With Roe overthrown, advocates fear disability rights may be next

Lawyers say the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will disproportionately harm people with disabilities. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling ending the constitutional right to abortion in that country will have profound implications for people with disabilities, advocates say, potentially extending far beyond reproductive care.

The High Court’s decision late last week in a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overruled Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old case protecting abortion rights in the United States. abortion bans in about half of the states.

Writing for the majority, Judge Samuel Alito called the Roe decision “demonstrably bad” and said it “must be overturned”.

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“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a disaster for people with disabilities,” said Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Bascom and other disability rights advocates have pointed out that people with intellectual disabilities are more likely to be victims of sexual assault and that some people cannot safely carry a pregnancy to term because of their disability or treatment they receive. In addition, they said this decision limiting access to abortion care in large swaths of the country will disproportionately affect people with disabilities who are more likely to live in poverty and have difficulty traveling to obtain services. such services.

“This decision will cause serious bodily harm and, in many cases, death to far too many people with disabilities, especially those who already face the greatest barriers to accessing reproductive health care – low-income people with disabilities, people with disabilities of color and with disabilities LGBTQIA+ people,” said Maria Town, president and CEO of the American Association of Persons with Disabilities, or AAPD.

But the consequences for people with disabilities could be much broader, advocates say.

In the majority opinion, Alito writes that “nothing in this opinion should be taken to cast doubt on precedents which do not relate to abortion”. But in his competing opinion, Judge Clarence Thomas wrote that the court ‘should reconsider’ three other rulings that relied on similar legal reasoning, one related to the right to contraception, another striking down sodomy laws and a case legalizing gay marriage.

And it worries disability rights advocates that a range of other civil rights protections could also be affected.

“Today’s ruling attacks the fundamental right to privacy and due process, ignores precedent, and significantly narrows the scope of rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment,” said Bascom of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. . “In doing so, he threatens the personal rights of people with disabilities regarding marriage, intimacy, sterilization, medical care, housing, speech and more.”

Earlier this month, after a draft Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs case leaked in May, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network along with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the AAPD, the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, Little Lobbyists and Be A Hero released a 10-page book memorandum outlining a myriad of ways the decision could affect the rights of people with disabilities. The document also pointed to the instability that would be introduced into the justice system if the Supreme Court departed from its longstanding practice of following the rules established by previous cases as much as possible.

The memo warned of “devastating consequences” if the project was not “significantly modified” before being finalized. But last week’s decision largely mirrored the project.

“Today it was the right to abortion, tomorrow it could be other important rights like choosing who to marry or access to other types of reproductive health,” Eric warned. Buehlmann, deputy executive director for public policy at the National Disability Rights Network. . “For people with disabilities, it can also mean whether or not they have a say in sterilization, or with whom they have intimate relationships or the choice to live in the community guaranteed by the Olmstead decision. This uncertainty that the Supreme Court may take away rights that people have had for decades is bad for all of American society, including people with disabilities in so many different ways.

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