#AdvocacyMatters: Dangerous Steps Backwards

July 1, 2022 / #AdvocacyMatters

One week ago, dark clouds formed over healthcare equity and access as we stepped into the post-Roe era. The US Supreme Court’s announcement that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision had been reversed, wasn’t just signaling the end of federal constitutional protection for abortion services. Rather, it set in motion a chain of events that will prove to have devastating impacts throughout our communities and across our country.

Dangerously, their decision came justified through the position that privacy… privacy in healthcare, privacy in the home, or the privacy to maintain autonomy over your own body… wasn’t protected under our Constitution. In the short term this allowed nearly half of US states – including Ohio - to impose strict bans not just on abortion services, but on necessary healthcare and family planning resources as well. In the mid term, this will certainly force adults and children – both with disabilities and without – to carry to term a pregnancy that seriously jeopardizes their own health… even if the result of rape or incest. In the long term, this paints a target on any activity, identity, or sexuality that runs counter to the extremist views driving these decisions.

As is the case with all laws of oppression, disabled people, minorities, and other marginalized communities will be disproportionately harmed.

Many disabled people experience serious complications and disadvantages that make access to abortion care vitally important. People with disabilities have high rates of maternal morbidity and mortality, and experience poverty rates much higher than people without disabilities. When combined with ineffective and incomplete information and resources about reproductive health, people with disabilities experience unintended pregnancies at rates higher than nondisabled people along with a much higher likelihood of being victims of sexual assault. The need for reproductive healthcare is abundantly clear.

It’s vital, too, that we understand the opinions in which this decision was rooted. By citing decrees made by judges and justices who presided in times when rights were reserved for white men, and people with disabilities were locked away from society. Tellingly, the majority opinion cites the work of 17th century jurist Matthew Hale... who famously decried abortion as he sentenced women to death for crimes of “witchcraft.” Our nation has a long history of forced sterilizations, involuntary institutionalizations, and other state-sanctioned eliminations of body autonomy. The antiquated beliefs being used to justify these assaults can too easily seed a bleak, dystopian future for all who dare look, live, or love differently than America’s historic ruling class.

Regardless of one’s personal views on abortion, the overturning of Roe was a dangerous attack on rights, equity and healthcare access. We aren’t done fighting, and we aren’t just pushing back… we’re pushing forward. These regressions and injustices are incompatible with our mission of a truly equitable society. Because #AdvocacyMatters, these assaults will only inspire and embolden our work as it carries on.

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