In the 1999 case Olmstead v. L.C., hereafter Olmstead, the United States Supreme Court held in a six to three decision that the forced segregation of people based on disability violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Two women with mental and intellectual disabilities, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, referred to as L.C. and E.W. in case documents, sued the state of Georgia and Tommy Olmstead, the Commissioner of Georgia who headed the Department of Human Resources, for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The two women each voluntarily admitted themselves to treatment in the state-run Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1990. After doctors cleared Curtis and Wilson for transfer into a community-based health setting with non-disabled people, the hospital denied them treatment in a community-based setting due to the financial costs of such treatment and the lack of space. Olmstead protected the rights of people with disabilities outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act by finding the unjustified segregation of disabled people unconstitutional.

In 1975, the United States Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, referred to as the IDEA, which codified the right of all American children to a free and appropriate public education regardless of disability status. The IDEA requires all public schools that accept federal funds to provide education that meets the needs of students with disabilities at the public expense. Prior to IDEA, many students with disabilities went without any educational opportunities, and many faced confinement in institutions. The IDEA enshrined the right to education for children with disabilities, allowing millions of children to learn in a public-school classroom by setting guidelines for accessibility and the instruction of students with disabilities in American public schools.

On 1 February 1998, David T. Helm, Sara Miranda, and Naomi Angoff Chedd published “Prenatal Diagnosis of Down Syndrome: Mothers’ Reflections on Supports Needed From Diagnosis to Birth,” hereafter “Mothers’ Reflections,” in the journal Mental Retardation. In 2007, Mental Retardation changed its name to Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Down syndrome is the result of an extra copy or partial copy of chromosome 21, also known as Trisomy 21. It is characterized by traits such as intellectual disabilities, differing facial features, and a high risk for heart disease. In the study, the authors interviewed ten mothers, all of whom had elected to continue with their pregnancy after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, about their experiences with health care professionals. The article provides suggestions for health care professionals, such as providing up-to-date materials and unbiased information and avoiding judgmental language, so that when mothers receive a prenatal diagnosis of a developmental disability, they are prepared and supported.