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May 23, 2024

Pressley, Duckworth, Murray, Advocates Unveil Bill Calling for Equitable Access to Reproductive Healthcare for People with Disabilities

Bicameral Resolution Designates “Disability Reproductive Equity Day” in May

Polling Shows Continued Support for Disability Reproductive Equity

Press Conference | Photos | Resolution Text

WASHINGTON –Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Patty Murray (D-WA), in partnership with disability justice and reproductive justice advocates, unveiled a bicameral resolution calling for equitable access to reproductive and sexual healthcare for people with disabilities, and designating a day in May as “Disability Reproductive Equity Day.”

The resolution, which Rep. Pressley and advocates unveiled at a press conference earlier today, recognizes the barriers disabled people encounter to accessing sexual and reproductive health care due to systemic discrimination, leaving many with unmet and underserved health needs.

“Our siblings with disabilities have long been relegated to second-class status and systemic discrimination that has shamefully denied them the adequate and high-quality reproductive and sexual health care they deserve,” said Rep. Pressley. “Our resolution recognizes these injustices and affirms Congressional intent to confront them head-on. I am proud to introduce this resolution alongside Senators Duckworth and Murray and our partners in the disability community. Disability justice is reproductive justice, and we need both, now.”

“Due to a long history of sexism, resulting in discrimination and misconceptions about people with disabilities that persist to this day, millions of Americans with disabilities have faced—and continue to face—health disparities and mistreatment,” said Senator Duckworth. “In addition to stigma and attitudes bent on ‘fixing’ us, we also must overcome barriers to health care services, equipment and providers. With Republican efforts underway to go even further to undermine our freedom, agency and bodily autonomy following the overturning of Roe, many people with disabilities are rightfully worried about having an even harder time accessing the reproductive care they need. I’m proud to introduce this resolution alongside Senator Murray and Congresswoman Pressley to help ensure all of us in the disability community are seen and are not left behind in getting the reproductive care we need.”

“Americans with disabilities have long had to jump through extra hoops and faced real discrimination when it comes to accessing the health care they need, including abortion care,” said Senator Murray. “Access to reproductive health care has been in crisis since the Dobbs decision, making it even harder for people with disabilities to access high-quality care from providers who understand their health care needs. It’s important that we recognize the barriers millions of women face in accessing reproductive health care, and this resolution is an important marker for us all to recommit to the fight for reproductive justice for all.”

Joining Congresswoman Pressley at the press conference today were Mia Ives-Rublee of the Center for American Progress, Rebecca Cokley, Disability Advocate and Former Executive Director of the National Council on Disability, Tory Cross of Caring Across Agencies, AJ Link of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Ma’ayan Anafi of the National Women’s Law Center, Karen Stone of the Planned Parenthood Federation Alliance, Jocelyn C. Frye of the National Partnership for Women & Families, and Jess Davidson, Communications Director for American Association of People with Disabilities.

“The Center for American Progress is proud to endorse a resolution that pushes for the creation of a Disability Reproductive Equity Day. We have long worked with coalitions and policy makers to emphasize the importance of highlighting the reproductive issues disabled people face. One in four adults in the US have some type of disability and have their reproductive rights blocked due to discriminatory and ableist treatment in the medical field and child welfare procedures, guardianships and conservatorships which can restrict bodily autonomy, and lack of access to sexual health education. A Disability Reproductive Equity Day highlights the progress we’ve made and emphasizes the work we still have left to do,” said Mia Ives-Rublee, Director for the Disability Justice Initiative at Center for American Progress.

“As disabled people, we all should have the rights and resources to make our own decisions about our sexual and reproductive health. We thank Rep. Pressley and Sen. Duckworth for introducing this resolution, particularly at a time when laws and policies that undermine reproductive rights—from abortion bans to overbroad guardianship laws to laws sanctioning forced sterilization—are widespread,” said Ma’ayan Anafi, Senior Counsel for Health Equity and Justice at the National Women’s Law Center. “Nearly a century ago this month, the Supreme Court upheld the forced sterilization of disabled people, with disastrous consequences particularly for disabled women of color. But state-sanctioned forced sterilization is not a thing of the past: Today, 31 states and DC have laws explicitly allowing the forced sterilization of disabled people. It’s time for action. We urge Congress, the federal administration, and state governments to wield their full influence to end the harm of these types of laws. Let’s replace them with policies that empower disabled people to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, including when it comes to sterilization.”

“Caring Across Generations fully supports Disability Reproductive Equity Day because we believe having the freedom to decide if and when we grow our family, how that family is defined, and how to care for our loved ones is fundamental to living the lives we choose,” said Tory Cross, Associate Director of Federal Policy and Government Relations of Caring Across Generations. “That freedom must extend to all of us, including all disabled people. We all deserve bodily autonomy, access to essential health care, and the right to choose if and when we have children. Disability Reproductive Equity Day is a vital recognition that disabled people’s bodies must be respected, and everyone must have the freedom to decide what’s best for themselves and their family.”

“For too long, due to ableism, sexism, racism, and other mutually reinforcing systems of discrimination, people with disabilities have faced innumerable barriers to sexual and reproductive health equity. These include health care refusals; Medicaid eligibility gaps; coverage restrictions such as the Hyde amendment; medical gaslighting rooted in sex stereotypes, ableism, and racism; reproductive coercion; and accessibility barriers. The National Health Law Program thanks Representative Pressley and Senators Murray and Duckworth for recognizing that we must forge a future in which all disabled people experience sexual and reproductive health equity,” said Madeline T. Morcelle, Senior Attorney, National Health Law Program.

“The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network strongly supports Disability Reproductive Equity Day,” said Elio McCabe, Policy Manager, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. “People with disabilities are just as likely to get pregnant as non-disabled people are, but are significantly higher risk for pregnancy- and birth-related complications. It is critical that Autistic people and all disabled people have access to reproductive care that is flexible, affordable, and accessible to their unique needs.”

“Today, and every day, I am proud to be in community with disability justice advocates and activists. We must be committed to leaning in to Disability Justice principles and values, listening and learning from communities most impacted, and always working together to meet the critical and, sometimes, unique needs of disabled folks as they access reproductive and sexual health care. People of all abilities have sex, use birth control, get pregnant, have miscarriages, give birth, and have abortions, and it is critical that the reproductive health community centers the experiences of people with disabilities and commit to creating accessible and compassionate care,” said Dr. Jamila Perritt, President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health and OB/GYN in Washington DC.

“Bodily autonomy and self-determination – especially for our healthcare decisions – are foundational, core values on which the movements for disability rights and justice movement have been built. We know that when reproductive care, including abortion, is harder to access, it compounds many issues disabled people already face. Restrictions on abortion have proven dangerous and even deadly for far too many members of our community. Yet, people with disabilities are often left out of conversations about reproductive justice. National Disability Reproductive Equity Day is a much needed time to ensure that our community’s refrain of “Nothing About Us Without Us” may be truly heard and enacted in all efforts to increase access to reproductive care,” said Maria Town, President and CEO of American Association of People with Disabilities.

The resolution is co-sponsored by RepresentativesJasmine Crockett (TX-30), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Delia C. Ramirez (IL-03), Adam Smith (WA-04), and Madeline Dean (PA-04).

The Disability Reproductive Equity Day resolution is endorsed by: Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, New Disabled South, Women’s March, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network , Unlock Access LLC, Advocates for Youth, Guttmacher Institute, National Women’s Health Network, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Women’s Law Center, American Association of People with Disabilities , Ibis Reproductive Health, YWCA USA, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Partnership for Women & Families, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), National Council of Jewish Women, Center For American Progress, National Health Law Program, Caring Across Generations, We Testify, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Little Lobbyists, Women Enabled International, #AccessBetter Disability Sexual and Reproductive Health Education, The Century Foundation Health Equity and Reform Team, Center for Biological Diversity, and Reproductive Freedom for All (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America).

A copy of the resolution text can be found here.

Footage from the press conference can be found here and photos can be found here.

Rep. Pressley has been a longtime advocate the disability community and has championed policies that promote disability justice. She is a co-lead of the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act, legislation that would eliminate barriers and strengthen access to reproductive health care for people with disabilities.

  • On May 2, 2024, Rep. Pressley issued a statement applauding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) finalized rule that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. 
  • On April 4, Rep. Pressley led her colleagues in urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to strengthen and quickly finalize its proposed rule to improve access to medical diagnostic equipment (MDE) for people with disabilities.
  • On December 12, 2023, Rep. Pressley wrote to the Biden-Harris Administration seeking data on the housing needs for aging adults, people with disabilities, and Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • On September 29, 2022, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Cori Bush introduced the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act, legislation that would eliminate barriers and strengthen access to reproductive health care for people with disabilities.
  • On June 25, 2022, Rep. Pressley applauded the passage of H.R. 2543, which included several key amendments championed by Rep. Pressley to advance disability and economic justice.
  • On May 24, 2022, in a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing, Rep. Pressley discussed the crisis of Long COVID as a disability justice issue and outlined how the status quo has relegated disabled Americans—including those with Long COVID—to a second-class standard of living.
  • On April 14, 2020, Rep. Pressley urged Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to rescind the Crisis of Care standards that have disproportionately harmed communities of color and the disability community in Massachusetts.
  • On March 29, 2022, in a historic committee hearing on Medicare for All, Rep. Pressley highlighted Medicare For All as a disability justice issue and questioned Ady Barkan, founder of Be A Hero and leading advocate for Medicare for All, about how tying health coverage to employment perpetuates deep inequities for people with disabilities.
  • On February 25, 2021, Rep. Pressley, Rep. Katie Porter, and their colleagues introduced the Mental Health Justice Act to reduce violence against individuals with mental illness and disabilities.
  • On March 30, 2021, she led her colleagues on a letter with 107 of their colleagues to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris calling for an historic investment of $450 billion in home- and community-based services (HCBS) in the Build Back Better infrastructure package.
  • On September 18, 2022, Rep. Pressley, Dr. Subini Ancy Annamma, and Villissa Thompson published an op-ed in Teen Vogue in which they called for an end to the policies and systemic injustice that result in the overcriminalization of Black girls with disabilities in schools.
  • On July 29, 2020, Rep. Pressley, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Senators Chris Murphy and Elizabeth Warren unveiled the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act to end the over-policing of K-12 schools and stop the criminalization of students, including those with disabilities.
  • In early 2020, she worked with advocates to challenge Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s crisis standards of care and release updated guidelines with input from the disability community.
  • On October 11, 2019, Rep. Pressley and her colleagues introduced the Improving Access to Higher Education Act to help improve college access and completion for students with disabilities.