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In 2008, about eight weeks into her second pregnancy, Robin Wilson-Beattie began to suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, which caused severe bouts of vomiting. She had gone through this condition as well as other complications, such as preeclampsia, during her first pregnancy four years prior and knew she would likely be bedridden, but this time she didn’t have the support to help her. to get through this ordeal.
With a 4-year-old son at home, she also didn’t know if she would be able to raise another child, so she decided to have an abortion. However, when she arrived at the clinic to have an abortion, she was denied treatment due to her disability, which resulted from a spinal cord injury.
“They weren’t comfortable giving me an abortion because I had a disability. [My] paralysis frightened them. I do not know why. The disability just scared them. They said I would have to go to a doctor and it would be in a hospital, so I had to go through health insurance,” said Wilson-Beattie, a disability, sexuality and reproductive health educator.
The historic decision of 1973 in Roe vs. Wadewhich legalized abortion nationwide, was struck down by the Supreme Court on Friday. While the court’s decision impacts everyone, people with disabilities, especially those with multiple marginalized identities, will be disproportionately affected for a number of reasons, such as inequities in healthcare , sexual violence, poverty and disempowerment they have historically suffered.
Wilson-Beattie had to wait an additional two weeks from when she originally requested the abortion. When she was finally able to make an appointment, Wilson-Beattie was sexually assaulted by the doctor during the exam, but she remained silent because she felt like she had no other choice.
People with disabilities are at high risk of finding themselves in a situation where they need access to an abortion. According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, people with disabilities were more than three times more likely than people without disabilities to be victims of sexual assault. The probability increases for people with multiple disabilities.
Mia Ives-Rublee, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, said access to abortion is crucial to the survival of people with disabilities because for some, carrying a pregnancy to term could put their own lives at risk. danger. For example, Ives-Rublee is unsure if she would be able to carry a pregnancy to term due to her short stature, low lung capacity and a condition of fragile bones, called osteogenesis imperfecta.
“If I can’t abort [and] if I accidentally become pregnant, it could have a major impact on my health. It’s a huge concern for me, as an individual who continues to focus on their career and as someone who wants choice in the matter,” she said.
The loss of bodily autonomy has a deep history within the disability community, said disability activist Emily Ladau. As current issues such as forced sterilization and guardianship show, people with disabilities are denied their right to make choices for their own bodies. Ladau remembers many times in her life, especially in medical situations, when she felt her body was not entirely hers and she had no role in her own care.
“Knowing that I have the flexibility to make the right choice for my body, at all times, is something that I think shouldn’t be too much to ask,” Ladau said. “But knowing that this could be very easily suppressed in a world where I already have to fight for respect, agency and autonomy when it comes to engaging with healthcare professionals is a very scary.”
Ladau points out that she has a lot of privilege in such situations as a white woman and as someone who can verbally express her needs – a privilege that not everyone in the disability community has.
When Morenike Giwa Onaiwu was rushed to hospital after experiencing bleeding and labor pains, she was too upset to verbally communicate what was happening to her doctors. She relied on her colleague to explain to her that she had undergone a medical abortion weeks before. She thinks the doctors found it odd that her colleague was speaking for her and wondered if she had the cognition to communicate with them.
Reflecting on their abortion and ER visit weeks later, Giwa Onaiwu said they suffered a lot and were not treated adequately due to their race and disability. After the medical abortion, the doctor refused to examine them, even though it is standard protocol. They recalled being told by the doctor that the termination was “for the best” because the pregnancy had probably resulted in “some kind of mutation”.
When she was rushed to the emergency room with her colleague weeks after the abortion, she was given painkillers, but the excruciating pain persisted. She requested more medication, but says she was treated horribly, as doctors assumed she was overdoing it and displaying drug-seeking behavior.
“They asked me if I was on medication. I’m autistic and have ADHD, so I mentioned medication. [With] stimulants that are taken for ADHD, I know that there are people who are perceived to be drug seeking, taking recreationally or to get prescriptions they do not warrant. I think there were some misconceptions,” said Giwa Onaiwu, who is the chair of equity and advocacy for the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network.
Once stabilized, they discovered that due to what they claimed was the negligence of the doctor who administered their abortion, they could have died of an infection caused by retained products of conception in their bodies.
“This nightmare happened when deer was in place. Imagine what can and will happen to people, especially people with disabilities of color, without this legislative protection in place,” they said.
Ives-Rublee of the Center for American Progress said people who can get pregnant and who have more needs, like people with disabilities and people of color, will always get an abortion, traveling to another state or to the stranger. She thinks more organizations will work to create self-help programs to help pay for out-of-state abortion assistance.
Wilson-Beattie said she was privileged to have health insurance coverage for her abortion, but that’s not the case for everyone. Women with disabilities are among the lowest income people in the United States, Ives-Rublee said. According to the Center for American Progress, women with disabilities have a poverty rate of 22.9%, compared to 17.9% for men with disabilities and 11.4% for women without disabilities.
With the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, Ladau is worried about what will happen next. She recalls that June 22 was the anniversary of the Olmstead decision, which declared that persons with disabilities have the right to receive care at home and in their community and to be fully integrated members of the community. Despite the fact that Olmstead At 23, she says, people with disabilities are still fighting for full, equal and fair access to the wider community.
“It scares me to think that as we shift to the right, we can keep going back to cases that have already been decided first, but then changed people’s lives, but not enough lives. And simply because a group of people who were anointed with this power decided that all was well and they could reverse years of civil rights that people with disabilities still had no done fighting,” Ladau said.