Bragdon V. Abbott: Shifting The Disability Paradigm Around Hiv

1627 words - 7 pages

To satisfy this definition, the Supreme Court addressed three issues that determined whether Abbott suffered from a physical impairment that substantially limited her ability to reproduce. First, the Court questioned if HIV was a physical impairment that limited a major life activity in Abbott’s life. Bragdon v. Abbott. Then, the Court questioned if reproduction was a major life activity. Finally, the court questioned if HIV substantially limited Abbott’s ability to reproduce. The Court addressed all three issues and held that Abbott’s HIV qualified as a disability or a physical impairment that limited her major life activity of reproduction. Thus, the court ultimately affirmed the previous ...view middle of the document...

The justices of the Court expressed, “Reproduction falls well within the phrase ‘major life activity.’ Reproduction and the sexual dynamics surrounding it are central to the life process itself.” Bragdon v. Abbott. By suggesting that reproduction qualifies as a major life activity, the Court also reiterated the flexibility of the ADA, which the justices claimed was not intended to only cover aspects of a “person’s public, economic, or daily life.” Bragdon v. Abbott. In other words, the Court argued that the ADA does not inherently exclude a major life activity that does not satisfy these categories. As a result, the Court claimed that that the ADA does exclude reproduction as a major life activity.
By demonstrating that HIV is a physical impairment and reproduction is a major life activity, the Court affirmed that Abbott’s HIV is a physical impairment that substantially limited her major life activity of reproduction. To assess whether HIV limited Abbott’s ability to reproduce, the Court relied on medical evidence that suggested that a woman infected with HIV who tries to conceive a child imposes a significant risk of transferring the infection to her partner. Bragdon v. Abbott. Moreover, an HIV infected woman risks transferring her infection to her child during pregnancy and childbirth. Therefore, by reasoning that Abbott suffered from a physiological disorder that immediately devastated her body’s ability to create human life, the Court affirmed that Abbott was indeed disabled. Although I agree with this holding, I disagree with the Court’s reasoning that Abbot suffered from a physical impairment that substantially limited her major life activity of reproduction.
I argue that Abbott satisfies another statutory definition of a disability under the ADA because she was regarded as having a disability. Although the Court believes reproduction is a major life activity, the justices do not assess whether reproduction is a major life activity in Abbott’s life. According to Justice Rehnquist in his dissenting opinion, the ADA’s individual mandate states that the major life activities of a particular individual must be considered: “…the ADA’s definition of a ‘disability’ requires that the major life activity at issue be one ‘of such individual.’” Bragdon v. Abbott, 107 F.3d 934 (1998) (Rehnquist, C.J., dissenting). However, the Court does not consider evidence that reveals Abbott had no intention to reproduce and thus reproduction is not a major life activity in her life. Rehnquist elaborates on this determination by arguing, “There is absolutely no evidence that, absent to the HIV, [Abbott] would have had or was even considering having children.” Bragdon v. Abbott, 107 F.3d 934 (1998) (Rehnquist, C.J., dissenting). Moreover, although the Court reiterated reproduction is essential to the creation of human life, Abbott personally never asserts that reproduction is a relevant major life activity in her life. “It is further telling that in the course...

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