Last week, the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. Protests happened nationwide, with some turning violent. In Portland, OR, businesses were damaged. In the wake of destructive protests over the weekend, Maura White, executive director of the Hollywood District’s Mother + Child Education Center, spent Monday morning assessing the building’s damage.
White estimated the damage to be around $10,000. She said she could not understand why someone would target Mother + Child Education Center, which has no religious association, in an effort to draw attention to the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade.
The group that damaged White’s nonprofit late on Saturday night is also thought to have damaged other properties in Northeast Portland. “Abolish schools” was written on the side of a Portland Public Schools vehicle. Starbucks, a bank, and Fleur De Lis Bakery and Cafe all had their windows broken.
The disability community is all too familiar with having to fight for our rights. Because she was “feeble-minded,” Carrie Buck was kept in a state mental hospital. Through three generations of her family, her condition had been passed down.
A Virginia law allowed for the forced sterilization of hospital patients to better the “health of the patient and the welfare of society.” The Court agreed that Buck, her mother, and her daughter were “promiscuous” and “feeble-minded” on May 2, 1927, ruling 8-1 that it was in the state’s best interest to have Buck sterilized. According to state law, 8,300 sterilizations were performed between 1927 and 1972. Despite having a diagnosis, Buck lived a full life after leaving the institution until she died in 1983.
Buck v. Bell was never declared unconstitutional. Many states still allow disabled women to be forcibly sterilized. Buck v. Bell’s logic has been significantly undermined by subsequent case law and a growing recognition of the need for procedural safeguards to preserve the privacy rights that sterilization jeopardizes.
Olmstead v. L.C. was a landmark Supreme Court case decided in June 1999 that required states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities and to ensure that people with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate for their needs.
In the fight for marital equality, America has come a long way in recent years. In 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Without a doubt, this represented a significant advance for marriage equality. However, many disabled people who rely on programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are still unable to marry without their benefits being cut or taken away altogether.
It’s often difficult for people with disabilities to find work as well. Employed disabled individuals frequently earn subminimum wages while working in sheltered workshops. The hourly wage for those employed in these environments is only $3.34 on average. Subminimum wage is perfectly legal because certain people with disabilities have been allowed to be paid less than the minimum wage under U.S. labor law since 1938. This law was originally created to encourage more individuals to find employment during the Great Depression.
Disabled Americans have never stopped fighting for our rights. We can’t be silent about our rights. Everybody should know that we’re constantly fighting for our rights. We have a long way to go before America is truly an inclusive country for those with disabilities.
Antonios, Nathalie, and Christina Raup. “Buck v. Bell (1927).” The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, Arizona State University, 1 Jan. 2012, embryo.asu.edu/pages/buck-v-bell-1927.
Benner, Mike. “’What a Shame’: Nonprofit, Businesses Vandalized during Weekend Protests over Roe Decision.” KGW, KGW, 27 June 2022, https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/non-profit-businesses-vandalized-protests/283-1f82ca9b-417a-4202-8da0-3ed15f718398.
“How Two Women Changed Thousands of Lives.” Disability Rights Texas, Disability Rights Texas, 17 June 2019, http://www.disabilityrightstx.org/en/2019/06/17/olmstead20th/.
Liptak, Adam. “Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 26 June 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/27/us/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage.html.
Star, Eryn. “Marriage Equality Is Still Not a Reality: Disabled People and the Right to Marry.” Advocacy Monitor, National Council on Independent Living, 14 Nov. 2019, advocacymonitor.com/marriage-equality-is-still-not-a-reality-disabled-people-and-the-right-to-marry/.
Selyukh, Alina. “Workers with Disabilities Can Earn JUST $3.34 an HOUR. Agency Says Law Needs Change.” NPR, NPR, 17 Sept. 2020, http://www.npr.org/2020/09/17/912840482/u-s-agency-urges-end-to-below-minimum-wage-for-workers-with-disabilities.
Totenberg, Nina, and Sarah McCammon. “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Ending Right to Abortion Upheld for Decades.” NPR, NPR, 24 June 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/06/24/1102305878/supreme-court-abortion-roe-v-wade-decision-overturn.