Monika Mitra (HS), the Nancy Lurie Marks Associate Professor of Disability Policy and Director of the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at the Heller School, recently spoke about reproductive healthcare for women with disabilities. In a recent Youth Today article, Mitra spoke on the barriers and difficulties women with disabilities face in accessing reproductive healthcare.
The article cites the healthcare difficulties faced by two young women who are affected by hyperacusis, a condition that affects the perception of the loudness of sounds. Both of these women are able to access reproductive health care, but face significant difficulties in the course of that access.
Mitra added that women face myriad barriers when attempting to access reproductive health care. She mentioned that women with disabilities can face obstacles such as “communication barriers, physical access barriers or the attitudes of the staff.”
The article mentions specific difficulties faced by women with disabilities, such as “difficulty positioning themselves on a conventional gynecological exam table with their legs in stirrups … [or] difficulty understand[ing] verbal commands or other cues from clinicians or other medical personnel.”
Mitra also recalls that “In the United States and beyond we know that, historically, disabled people have been restricted from making their own choices about [things like] starting a family.” The article mentions that, in a Yale Law & Policy Review article co-authored by Mitra, it’s shown that thousands of women with disabilities lose their parental rights. It’s suggested in Mitra’s article that legal professionals should be more aware of the Americans With Disabilities Act provisions that protect disabled parents. Mitra and the other authors of “The Americans with Disabilities Act and Termination of Parental Rights Cases: An Examination of Appellate Decisions Involving Disabled Mothers” found it “troubling” that the Americans With Disabilities Act wasn’t applied often in the legal cases of disabled parents.
The article ends on a hopeful note by introducing the Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act, a recently proposed bill that would give the mandate to “eliminate barriers and strengthen access to reproductive health care for people with disabilities” by removing “structural barriers such as discrimination, physical and financial barriers,” according to the bill’s page on Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s website.
At Brandeis, Mitra currently teaches Disability, Health and Disparities Research Doctoral Seminar and Disability Policy in the Heller School and the Health: Science, Society and Policy (HSSP) Program respectively. Her current research focuses on “the health care experiences and health outcomes of people with disabilities, with a focus on the sexual and reproductive health of women with disabilities.” Outside of Brandeis, Mitra holds leadership positions at the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities, the Community Living Policy Center and Disability and Health Journal.