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July 26, 2023

Pressley, Murray, Bush, Duckworth Introduce Bicameral Bill to Help People with Disabilities Access Reproductive Health Care

2.9 Million Disabled Women Live in States That Have Banned or Are Likely to Ban Abortion; Disabled Women Are 11x Greater Risk of Maternal Mortality

Bill Would Remove Barriers, Strengthen Access To Reproductive Care For People With Disabilities

Bill Summary (PDF) | Bill Text (PDF)

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’ Abortion Rights and Access Taskforce, alongside Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01), and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), reintroduced the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act, legislation to help people with disabilities—who face discrimination and extra barriers when seeking care—get better access to reproductive health care and the informed care they need to control their own reproductive lives.

“There has been a daily assault on access to reproductive health care, and our siblings with disabilities are deeply impacted by barriers to care,” said Rep. Pressley. “Now more than ever we need comprehensive, culturally congruent, and accessible reproductive health care for the disability community. I am proud to join this bicameral effort and reintroduce the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act. Lives literally depend on it.”

“People with disabilities have long faced discrimination and real roadblocks to getting the health care, including abortion care, that they need—and it’s become a full-blown crisis in the year after the Dobbs decision overturned the right to abortion, especially for the nearly 3 million disabled women who live in states without access to reproductive health care,” said Senator Murray. “As we continue to fight back against Republicans’ escalating attacks on reproductive health care across the country, there’s so much more we need to do to ensure women and people with disabilities can access culturally-competent care from providers who understand their unique health care needs. My legislation with Senator Duckworth would make a big difference in helping people with disabilities access the high-quality reproductive care they deserve—and I’ll be fighting to pass it this Congress.”

“As a nurse and lawmaker, I understand firsthand that our work to protect the health and well-being of all people must be inclusive, culturally competent and rooted in the needs of our most marginalized communities,” said Congresswoman Bush. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the bicameral Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act. This legislation is another important step toward removing unnecessary barriers to lifesaving care and addressing the gaps in sexual and reproductive health endured daily by people living with disabilities. These vital programs will help save lives.”

“For too long, Americans with disabilities have faced persistent barriers to healthcare services, equipment and providers—and with right-wing efforts underway to go even further to undermine these rights in the wake of the overturning of Roe—many are rightfully worried about having an even harder time accessing the reproductive care they need,” said Senator Duckworth. “Today, I’m proud to join Senator Murray and colleagues in reintroducing the Reproductive Healthcare Accessibility Act to help ensure all of us in the disability community are not left behind in getting the care we need, when we need it.”

A recent analysis from the National Partnership for Women & Families found that, one year after the Dobbs decision, more than 36 million women of reproductive age live in states that have or are likely to ban abortion—of these women, 2.9 million are disabled. Disabled women are more likely to experience complications during pregnancy; disabled women are at 11 times greater risk of maternal mortality and are also at greater risk for maternal morbidity. Some disabilities and underlying conditions make childbirth dangerous or potentially life-threatening, making Republicans’ cruel abortion bans all the more dangerous for people with disabilities. Pregnant women with disabilities often encounter health care practitioners who lack knowledge or comfort in managing their pregnancies, which also puts them at heightened risk for pregnancy-related health complications—and the lack of disabled medical professionals with diverse lived experiences, or providers who are trained on the unique needs of people with disabilities, contributes to this issue. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, abortion bans that have gone into effect in the year since the Dobbs decision are leaving disabled patients—and women across the country—without providers who are able to provide an adequate or appropriate standard of care.

This legislation would provide grant funding for training and education programs for health care professions focused on reproductive health needs of people with disabilities, help to increase the representation of people with disabilities in the physician and nursing workforce, and establish a new technical assistance center to provide recommendations and best practices regarding sexual and reproductive health care for people with disabilities, among other things. The bill was first introduced last year.

The Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act would lower barriers to sexual and reproductive care and help ensure disabled people get timely access to competent health care. Specifically, the bill would:

  1. Provide grant funding to eligible entities to carry out training programs for health care professionals providing reproductive health care for individuals with disabilities ($10 million);
  2. Expand the physician and nursing workforce by increasing the representation of people with disabilities in such workforces ($15 million);
  3. Provide grant funding to carry out education programs focused on the sexual and reproductive health care needs of people with disabilities ($10 million);
  4. Establish a new technical assistance center to provide recommendations and best practices regarding sexual and reproductive health care for people with disabilities ($10 million); and
  5. Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out a study to analyze reproductive health care for people with disabilities ($15 million).

The legislation is endorsed by: Abortion Fund of Ohio, Advocates for Youth, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Humanist Association, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Autistic People of Color Fund, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, Care in Action, Caring Across Generations, Center for American Progress, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Center for Reproductive Rights, Community Catalyst, COVID-19 Longhauler Advocacy Project, Dr. Kimberly Knackstedt–Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation and Director of the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative, Dr. Robyn M. Powell, Guttmacher Institute, Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Health Teen Network, Ibis Reproductive Health, Ipas, Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Abortion Federation, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, National Council of Jewish Women, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Health Law Program, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, National Women’s Health Network, National Women’s Law Center, Neighborhood Access, Nurses for Sexual & Reproductive Health, Patient-Led Research Collaborative, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Institute, Positive Women’s Network–USA, Power to Decide, Reproaction, Reproductive Health Access Project, Reproductive Health Impact, SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change, The Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Action Network (#MEAction), Tzedek DC, Union for Reform Judaism, URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, Women of Reform Judaism, Young Democrats of America Disability Caucus, Young Democrats of Massachusetts.

“This bill marks a major push forward in addressing some of the significant barriers disabled people face in pursuing reproductive healthcare and makes clear that there is a dire need for legislation and policies to redress disabled people’s right to culturally competent reproductive health care. This bill will provide necessary education around disabled people’s reproductive health care needs and rights to health care providers, reproductive health educators, and disabled people,” said Mia Ives-Rublee, Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress. “The introduction of this bill is more imperative than ever as reproductive rights continue to face attacks and the laws that protect these rights are rolled back across the country. We must ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected, and we can do that with bills like the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act.”

The legislation is also cosponsored by Representatives Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Delia Ramirez (IL-04), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), Nannette Barragan (CA-44), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Elenaor Holmes Norton (DC-D), Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-01), Grace Meng (NY-06), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Andrea Salinas (OR-06), Joseph D. Morelle (NY-25), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Paul Tonko (NY-20), and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Fetterman (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Read a one-pager on the bill here. Read full legislative text here.

Congresswoman Pressley first introduced this bill in September 2022. In her time serving in Congress, she has fought persistently to protect fundamental reproductive and sexual health care rights. 

  • Rep. Pressley is the lead co-sponsor of the Abortion Justice Act, sweeping, intersectional legislation to address access to abortion care and put forth a comprehensive vision of a just America where abortion care is readily available—without stigma, shame or systemic barriers—for all who seek it, regardless of zip code, immigration status, income, or background.
  • Rep. Pressley is a lead co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion care, everywhere. 
  • Rep. Pressley is also a lead co-sponsor of the EACH Act, bold legislation to repeal the Hyde Amendment and help guarantee abortion coverage—regardless of how a patient gets their health insurance.
  • 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. 
  • Rep. Pressley condemned the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade., and implored the Senate to protect abortion rights and slammed the white supremacist roots of anti-abortion efforts.
  • In May 2023, Rep. Pressley, along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Ami Bera, MD (CA-06) and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), reintroduced their bicameral Affordability is Access Act to ensure that once the FDA determines an over-the-counter birth control option to be safe, insurers fully cover over-the-counter birth control without any fees or out-of-pocket costs.
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley, along with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Reps. Schakowsky, Lee, DeGette, Torres and Strickland, reintroduced the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act harmful and discriminatory Helms Amendment and expand abortion access globally.
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley and Senator Hirono led their colleagues in reintroducing a bicameral congressional resolution honoring abortion providers and clinic staff. 
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley delivered a speech in which she discussed the pending court case in Texas, which aims to restrict access to medication abortion across the entire nation. In her remarks, Rep. Pressley affirmed medication abortion as routine medical care, and accessibility to the abortion pill mifepristone as essential.
  • In September 2021, Rep. Pressley issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s inaction on SB-8, Texas’ restrictive abortion law. Later that month, she participated in a House Oversight Committee hearing to examine the threat posed by abortion bans and underscored the urgency of the Senate passing the Women’s Health Protection Act. 
  • In April 2021, Rep. Pressley, along with Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13), Diana DeGette (CO-01) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), led a group of 131 Democratic members in reintroducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act or the EACH Act, which would repeal the Hyde Amendment and ensure that all people, regardless of income, insurance or zip code, can make personal reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians. She re-Introduced the legislation In January 2023.
  • Rep. Pressley has led calls in Congress for the FDA to remove medically unnecessary restrictions on the medication abortion drug mifepristone, and applauded the FDA’s action in January 2023 to allow retail pharmacies to dispense abortion medication pills.
  • As Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Congresswoman Pressley has led the fight to repeal the Hyde Amendments from annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bills and in July 2020 published a Medium post on the importance of doing so. She applauded the removal of the Hyde Amendment in President Biden’s FY2022 budget.
  • In May 2020, she led more than 155 Members of Congress in calling on House Democratic leadership to ensure that any future COVID-19 relief packages rejected Republican efforts to use the public health crisis to diminish abortion access.
  • In August 2021, Rep. Pressley, Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, and Pro-Choice Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Diana DeGette and Barbara Lee led more than 70 of their House Democratic colleagues in introducing a resolution in support of equitable, science-based policies governing access to medication abortion care. 
  • In January 2023, Rep. Pressley introduced a resolution to condemn all forms of political violence in the U.S., regardless of its target or intent. That same day, she delivered a powerful speech on the House floor slamming Republicans’ harmful, misleading anti-abortion resolution.
  • In September 2022, Rep. Pressley hosted U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester for a convening on their work to address the Black maternal health crisis and the criminalization of abortion care in states across the nation following the harmful U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health
  • In May 2019, she led more than 100 colleagues in introducing H.Con.Res.40, a resolution reaffirming the House of Representative’s support for Roe v. Wade.
  • In June 2019, Rep. Pressley introduced H.R. 3296, the Affordability is Access Act, to make oral contraception available without a prescription. 
  • In September 2016, as a member of the Boston City Council, Pressley championed a resolution calling on Congress and President Obama to repeal the Hyde Amendment and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion services.