Access to abortion is vital for people with disabilities
tThese days, Flora Ellis’ mother keeps a stash of The morning after pill In a closet in their Oklahoma home. It’s not just because she’s an “amazing mom,” though Ellis, 20, stresses that she is. That’s because Ellis was born with a connective tissue disorder that prevents her body from making collagen properly. In addition to limiting her mobility and contributing to frequent injuries, Ellis’ condition means that pregnancy comes with the chance of ruptured organs.
Now that abortion is outlawed in Oklahoma, neither Ellis nor her mother want to take the risk. Ellis’ health issues prevent her from using some forms of birth control, so the morning after cereal kit is an extra insurance policy. “It makes me feel very insecure because I might have less access [to abortion] Now,” Ellis says.
Ellis’ mother, Cynthia Rogers, searches the medicine cabinet in her home to find the morning-after pills she keeps for Ellis and her friends in case of emergencies.
Ellis with her boyfriend Guthrie. The two lived together for a short time, but Ellis had recently moved back home while she was attending college.
Ellis and her family in front of their home. She often uses a wheelchair due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. “If there’s a brace for something on your body, I probably have it,” says Ellis.
Dropp off Roe v. Wadeand the subsequent wave of abortion bans and restrictions in US states, has serious implications for estimates 26% of adults in the United States with ADHD. Pregnancy can be dangerous For anyone, says Dr. Louise Perkins King, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, but people who go into pregnancy with underlying health problems are at higher risk. Ensuring that all people, including people with disabilities, have access to essential medical care, says Perkins King, includes ensuring “the option to terminate employment if it is best for their health.”
In addition, banning abortion is a threat to bodily autonomy, “a core tenet of the disability rights movement,” as is the case with the American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD) wrote in a statement After the draft Supreme Court decision of cassation ru It leaked last May. “Policies that restrict access to abortion will significantly exacerbate threats to the autonomy, health, and overall well-being of people with disabilities.”
Since then, a dozen US states – including many in the South, The region of the United States with the highest rate of disabilityAlmost completely banned abortion. For people with disabilities, these laws only increase long-term hurdles to abortion care, says Joy Monan, a Texas attorney and disability advocate with cerebral palsy.
Joy Monan next to her apartment building in Dallas on July 20, 2022. Monan, a lawyer and disability rights advocate, uses a wheelchair due to having cerebral palsy.
Securing reliable transportation to an abortion provider can be a challenge for someone with limited mobility, Monan says, and many health care providers are not well versed in caring for people with disabilities. In 2022, Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Patty Murray introduced legislation It aims to alleviate this problem by funding training programs for service providers, as well as recruiting more people with disabilities into healthcare, but it has not progressed since its introduction.
“People with disabilities have sex too. They want to have families, they want to date,” Monan says. But “people don’t see people with disabilities that way.”
Monan and her twin sister, Laura, ride in her accessible van to dinner.
Joey and Laura Monan in their shared apartment.
In fact, the United States has a great track record when it comes to providing ethical care to people with disabilities. Forced sterilization It was popular for most of the twentieth century, and Many states still have laws that allow it.
Wanda Felty learned this fact after the birth of her daughter, Kayla. Kayla’s brain was not fully formed in the womb, resulting in significant cognitive and vision impairment. When Kayla, 34, was a young woman, well-meaning people told Felty to consider removing her daughter’s uterus as a precaution against pregnancy, since Sexual violence against people with disabilities is common. Nearly 40% of female rape victims had a disability when they were assaulted, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Feli was satisfied, then angry, that anyone would suggest removing a part of her daughter’s body without medical necessity. Those feelings came pouring out again after that ru fell last year. Fely, who lives in Oklahoma, works for an organization that supports people with disabilities and their families. After Oklahoma banned abortion, I started getting calls from frantic parents who wanted to know more about sterilization for their disabled children — and they got angry all over again.
Wanda Felty sits with her daughter, Kayla, at their home in Norman, Oklahoma, on July 19, 2022. Kayla’s brain was not fully formed in the womb; She is mostly non-verbal and has a significant visual impairment, among other medical issues. Felicity and her husband are the primary caregivers for Kayla.
Although Felty was raised to believe abortion was wrong, lived experience changed her perspective. She is angry that because lawmakers have taken away the option of abortion in some states, families are now making heartbreaking choices to protect their children. “We’ve been stripped of rights [instead of] protect them from violent crime.”
While most abortion bans include narrow exceptions for victims of rape and incest, as well as for medical emergencies that endanger parents’ lives, abortion providers in restrictive states may be reluctant to provide abortion care even if they fit one of these exceptions, for fear of legal consequences. financial, or professional. the The vulnerability in medical emergencies can be particularly blurrybecause it is not always clear what constitutes a “life-threatening” complication.
This scares Ellis. Given her connective tissue disorder, “there’s a risk when I get pregnant. Is [abortion] number [as life-saving] And after?” Ellis says. “Or does it have to be just the rupture of the uterus?”
Kelly Knight in her Kansas City apartment on July 19, 2022. Knight was born with an underdeveloped heart, which means she has to “work as hard as a normal heart.”
Kelly Knight, 24, has similar concerns. She was born with an underdeveloped heart, and has known since she was a teenager that pregnancy and childbirth can place a deadly amount of stress on her cardiovascular system. She has long used an IUD for contraception, and she and her husband recently moved from Oklahoma to Kansas City, Missouri—in part because Knight would have better access to an abortion, if needed, with a short trip across the border to Kansas.
Knight says that many people she knows are staunchly opposed to abortion, considering it against “God’s will.” But this argument is meaningless to her.
Knight and her husband, Kyle, decided to move to Kansas City to be closer to the family and to have better access to reproductive resources, if needed.
Knight looks through her scrapbook. She had three open-heart operations as a child and still has to carefully monitor the pressure on her heart.
“God and I fought for my life to get this far. You have no idea how hard we fought,” says Knight. “I’m not going to give this up just because I got pregnant.”
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