About a half an hour ago Representative Thompson from Texas spoke words that broke my heart.
They weren’t words about how abortion shouldn’t be a choice. Hell, she was speaking FOR women who are survivors of rape and incest. She was speaking FOR the side of the debate that I support, the pro choice side.
But I don’t feel like a part of THAT side of the debate anymore. I don’t feel like my life is what they consider valuable. And I am pissed the fuck off.
For the last two weeks I’ve been following all of the debates in MULTIPLE states as the country begins to restrict the right of a woman to make choices about her own body.
My voice has not been heard.
Representative Thompson said that children of incest are “retarded” and that they are “deformed”.
Hey, pro-choice brethren? THE ABLEIST RHETORIC HAS TO STOP.
The rhetoric that abortion is for getting rid of disabled lives, has to STOP.
The use of the words “retarded” “deformed” “broken” have to stop.
The USE OF DISABLED LIVES WITHOUT DISABLED VOICES HAS TO STOP.
I am a disabled woman.
I am pro choice.
But every time someone on MY side opens their mouths and tells stories about people aborting their disabled fetuses in order to show why we NEED abortion, I feel sick. I feel betrayed. I feel like my life isn’t worth considering.
Yes. Parents should make decisions for THEMSELVES.
Last night during the public hearings another woman said that “not every disabled child has downs syndrome and smiles a lot” – It’s true. Some of us are blind, deaf, and born with heart defects. I had 9 surgeries by the time I was 6 months old (I think, I’m not entirely sure of the number, but it was a LOT. Multiple on my eyes, multiple on my heart.) The point is, the first year of my life was HELL.
But I’m alive, and I’m speaking, and I’m independent and happy. Just because a disabled life is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth living.
I hate that I have to sound pro life. I really do.
But I AM pro life. I am pro the life MOTHERS who make choices to terminate based on THEIR choices. I am pro the life of disabled people who choose to live, I am PRO LIFE when it comes to death with dignity, when it comes to NOT having the death penalty.
I just want people to stop using my life and my disabled body without consulting me, without hearing my voice. I am tired of other feminists not speaking up and saying that this kind of rhetoric is not acceptable.
I am tired of the assumptions that I wouldn’t want to be a mother, too. I am tired of the fact that this dialogue has not mentioned once the fact that women with disabilities have the right to have abortions, the rights to access women’s health, the fact that disabled women are raped and impregnated against their will. I am tired of not hearing that women with disabilities need access to reproductive prevention & abortion.
Disabled women have the right to own their wombs as well.
We’re tired of being used. Speak for our rights, not about our worth.
(Andrea just says “FUCK THIS SHIT.” A LOT. And “Texas is getting so much coverage and once a day I get told I should die.” )
Can’t it be enough for a woman who’s been raped, including from incest, to make a choice? Can’t her trauma be enough without saying “oh, and they’ll be ‘deformed’ and ‘retarded’ too”?
Well said. (We won’t even go there on how I feel about the word “retarded”.)
That word makes my blood curdle.
I too tire of being used as an example of what is not wanted. It seems much of the time that only those who are white, male, straight, Christian and able-bodied get to make anything resembling choices at all. And the rest of us , they restrict.
“Just because a disabled life is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth living.”
These arguments are uttered with the same voice as the school official who didn’t see any point in trying to educate my brother, at the age of six, because of a severe learning disability. The same voice that has judged disabled people unfit to be parents, unfit to be spouses. It’s chilling in that it hints at exactly the type of reckless disregard for life that anti-choice advocates have convinced themselves we represent. The need to prey on this fear and prejudice smacks of desperation. It’s ugly and it’s disempowering.
We can’t let statements like this represent us. Our dignity and humanity demand better.
You know, I am heavily pro-choice. The abortion cases that I have the most moral qualms with are when someone aborts a wanted fetus just because of disabilities.
True fetal non-viability, birth defects so severe that the child can’t possibly live more than a few days after birth even with medical help, that’s one thing. But terminating a pregnancy over something treatable, survivable, something where the child has at least a chance at some quality of life, that makes me queasy, and you really did a good job of explaining why.
I didn’t go into it in the piece, but I will say it here – the difference in those two cases is that one can be compassionate and merciful, while the other feels creepily close to being eugenics.
I wrote on the same topic not too long ago, and had some obscenely large number of otherwise liberal progressives jump down my throat for sounding “anti-choice.” (Hello, intersectionality. Also, this is why I’m a radical leftist, not a liberal progressive.)
I’m Autistic and multiply disabled.
It’s not anti-choice to insist that disabled people are valuable. It’s okay to combat ableism and sexism at the same time. Throwing one marginalized group under the bus for the sake of the rights of another marginalized group simply doesn’t work.
Thank you for this.
This has aggravated and saddened me for so long. Thank you for bringing it front and center. I wrote this a very long time ago froma parent’s point of view: http://miscthing.blogspot.com/2007/07/not-ideal.html
I find it strangely two faced to lament the loss of the life of a not yet delivered baby because of a handicap of some kind but to have no compassion for otherwise “normal” babies. That these are people, children, in the womb does not sway you? How can you ignore the facts? For example friends of mine just brought home their baby born at 20 weeks. So what do you think. Did Victoria suddenly become a person when she hit outside air or was she a person before? You know the answer and you know what it means. Why can’t you face it or accept it?
I would like to congratulate your friends on breaking the world record for premature birth by a full 12 days. I expect they’re testifying in every legislature for the reduction from 22/24 weeks, i.e. viability.
Your incredulity not withstanding Victoria just went home a week ago. And I care not one bit what you think of my truthfulness. Not everyone is eager to be singled out and their privacy given up. Let’s just make you happy and say she was born at 21 weeks and 6 days. So what? Answer the question. Unless you can’t, which is obviously the case. I am sure you would rather just keep on obfuscating and dancing around the central issue. What is wrong with you people? Any child knows what is going on inside Mom’s belly. What has viability got to do with it? Viability is not a prerequisite to existence or life. And let me tell you baby is sucking it’s thumb in the womb a hell of a lot sooner than 20 weeks. Every abortion practitioner who aborts any child that is capable of self awareness, self direction, non autonomous, directed movement is another Gosnell.
Sir, you’re derailing the conversation. And if you don’t know what “derailing the conversation” means then please click on that link.
This post is about the rhetoric around disabled bodies and how our lives are being used by BOTH SIDES of the debate without our voices.
I’m not willing to accept a man coming into this space and speaking to me or other commentors with disrespect. Further inflammatory, derailing, and disrespectful comments will be deleted.
Thank you for this thoughtful post. I’m a big pro-choice girl with a sister who is disabled. People ask my mother all the time why she didn’t get tested before my sis was born with the implication that she could have aborted had she known. I think this country (and the world) is in dire need of more open interaction and education about this big section of our population.
Great article. I wrote about this as part of my masters in rhetoric and communication. So much of the problem I think is context. We live in a society that – despite advancements like the ADA – still doesn’t really value and accept/accommodate people with disabilities. There are so few social supports for parents of children with disabilities, especially if they’re low income, that people are almost coerced into making a decision to terminate. We need to change how we as a society value and care for people with disabilities so that more women will feel confident making the decision not to terminate a potentially-disabled fetus. But that’s not going to happen by restricting women’s rights.
Thank you. As a pro-choice mom of a daughter with a disability, thank you
This was a wonderful article. However, I don’t necessarily think there is anything wrong with aborting a fetus because it is disabled. A severely disabled child is a lot harder to raise, and not everyone is up to that challenge. I know a girl who aborted her fetus because she found out it had down syndrome. She knew that, as a 15 year old girl with no support system, she would not be able to raise a disabled child. I do not fault her for that decision.
That being said, abortion is absolutely NOT for getting rid of disabled babies. Saying such a thing is horrible. Abortion is about the mother being able to make medical decisions about her own body and future.
Elsa, thanks for this insightful piece — and other commenters, for your thoughtful responses. This was the first I’ve heard of “ableism” — and I have a lot to learn!
You have a new ally in me. I won’t stay silent. Peace to you —
Please do consider following me on twitter @FeministSonar if you want to learn more. I tweet a lot about disability & ableism, in addition to RTing a lot of information from other people with disabilities.
Thanks so much for reading, and being open to learning.
Excellent article. Thank you for enlarging my awareness of the intersection of these two issues.
@marc: viability is necessary for a fetus to survive outside the womb. and yes a fetus becomes a person after s/he takes the first breath and oxygenates the brain. Reflexes are not conscious choices within the womb. No matter that we tend to think of the fetus as a person or as a child that is not medically true. It is how we think of the situation b/c of our own emotions.
I’m not saying you’re wrong, but you can’t get upset about the reason a woman chooses to get an abortion. Whether it’s an able bodied fetus or a disabled one, you’re getting rid of a potential life either way.
We can apply your arguments to babies that were born from rape. There are women that choose to keep their babies. Imagine how they feel, how valuable their life is considered. That the absolute worse thing that could happen to a mother is being forced to keep them. We could have babies born from rape speak about how they’re living a full life. I know victims of rape that have kept their babies, and they love their babies dearly. We don’t hear from that side either.
You can’t make abortion personal, without being pro-life. You can’t say it’s wrong to terminate a pregnancy for a disabled person while saying it’s ok to terminate it for an able bodied one. That’s just hypocritical. Why are some fetus’s more deserving of life than others? Why should some be given extra consideration than others?
I’m pro-choice. The mother should be allowed to choose whether to keep her baby or not, regardless of how she came to that decision. At the end of the day she’s getting rid of a fetus. That fetus is not a child yet regardless of whether it has a disability or not, so why does that even matter? Let’s not get high and mighty and start adding petty morals to what reason is the right reason to get an abortion.
Don’t get me wrong, we need more advocating for people with disabilities because I agree there’s not enough resources for them out there, but abortion shouldn’t be one of those platforms.
I think that the author isn’t saying that people shouldn’t use whatever criteria they desire as a reason to abort a pregnancy or not.
I think what they are saying is that in the rhetorical landscape of the abortion conversation, a disability should not be held up as a reason to be pro choice.
Here via my GF, kind of out of the ether. You know, I read your point, and I do see where you’re coming from, but I have to respectfully disagree.
I’ve been ill since birth. Autoimmune problems mostly, fibromyalgia, some minor-yet-debilitating deformities of hard and soft tissue both that thankfully got corrected a few years ago. I was born not too long after Roe v. Wade came into effect. My mom was pushing 40 when she got pregnant, which was pretty old to have a kid in the ’70s, and due to Mom’s health problems, the quantities of radiation she and Dad had both been exposed to, and two teenagers still living at home, her doctor outright asked if she wanted to consider an abortion. Mom turned it down, obviously, but in the years since, she’s stated that if she’d known just how sick I’d be, and the kind of pain I’d endure, she’d probably have taken the other option. I’m fine with this.
Beyond the kinds of health problems that I’ve got, though–I’ve got a social life (sort of), hobbies, friends, a serious bead and yarn addiction–I do think that abortion needs to be kept legal, period. Why someone chooses to have an abortion is no-one else’s business. This includes aborting a fetus that would either live only a short time, or would be seriously to profoundly disabled. Really, there’s no sense in bringing an anencephalic child into the world; even if it lives, it’s an amoeba with a human body, stimulus and response. Same goes for autistic parents who simply can’t deal with the strain of raising a disabled child. It’s a private decision. Not everyone’s going to agree with it, but that’s the way life is.
Sorry if I made no sense. Been sick (again). I blame Ragnarok Part Eleventy-One that’s going on outside.
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