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September 29, 2022

Congresswomen Pressley, Bush Unveil Bill to Strengthen Reproductive Rights for People with Disabilities

Currently, people with disabilities at greater risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes

Bill Text | Bill Summary

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Cori Bush (MO-01) introduced the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act, legislation that would eliminate barriers and strengthen access to reproductive health care for people with disabilities. For many people with disabilities, access to reproductive health care is significantly hindered by structural barriers such as discrimination, physical and financial barriers, and a lack of inclusion of people with disabilities in the healthcare workforce. People with disabilities are less likely to receive contraception counseling, timely prenatal care, and are at a greater risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes.

This past August, Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced identical legislation in the Senate.

“Reproductive justice has always been a disability justice issue, and our policies must reflect that,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “I’m proud to partner with my sister Congresswoman Bush on legislation that centers the lived experiences of our siblings with disabilities and aims to makes it easier to access the reproductive health care that they have long been denied. With far-right politicians stopping at nothing to strip away our bodily autonomy and push our most vulnerable further to the margins, we must pass this bill without delay.”

“People living with disabilities face consistent discrimination and barriers to achieving full access to health care. The Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe has not only made matters worse, but it further endangers lives, especially within our disability communities,” said Congresswoman Bush. “I am proud to introduce the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act alongside my sister in service, Congresswoman Pressley, because this legislation will save lives by ensuring people with disabilities receive high quality reproductive health care. As my colleagues and I continue our work to protect our right to health care and reproductive freedom, we will do so by amplifying the needs of Black, brown, and Indigenous communities, people with disabilities, and other marginalized folks.”

“Every single American deserves to have control over their own body, life, and future—and that, of course, includes Americans with disabilities. But people with disabilities have long faced discrimination and truly unacceptable roadblocks to getting the reproductive care they need—and Republicans’ nonstop attacks on our rights have made matters so much worse,” said Senator Murray. “Our legislation will help ensure people with disabilities can access reproductive care that meets their needs.”

“For too long, Americans with disabilities have faced persistent barriers to healthcare services, equipment and providers—but with elected officials like Lindsey Graham actively pushing forward nationwide abortion bans now that Roe v. Wade is overturned—many are rightfully worried about having an even harder time accessing the reproductive care they need,” said Senator Duckworth. “I’m proud I helped introduce the Reproductive Healthcare Accessibility Act in the Senate and hope Congress acts swiftly to pass this legislation to help ensure those in the disability community—all 61 million of us—are not left behind in getting the care we need, when we need it.”

A copy of the bill text can be found HERE. A copy of the one-pager can be found HERE.

Additional House co-sponsors of this legislation include Representatives Katie Porter (CA-45), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-00), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Darren Soto (FL-09), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Joseph Morelle (NY-25), Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Mark Takano (CA-41), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Mark Pocan (WI-02), and Pramilla Jayapal (WA-07).

Specifically, the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act would:

  • Provide grants for training programs for existing reproductive health care professionals for people with disabilities, and grants for sexual and reproductive health educational programs for people with disabilities;
  • Fund educational and training programs to recruit and train people with disabilities for the health care workforce;
  • Establish a new technical assistance center to provide recommendations and best practices regarding sexual and reproductive health care for people with disabilities; and
  • Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to further study best reproductive health care practices for people with disabilities.

This legislation is endorsed by the following organizations: National Disability Rights Network; National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities; American Association of People with Disabilities; Center for American Progress; National Women’s Law Center; National Birth Equity Collective; National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association; National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health; Rare And Black; Dr. Jamila Taylor, Director of Health Care Reform and Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation; Kimberly Knackstedt, Ph.D., Co-Director of the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative and Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation; URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity; Johns Hopkins School of Nursing; Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center; Physicians for Reproductive Health; Catholics for Choice; National Partnership for Women and Families; Power to Decide; Docs With Disabilities Initiative; NARAL Pro-Choice America; National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice; Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Advocates for Youth; Center for Reproductive Rights; National Council of Jewish Women; Autistic Self Advocacy Network; March for Moms; and the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs.

“The Center for American Progress is excited to endorse the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act. In a recent study, 41 percent of disabled individuals had accessibility barriers in exam or treatment rooms in the past year. Another study showed that 49.3 percent of physicians didn’t feel confident in their ability to provide care for disabled patients with treatment comparable to non-disabled patients. At the same time, disabled women have higher rates of mortality from reproductive cancers because their cancers are caught at much later stages. The bill will help provide the necessary training and support to improve reproductive medical staff’s ability to provide equitable care to disabled women and people who can become pregnant,” said Mia Ives-Rublee, Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress.

“This legislation is paramount to ensuring the growing number of chronically ill Americans who go on to be disabled will have autonomy over their reproductive rights and care. The Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act addresses the lack of training within the healthcare system towards disabled Americans, which is a step in the right direction to improving health disparities for people with disabilities,” said Dionne Stalling, Executive Director of Rare And Black.

“The National Birth Equity Collaborative would like to applaud Congresswoman Cori Bush and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley for the introduction of the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act. Accessing health facilities with the proper equipment and cultural competency can be a burden for pregnant disabled people. Pregnant people with disabilities are at a higher risk of developing preeclampsia, thromboembolism (or blood clots in the lungs or legs), gestational diabetes, and hemorrhage, which can cause various pregnancy complications. This bill aims to address these issues by providing grant funding to carry out training programs for existing health care professionals providing reproductive health care for people with disabilities and establishing a much-needed technical assistance center to provide recommendations and best practices,” said Dr Joia Crear-Perry, MD, Founder and President of the National Birth Equity Collective. 

Congresswoman Pressley has been a leading advocate for abortion access throughout her time in public life and she serves as Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force. 

Rep. Pressley is a co-lead of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion care, everywhere. Last month, shortly before the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Rep. Pressley led a group of her Black women colleagues in writing to President Biden urging him to declare a public health emergency amid the unprecedented threats to abortion rights nationwide. She condemned the Supreme Court decision and called on the President to use every executive tool available to protect abortion access. 

Rep. Pressley is also a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and is committed to ending the Black maternal mortality crisis in America and affirming maternal health justice for all. She has introduced the MOMMIES Act with Senator Cory Booker to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for pregnant people and expand coverage to include culturally competent and community based doula care, as well as the Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act, legislation to improve maternal health care and support for pregnant individuals who are incarcerated.