Skip to content


CREA Global Dialogue: Abortion, Prenatal Testing and Disability

Nairobi, Kenya, 29-31 October 2018



Contextualizing the Current Dialogue

For a number of years now and in many contexts, disability and women’s rights/SRHR advocates have been talking together about the sensitive topics of abortion and prenatal testing. We begin this session by recognizing some of the challenges, building on lessons and committed to moving the conversation forward. The session will invoke these multiple histories, while also identifying what is new and/or urgent about engaging in this cross-movement, cross- regional dialogue at this moment. — Andrea Parra, Catherine Townsend, Rupsa Mallik and Katrina Anderson. — Facilitated by Geeta Misra.

Clarifying Our Interests and Goals

In this session we will identify the diverse interests of the disability movement and the SRHR movement — and also acknowledge where these interests converge and diverge. The session will explore whether the movements can remain focused on shared interests and goals, even while recognizing/addressing areas of tension and challenges to collaboration. — Facilitated by Katrina Anderson

Bioethical Considerations around Abortion and Prenatal Testing

Beginning with an overview of the evolving technology landscape regarding prenatal testing and abortion, this session will pull out bioethical concerns relevant to where these services intersect with disability. This will cover the more readily apparent concerns around eugenics as well as issues that may be as yet unspecified or not well delineated. Bearing in mind the diversity of clinical and social needs that guide policies and practices for prenatal testing within various healthcare systems and cultural contexts, the session will explore how ethical issues emerge during the prenatal counseling process. We will also consider the ethical issues surrounding later abortion that social movements may need to understand and grapple with more directly. — Suchitra Dalvie, Jane Fischer, Amar Jessani. Facilitated by Rupsa Mallik.

Mapping the Advocacy Landscape

Around the world, the liberalization of abortion is often accomplished by decriminalizing specific grounds, with fetal impairment often considered the most ‘socially acceptable’ reason. Meanwhile, advances in genetic technologies are presenting new dilemmas for policymakers charged with formulating rights-based standards that ensure the rights of women and people with disabilities. In this session, we will analyze how these and other trends impact the current discourse in human rights standard-setting spaces. We will also identify the main global advocacy forums where the issues are being debated and surface the strategies that SRHR and disability rights advocates are using to advance rights on these deeply complicated issues. — Juan Jaime, Rebecca Brown, Amanda McRae, Silvia Quan, Jaime Todd-Gher. Facilitated by Katrina Anderson.

Reflecting on Zika

The outbreak of Zika in Brazil and the subsequent advocacy response offers important lessons for advocates across contexts. In this session, we will screen and respond to a video commissioned for this Global Dialogue that features disability and SRHR activists discussing advocacy strategies to decriminalize abortion, ensure the rights of families raising children with microcephaly, and broaden the debate around SRHR for women with disabilities. — Gabriella Rondon.


Sexual and Reproductive Lives of Women and Girls with Disabilities

On day two, we will begin by exploring the diversity of lived experiences of women and girls with disabilities in exercising their sexual rights and reproductive rights. It will explore whether, and in what ways, social movements are keeping up with how women and girls with disabilities are expressing and enacting their sexuality, especially in the digital age. — Shamim Salim, Maria Ni Fhlaharta, Laura Kanushu Opori. Facilitated by Katrina Anderson.

In the second part of this session, we will look at the gaps in SRHR service provision for women and girls with disabilities, as well as recent advances that SRHR providers are making in practicing disability inclusion. The session will identify the disability community’s advocacy priorities for improving SRHR outcomes and quality of care. — Florence Amadi and Alejandra Meglioli. Facilitated by Rupsa Mallik.

Abortion, Prenatal Testing and Disability in Context

The remaining sessions of Day Two will give us the opportunity to examine in depth how the intersections of abortion, prenatal testing and disability are playing out in different contexts. One useful frame for analyzing these questions is through the lens of abortion law; we will therefore look at three general contexts: (1) contexts where abortion is liberalized (India, U.S.), (2) contexts where abortion law is moving towards liberalization (Colombia, Ireland, Southern Africa), and (3) contexts where abortion is highly restricted or criminalized (Poland, Argentina, Central America and Mexico). In addition to the legal context, the sessions will examine multiple perspectives including: Strategies of social movements: The mainstream women’s rights movement is often critiqued for advancing an ‘exceptions strategy’ towards liberalization or decriminalization of abortion. What are the pros and cons of this strategy — and the costs of changing course? How have advocates managed to advance abortion rights without stigmatizing disability, and what remains possible amid the growing backlash towards abortion rights?

-The role of the market and technology: What are the implications of the rapid evolution of genetic technologies on consumer demand and the practices of the fertility industry? What are the advantages and perils of advancing a stronger regulatory framework as a strategy to correct market excesses or imbalances? Are there other alternative strategies that are ultimately more rights-affirming?

-The medical system and role of service providers: How does the medicalization of both disability and pregnancy influence pregnant women’s experiences throughout the prenatal testing and genetic counseling process? What are the various strategies that have successfully challenged ableism within the medical system? How can the disability and SRHR movements collaborate more effectively to address the pervasiveness of disability, sexuality and abortion stigmas within the medical system?

-The role of culture: How are genetic technologies reshaping cultural representations of disability, in terms of combatting and/or reinforcing disability stigma? How are technologies like ultrasounds, 3D and 4D imaging influencing women’s subjective experiences of pregnancy? What are the cultural representations that social movements ought to be producing?

by Suchitra Dalvie

Maria Ni Fhlaharta (Ireland),

Andrea Parra (Colombia),

Facilitated by Katrina Anderson

Restrictive Contexts:

Kamila Ferenc & Agnieszka Król (Poland)

Iñaki Regueiro (Argentina)

Silvia Quan (Central America and Mexico).

Facilitated by Geeta Misra

Identifying Cross-cutting Themes for Advocacy Outcomes

In the closing session of day two we will break into small groups to synthesize the key learnings raised by the country/regional case studies. This work will prepare us for the conversation on Day Three on identifying opportunities for enhancing collaboration on advocacy.


Reviewing and Synthesizing Learnings from Day Two

Day Three begins with discussing the themes raised from the various contexts discussed in Day Two, with the goals of identifying trends in cross-movement alliance building and lessons about developing shared agreements and advocacy strategies. — Facilitated by Geeta Misra.

Building Intersectional Movements and Advocacy Agendas

In this session, we will consider examples from other cross-movement work that offer lessons for the disability and SRHR movements in the current moment. Recognizing that the work of ‘bridging’ often comes from the margins, the session will also explore the strategies used by the disability justice, reproductive justice, and other deeply intersectional movements that have impacted the advocacy agendas of mainstream social movements. — Andrea Parra, Milanoi Everlyn, Rebecca Cokley, Gabriella Rondon. Facilitated by Jaime Todd-Gher.

Resourcing Cross-Movement Work

In this session, funders will respond to the themes raised in the previous session from a donor perspective and discuss both the opportunities and challenges they face in resourcing cross- movement work around disability and SRHR. — Jessie Clyde. Facilitated by Catherine Townsend.

Developing a New Advocacy Framework

This working session will discuss the purpose, form and content of an outcome document from the convening that can be used in advocacy at the national, regional and global level. We will also discuss the process for drafting and validating the document in the months following the convening. — Participatory session facilitated by Katrina Anderson.