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20110401 Reproductive Health Justice for Women with Disabilities


20110401 Reproductive Health Justice for Women with Disabilities

This Paper has been drafted on behalf of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation by the NOW Disability Rights Advisory Committee.
Since the dawn of the post–World War II era, women with disabilities, family members, activists, and advocates have worked to create what has evolved into the modern Disability Rights Movement, to effect critical changes towards the empowerment and enfranchisement of all people with disabilities. Globally, women and girls with disabilities also continue to experience marginalization, deep health inequities, and gross human injustices. In addition, due to complex socio-ecological circumstances in differing parts of the world, women with disabilities are too often excluded from making any health care decisions whatsoever on their own behalf. Disability, from the perspective of many diverse cultural interpretations, is often still viewed as a hindrance on a family or as a symbol of evil phenomena within a community, thus increasing the chances that
women and girls -- who may already experience gender-related discrimination while exhibiting varying disabilities -- will be targeted as the embodiment of this negative stereotype. As a result, women and girls with disabilities suffer greater incidences of violence, sexual assault, abuse, adverse health outcomes, and lower quality of life around the world.
This paper highlights the added discrimination that women with disabilities often face in the context of their disparate access to health care, especially in the areas of reproductive health services and sexual health education, and offers recommendations for a twenty-first century response to the vast health care gaps that impact this population. The scope of this paper is primarily domestic, and focuses on US policies, demographics, and data on women and girls with disabilities living in the United States and the reproductive health disparities they experience. A global perspective is also presented to make the case for the adoption of political and social policies that include women with disabilities around the world in order to improve their reproductive health status and outcomes.