The lady mentioned in this article Susan is part of a growing number of America’s 61 million people with disabilities facing acute trade-offs between health care and marriage. Couples with disabilities historically have faced greater barriers to marriage. But an OZY investigation reveals a rapidly widening disparity in marriage rates between those with and without disabilities in the years since Susan’s divorce, spawned by outdated eligibility thresholds and convoluted web of health care programs that many find difficult to navigate.
Between 2009 and 2018, nearly 1.1 million Americans with disabilities got divorced, almost twice the number — 593,000 — that got married, U.S. Census Bureau data show. In the same period, 1.5 million people without disabilities divorced — less than a third of the 5.2 million who got married. This “divorce gap” raises the question of how many more like Susan are ending happy marriages to secure health care.
Experts say the system has been stacked against marriage for people with disabilities for decades, stretching back to the eugenics movement. Between the 1920s and ‘70s, more than 60,000 people with disabilities were forcibly sterilized to gradually rid the human gene pool of traits that were then considered undesirable. The 1927 Supreme Court decision upholding sterilization, Buck v. Bell, was never formally overturned. In states such as Washington and Michigan, courts continue to accept requests from guardians of people with disabilities for their sterilization.
This happened to a disabled couple 6 years ago and it’s starting again.