Women Enabled International (WEI) and colleagues submitted written comments to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) regarding its Draft General Comment No. 6 on Equality and Non-Discrimination. WEI works at the intersection of women’s rights and disability rights to advance the rights of women and girls with disabilities around the world. Through advocacy and education, WEI increases international attention to – and strengthens international human rights standards on – issues such as violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and rights, access to justice, education, legal capacity, and humanitarian emergencies. Working in collaboration with women with disabilities rights organizations and women’s rights organizations worldwide, WEI fosters cooperation across movements to improve understanding and develop cross-cutting advocacy strategies to realize the rights of all women and girls.
Persons with disabilities, including women and girls with disabilities, experience unique violations of their rights as a result of discrimination based on disability and other statuses. Some of these violations – including disability-based violence and violations in the context of sexual and reproductive rights – not only result from disability-based discrimination but are also distinct forms of discrimination. To provide the best possible guidance to States parties about ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities to equality and non-discrimination, the CRPD Committee’s Draft General Comment should more thoroughly explore some of these issues, particularly concerning how discrimination interacts with rights enshrined in Articles 15-17 and Article 25 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Additionally, recommendations to promote the right of persons with disabilities to equality and non-discrimination should not in turn compromise other fundamental rights, including those of women and girls with disabilities.
Abortion is addressed twice in the document in relation to prenatal genetic testing and sexual and reproductive rights:
“Like all women, pregnant women and girls with disabilities should be provided with appropriate information to make decisions about their pregnancies, as needed and requested, to exercise their autonomy and determine the course of their lives. Important information includes information about access to available prenatal genetic tests on a voluntary and informed basis; accurate, unbiased, and non-discriminatory information and counseling about the results of that testing; objective information about raising a child with a disability, available services and supports for children with disabilities and their families; and information about access to abortion.”
“As the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found in the case of R.R. v. Poland, denying access to prenatal genetic testing to a woman, thereby preventing her from making an informed decision about whether or not to seek an abortion, can result in physical and mental pain and suffering that amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as a violation of the right to respect for private life. As part of its findings, the ECtHR noted in particular that “during pregnancy the foetus’ condition and health constitute an element of the pregnant woman’s health” and that “in the context of pregnancy, the effective access to relevant information on the mother’s and foetus’ health, where legislation allows for abortion in certain situations, is directly relevant for the exercise of personal autonomy.” Furthermore, prenatal genetic testing allows women and their health care providers to prepare to provide specialized post-natal health care to a baby who might be born needing immediate medical attention or for parents to prepare their home and obtain the necessary services to meet the needs of a child with a disability.”