. Next, the Article presents disability reproductive justice, a jurisprudential and legislative framework, and its application to the fight for abortion rights. Finally, drawing from disability reproductive justice, the Article suggests normative and transformative legal and policy solutions for challenging the current assault on abortion rights and its impact on disabled people.