Disability Reproductive Justice

54 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2022 Last revised: 14 Feb 2023

See all articles by Robyn Powell

Robyn Powell

Stetson University College of Law; Brandeis University - The Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Date Written: October 7, 2022


The fragility of reproductive rights in the United States has never been so clear. From the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, to a quickly growing number of states passing draconian state laws that drastically limit—and in some states, ban—access to safe and legal abortion care, reproductive freedom is under siege at every turn. This difficult reality has elevated the importance of reproductive rights to the forefront of many people’s consciousness. At the same time, the discourse concerning reproductive rights has been narrowly focused and has failed to recognize the scope of reproductive decisionmaking beyond abortion. In addition, the reproductive rights movement has traditionally overlooked the myriad other ways in which marginalized populations, including people with disabilities, experience reproductive oppression.

This Article responds to the contemporary besiege on reproductive freedom and the persistent reproductive oppression experienced by people with disabilities by proposing a vision to help activists, legal professionals, scholars, and policymakers conceive of and articulate the basic contours of a paradigm shift that supports the coalescence of the disability justice and reproductive justice movements. To do so, first the Article examines the origins of weaponizing sexuality and reproduction to subjugate disabled people in the United States. Drawing on legal scholarship and social science research, it then elucidates the scope of the problem by describing the social context and institutions that propagate the sexual and reproductive oppression of people with disabilities and highlights contemporary examples of such injustices. Thereafter, the Article introduces and explores the tenets of two complementary frameworks for analyzing and confronting the reproductive oppression of people with disabilities: disability justice and reproductive justice. Finally, guided by the tenets of disability justice and reproductive justice, it further develops a jurisprudential and legislative framework for achieving and delivering reproductive justice for people with disabilities.

Keywords: disability, abortion, reproductive rights, reproductive justice, sexuality, health law

JEL Classification: K1, K36, K32, K39, I3, I38

Suggested Citation

Powell, Robyn, Disability Reproductive Justice (October 7, 2022). 170 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1851 (2022), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4031850

Robyn Powell (Contact Author)

Stetson University College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States

Brandeis University - The Heller School for Social Policy and Management ( email )

United States

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