Statement on Abortion Access in Poland

Women Enabled International is deeply concerned about the decision by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruling unconstitutional Poland’s law permitting abortion on grounds of “a severe and irreversible fetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the fetus’s life.” This decision effectively bans access to safe and legal abortion for women—including women with disabilities—in Poland, violating the fundamental human rights of Poland’s women.

The ability to make decisions about one’s own body and life is a fundamental human right, and one which both women and persons with disabilities are frequently denied. We have heard from women with disabilities around the world, including in Poland, that meaningful reproductive autonomy is a priority for them, both as women and persons with disabilities, and that access to abortion is an important part of that reproductive autonomy. They have also reported that restrictions on their sexual and reproductive autonomy—including the decision by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal—further entrench the discriminatory notion that they cannot make decisions for themselves in all areas of their lives. According to Article 6, a feminist disability rights collective based in Poland, “This ruling violates human rights and any respect for the decisions and needs of women, including women with disabilities. Instead, it imposes a limited vision of life and femininity that is contingent on subordination and coercion of women and girls with disabilities.”

Furthermore, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruling will have a disproportionate impact on the health and well-being of women with disabilities. Legal restrictions on access to abortion do not reduce the need for abortion as an essential reproductive health service; instead they carry potentially devastating consequences for women’s lives, leading to a greater number of unsafe and clandestine abortions (with attendant consequences to life and health) or compelling women to travel to other jurisdictions to obtain a needed abortion. Due to societal discrimination, women with disabilities are more likely to have lower levels of education and less access to employment resulting in lower incomes, so frequently they cannot afford to travel abroad for abortion. Furthermore, women with mobility-related disabilities face additional barriers to travel, as the means of travel are often inaccessible. These inequalities are further exacerbated in the context of the current global pandemic.

Eliminating access to safe and legal abortion on the ground of fetal impairment is a step in the wrong direction, restricting reproductive autonomy in clear violation of Poland’s obligations under international human rights law. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) explicitly protects the right of persons with disabilities to sexual and reproductive health. The CRPD Committee has found that access to abortion is an important part of this right, including in its 2018 concluding observations to Poland, which provided that Poland should “ensure that the autonomy and decisions of women with disabilities are respected [and] that access to safe abortion is provided.”

Women with disabilities in Poland do not want to see greater restrictions on their reproductive autonomy, especially under the guise of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. As Article 6 expressed: “It is vital that women with disabilities, instead of being deprived of subjectivity in deciding on their own sexuality, have access to accessible gynecological care, reliable sex education, effective methods of pregnancy planning. As Article 6 collective, we demand that women with disabilities have access to abortion options when they consider this to be the best solution. They should also have access to full information about their health and that of the fetus, and comprehensive non-ableist prenatal diagnostics, to make free decisions about their lives.”

There are a number of steps that Poland could take to better protect the rights of persons with disabilities without also violating the rights of women (including women with disabilities). These include ensuring that persons with disabilities can access quality education and meaningful employment; abolishing laws that restrict the legal capacity of persons with disabilities and instead support persons with disabilities to lead autonomous and independent lives; and fostering a climate where people with disabilities can participate as equal members of society and where people with disabilities and their families have access to the range of supports and services that they may need.

The loss of a true feminist icon

Women Enabled International deeply mourns the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a true feminist icon, brilliant thinker and advocate for the rights of women worldwide.

Not only a champion of gender equality, Justice Ginsburg’s work also impacted the lives of many persons with disabilities, having authored the majority opinion in Olmstead v L.C., a decision which held that people with disabilities have a right to live integrated in our communities, not segregated within institutions.

WEI will continue to build on her life’s work and fight for justice for all, joining her in making ‘good trouble.’ May her memory be a revolution.

On a more personal note, I recall meeting her at the American Constitution society annual conference, where she gave the keynote speech and highlighted the international roots of jurisprudence. Her speech was not only well-founded in the law, but it was also poetic in style, and encouraged me to continue my global advocacy. I also recall meeting her and her beloved Husband Marty at another legal conference, and I basked in their brilliance and their love for one another.

The world will be a darker place without her. We must honor her dying wish: we cannot allow her replacement until AFTER the November 3rd, 2020 U.S. Presidential election and the inauguration of the next President.  All of our rights are at stake!

—Stephanie Ortoleva

WEI Comments on the USAID 2020 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy Draft

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has drafted the 2020 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy and has solicited comments from organizations including WEI before it is finalized. Although USAID has indicated that this policy is undergoing review and revision, to date a revised policy has not been issued to this more than twenty-three year old policy.

According to USAID, “the Policy will affirm USAID’s vision of a prosperous and peaceful world in which women and girls, and men and boys enjoy equal economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights and are equally empowered to secure better lives for themselves, their families, their communities, and their countries. USAID achieves greater and more sustainable development outcomes by integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout our work.”

WEI’s comments on The Policy serve to reiterate to USAID that the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in the implementation of The Policy is required by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s 1997 USAID Disability Policy Paper, which requires the inclusion and active participation of people with disabilities in USAID-funded programs and activities.

Download this document:

WEI Submission on Domestic Violence and COVID-19 at the Intersection of Gender and Disability to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

Several actors have identified that, alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a simultaneous “hidden pandemic” of domestic violence as a result of COVID-19 mitigation measures that is impacting the health and safety of particularly women and girls around the world. In response to a call for information from the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women about this hidden pandemic, WEI reported information from its own research and that of organizations of women with disabilities around the world to illustrate how factors related to both gender and disability are creating a greater risk of domestic violence for women, girls, non-binary, trans, and gender non-conforming persons with disabilities during this global crisis.

Read or download the submission:

Response to U.N. Special Procedures Questionnaire on COVID-19 and Human Rights

WEI, as a member of the Nairobi Principles Working Group, submitted information to several U.N. human rights experts on the situation of rights related to gender, disability, and sexuality during the COVID-19 crisis. This information will be used to inform the global human rights response to this pandemic.

Continue reading Response to U.N. Special Procedures Questionnaire on COVID-19 and Human Rights

Women Enabled International Demands Justice

Women Enabled International (WEI) strongly condemns the continued police violence and murder of members of the Black community in the United States that has led to days of protests across the country and around the world.

The racist murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, and numerous other men, women, trans and non-binary persons—with and without disabilities—is a human rights violation of the highest order.

Our staff, fellows and interns mourn their deaths and commit to fighting for racial justice in the United States and globally. We stand with protestors around the world in demanding justice and action to address the systemic human rights violations in the United States that contribute to the ongoing oppression of members of the Black community in any form—from police violence, police failures to address gender-based violence  and the government failures to address the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which disproportionally impact the Black community. WEI also strongly supports the U.S. Constitution and its provisions on freedom of expression and assembly and deplores calls by some to bring weapons to this struggle.

Disability and gender justice do not exist separate from racial justice. Now—more than ever—is the time to invest in and follow the leadership of Black women with disabilities.

WEI’s leadership and staff are currently reflecting on how we can better address racial justice in our work, confront our own privileges, and support and follow the lead of Black women with disabilities and their organizations. We invite you to join us in these reflections and to share your thoughts with us directly and on social media.

Below are just a few of the brilliant experts and resources out there. Please study their resources and support them and other activists who are doing important work to surface the intersecting concerns of race, gender, and disability:

In addition, please consider signing on to Color of Change’s #JusticeforFloyd petition and #JusticeforBre petition; joining the NAACP’s #WeAreDoneDying campaign; reading the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s statement against police killings and use of excessive force; and if you are able, donating to a local United States bail fund through the National Bail Fund Network to assist arrested protesters in the United States to post bail.

WEI is fighting for a world where women and girls with disabilities claim their human rights, act in solidarity, and lead self-determined lives. This future will never be achieved as long as our Black sisters remain oppressed. We stand with you today and everyday – Black Lives Matter.

Yours in solidarity,

Stephanie Ortoleva and the Women Enabled International Team

WEI and Disability Rights International Comments to the CEDAW Committee on the  Draft General Recommendation on Trafficking in Women and Girls in the Context of Global Migration

On May 14, 2020, in partnership with Disability Rights International (DRI), WEI submitted comments to the CEDAW Committee to provide feedback on the Committee’s Draft General Recommendation on Trafficking in Women and Girls in the Context of Global Migration. These comments built upon WEI’s previous submission to the Committee to inform its half-day of general discussion in 2019 on the same topic.

WEI and DRI’s comments enumerate suggested line edits to the Committee’s Draft General Recommendation language to better include women and girls with disabilities and their issues. The Draft General Recommendation did not include one reference to women and girls with disabilities and only one reference to disability disaggregated data. To remedy this gap, WEI and DRI offered suggested language changes to address the experience and needs of women and girls with disabilities and recommendations to States on how they can meet their obligations to women and girls with disabilities. Along with specific line edits, WEI and DRI also offered suggested additional paragraphs documenting the experience and barriers faced by women and girls with disabilities who have been or are at risk of being trafficked.

View/Download below. Submission is in English.

COVID-19 at the Intersection of Gender and Disability: Findings of a Global Survey


a graphic depicting women isolated by the virus

In March 2020, WEI identified a gap in initial global responses to COVID-19, in that many actors were discussing how to include women and persons with disabilities in the response, but few were considering the unique experiences of women with disabilities and others living at the intersection of gender and disability.

This report, which pulls together responses to a global survey from 100 women, non-binary, and trans persons with disabilities across the globe, seeks to provide the guidance States, U.N agencies, and others need to respond to this crisis in a way that fully respects, protects, and fulfills rights at the intersection of gender and disability.

Note: If the link to the full report above doesn’t work, please use this link and consider sending us a note at to let us know!

From Global Coordination to Local Strategies: A Practical Approach to Prevent, Address and Document Domestic Violence under COVID-19

WEI collaborated with MADRE, Media Matters for Women, MenEngage Alliance, Nobel Women’s Initiative, OutRight Action International, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) to produce this practical guide for preventing, addressing, and documenting domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This guide is intended for policymakers, service providers, civil society organizations, and journalists and, among other recommendations, calls for these actors to ensure intersectionality in addressing domestic violence during the pandemic, including at the intersection of gender and disability.

This is the first part of a forthcoming Toolkit aimed at ensuring a human rights-based approach to addressing domestic violence during COVID-19.

Read the guide:
From Global Coordination to Local Strategies: A Practical Approach to Prevent, Address and Document Domestic Violence under COVID-19 [PDF]

Download guide in Microsoft Word or PDF format:


Endorse the Statement on Rights at the Intersection of Gender and Disability During COVID-19

In efforts to respond to COVID-19, women, girls, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming persons with disabilities have been left behind.

This Statement seeks to articulate particular issues that are impacting rights at the intersection of gender and disability during this crisis and provide guidance to governments, United Nations entities, healthcare providers, and civil society organizations who are involved in the response.

Or download a copy of the statement:

Download “Statement on Rights of Women with Disabilities During COVID [PDF]” – Downloaded 917 times – 120 KB


Download “Statement on Rights of Women with Disabilities During COVID [Microsoft Word]” – Downloaded 725 times – 21 KB

You may endorse the statement by sending your name, country, organization if applicable, and e-mail address to

Descargar en español:

Download “Declaración sobre los derechos en la intersección de género y discapacidad durante COVID [PDF]” – Downloaded 195 times – 123 KB


Download “Declaración sobre los derechos en la intersección de género y discapacidad durante COVID [Microsoft Word]” – Downloaded 150 times – 15 KB

Si desea respaldar esta Declaración, envíe su nombre, país, nombre de la organización, si corresponde, y dirección de correo electrónico a

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