Heed the content notice, while this post ends on a positive note, the bulk of it is tough and potentially triggering. Please take your time and take a break if you need to.
In response to the horrible bill banning abortion in the case of disability, I would like to propose 10 much more effective ways to combat eugenics. Ones which will actually help.
- Fight for Better Accessibility
One of the biggest barriers towards integration into society and thus the biggest source of “misery” is the lack of accessibility in our world. What is infuriating is that it doesn’t have to be that way. In a world where almost every person carries around a tiny computer more powerful than what was used to send man into space, the idea that we don’t have the ability to make this world easier to navigate for people who can’t see, or hear, or have mobility issues, is a little ridiculous.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a controversial abortion bill Thursday that, among other things, would ban the procedure if it is sought because the fetus was diagnosed with a disability or defect such as Down syndrome. – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/03/24/indiana-just-banned-abortion-if-the-fetus-has-down-syndrome/
Ok let’s get one thing straight. The solution to one group being oppressed is not to take away the rights of another group. You are not helping disabled people by taking away the rights of people with uteri. This is not a solution.
All this bill will do is increase the number of people having unsafe medical procedures, and increase the amount of disabled children who end up in abusive homes. Forcing someone to have a child they don’t want doesn’t end ableism. The parents forced to care for a child they would have rather terminated are more likely to resent the child. Forcing people who are bigoted against a group to raise a member of that group may eventually lead that person to reevaluate their bigotry but at what cost? Children shouldn’t be forced to live with abuse just so someone can learn a lesson eventually.
With the high rates of murder of disabled children, a bill such as this is basically creating a situation where these events are even more likely.
Taking away a person’s bodily autonomy reinforces that that is an ok thing to do, and that idea is exceptionally dangerous to disabled people. We are already dealing with too many people who think we don’t have a right to control our own bodies. Parents who think it is ok to drastically alter their children’s bodies without consent, people who think it is ok to forced disabled people to have abortions against their consent, and the fact that disabled people have an 80% chance of being sexually assaulted (higher for female presenting disabled people). Even in less extreme circumstances, people who think it is OK to touch or force their help on people using assistive devices like wheelchairs or canes.
What’s more, there will be living breathing disabled people harmed by this bill. People with disabilities are more likely to be poor. They are more likely to be struggling. Bills that limit access to abortion have a disproportionately higher impact on people living in poverty. They can’t afford to fight legally for special exemptions. They can’t afford to go to another state to get access to the health services they mean. Moreover, the decision to terminate a disabled child, may be directly influenced by their own knowledge of their ability to care for one, whether it be because they lack the physical energy necessary in some cases, or because they lack the financial resources to be able to properly provide for them.
All this bill does is further restrict and take away the rights of women and people with uteri, and put more disabled people in harms way. Remember, a disabled woman is still a woman. If you take away her rights as a woman to defend her rights as a disabled person, she still ends up with a loss of rights.
I’ve previously written about the difference between eugenics and pro-choice, and how the thought process that goes into the decision to abort a disabled fetus is both a symptom and a perpetuation of systemic ableism.
What does it mean in practice to oppose eugenics, however? If aborting a fetus on the basis of disability is harmful, how do we address that? Do we make it illegal? Do we restrict a person’s ability to make that decision by eliminating the ability to know in advance whether a child has a disability or not?
How can you oppose eugenics and still remain pro-choice. Isn’t it wrong to shame people who get abortions for the reasons they get abortions?
Let me make it clear. The right to bodily autonomy is such that any restriction, even for the best of intentions, is a violation of bodily autonomy. Regardless why someone is getting an abortion, the ability to do so safely and without barrier is essential. All people should have the right to access an abortion without shaming. Continue reading “What is Anti-Eugenics in Practice?”
A lot of people can’t really parse the difference between being pro-choice and supporting eugenics. If choice is choice, what does it matter if people choose to abort children with disabilities specifically? Doesn’t it make sense that not everyone is capable and able to care for a child with a disability? Aren’t we taking away a person’s right to choose by saying that making that decision on the basis of disability is wrong?
It can be confusing and difficult to deconstruct, until we realize that when we are discussing eugenics and why it is dangerous, we are not discussing whether or not a person has a right to choose to end a pregnancy, but discussing the bigoted ideas that may be the reason for the decision.
Pro-choice activists can instinctively understand for example why abortion on the basis of sex or race would be wrong, while not seeing that assertion as invalidating a person’s right to choose. So why do we have this difficulty with disability?
Because socially we see disability as a bad thing, so much so that we have a tendency to see disabled people as not being fully human. This may seem like an extreme representation of the opinion until you realize that there are still arguments over whether people with certain disabilities have consciousness, are able to experience pain, etc. That treatments considered torture against abled people such as ABA and conversion therapy (not to mention bleach enemas) are not only still allowed for treatment of certain disabilities, but outright fucking encouraged by charities that claim to speak for these disabilities. That the murder of disabled children is often excused and almost never results in jail time.
Recently Ophelia Benson added to the TERFY hole she’s been digging by tearing into an abortion provider who chose to use inclusive language when discussing issues surrounding pregnancy and access. It’s an issue that comes up surprisingly often. The discussion around genitalia is so needlessly gendered, that people often fall into the trap of equating body parts with identity.
The equation of women with “having a uterus” or the ability to have children is obviously exclusionary to both trans men and trans women. Not everyone who can get pregnant is a woman and not every woman has the ability to get pregnant. It is also exclusionary to many of us with disabilities.
The social equation of women with having a uterus is extremely damaging to women who, for one reason or another, have lost their ovaries, or uterus. Many of them struggle with feelings of inadequacy or identity loss for this reason. Harmful concepts, like those established by patriarchy and outdated feminist concepts that reduce women to their genitalia, only make the struggle more difficult.