Brooklyn Law Review

Article Title

Law in the Time of Zika: Disability Rights and Reproductive Justice Collide


Seema Mohapatra


This article focuses on finding common ground between those seeking to ensure abortion access and those advocating for disability rights, using the reaction to the Zika virus as a case study. Although the symptoms of Zika in women were often mild, the correlation of Zika infection in pregnant women to microcephaly affecting their newborns led to travel advisories and alarm bells for pregnant women in areas where the Zika virus was prevalent. Although the rise of microcephaly and its connection to Zika was a cause for concern and investigation, the condition itself is not a death sentence, as headlines suggested. The tenor of the discourse about Zika made it clear that, in the opinion of many, babies with microcephaly would be better off unborn. This article draws attention to the tension between reproductive justice and disability rights in activism and in the courts, using the case of Zika. This article suggests that physician guidance in the Zika context must include a discussion of disability, in addition to reproductive options, such as abortion, adoption, and continuation of the pregnancy. This would bolster both reproductive justice and disability rights values, and women would have more accurate and complete information while facing this difficult decision.