Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Supporting the right to choose without denigrating disabled individuals

Earlier, when we talked about Oklahoma's abortion legislation protecting doctors from legal action if they do not correctly report test results to mothers, RecoveringEconomist argued that those who supported the law under the guise that it protected disabled individuals were really misogynists in progressive clothing, since they did not support other measures to protect persons with disabilities.  That said, I've often felt members of the reproductive justice movement are in danger of falling into the same trap, saying there are other ways to protect persons with disabilities without actually doing anything about it.  If we really want to walk the walk, reproductive justice advocates need to both fight against laws restricting women's rights and actively work to strike out ableism and promote equality for persons with disabilities.  This Ain't Livin' has a great piece today on this very topic, arguing that protecting disabled individuals requires more information, not less.  I.e., instead of taking away women's right to make their own medical decisions by withholding test information, doctors should be giving women accurate accounts of a disability's implications and the requirements for raising a child with that disability.
People who receive a fetal diagnosis are provided with plenty of information about what it means for the pregnancy, but not a lot of information about what happens next, other than scaremongering about how much of a hardship it is to care for a disabled child. Lies about children with disabilities breaking up marriages. Horror stories. They are not provided with balanced and supportive information that informs them about how they could care for their child after the birth, the variance involved in diagnoses, the fact that sometimes a fetal diagnosis is wrong, that support is available. Despite best efforts on the part of the disability rights movement, many parents face a fetal diagnosis alone and terrified, and they never even get a chance to meet living people with the same condition; they’re told to terminate, not to research. Doctors tell parents of people like me that termination is the best option.
That’s not making an informed choice. That’s making a choice based on fear and misinformation, and it is wrong. I do not support that, and I do not think that anyone who supports reproductive rights should support that either. This is not decisionmaking, it’s ‘do what you’re told or you’ll get a defective baby.’
She also discusses how people in the reproductive rights movement have often resorted to ableist and hurtful language when discussing this particular law, including implying that being forced to have a "disabled" or "defective" baby is a fate worse than death.  I encourage you to go read the entire piece, and discuss below.

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