Tuesday 1 October 2013

Disability feminism & the selective abortion of disabled foetuses

As a disability feminist who is also queer and a wheelchair user, the pro-choice the ‘argument’ in many feminist circles regarding the selective abortion of disabled foetuses, is NOT, as Veronica- who's article can be found on the ABC's Ramp Up here- so brilliantly outlined, just an intellectual ‘argument for us as disabled people- it is our very lives, our very right to exist!

Disability eugenics also has ramifications for the kinds of support we are provided with by society if we choose to become parents. If our lives and our children’s lives continue to be seen as less valuable and a burden then we are going to be treated as such and any supports we require to enable us to be brilliant parents are going to be framed as us not being able to do ‘the job’ instead of adopting a rights based approach. Disability once again is perceived as a personal tragedy and not a social issue and this for many disability rights activists, myself included, is at the heart of this and many other disability right struggles.

It is also worth noting that a 3rd of our children are removed from our care, if the mother has a disability, because of the lack of adequate support as well as social services readiness to ‘intervene’. Interestingly, studies have shown that if the parent with a disability is a male there is significally less chance of relationship breakdown and removal, which highlights the influence of gendered roles which regard to what a ‘mother should be able to do’ to be an effective parent.

Disability eugenics is an issue at the intersection of feminist discourses- the right to body autonomy-and disability discourses regarding the value of a non-normative body/mind and living as an act of resistance to a social discourse which says ‘’better off dead then disabled’’. The choice to abort is framed as a medical one when it also has social, political and ethical implications. As a disability feminist my resistance to selective abortion procedures steams from its value judgment on our lives, it positions us a flawed and wrong and it seeks to disempower us further by framing us an unwanted burden, as inhabiting a life not worth living.

Also importantly this eugenics discourse impacts on how we feel about our lives, when we hear the massage from society that we shouldn’t exist at all. What does this message do for the future generations of people who WILL be born or acquire disabilities? It impacts on our sense of agency, our connection to others who are living a similar experience and our capacity to see our struggles as part of civil rights movement.

Lastly, the medical profession is positioned as the authority here, both for the woman considering selective abortion and for the disabled women wanting children. It is in the doctor’s office which many of these decisions will be made. It is the ongoing the power and control of the medical profession to regulate bodies and lives which is so very problematic for me as a woman, an activist, feminist and proud Disabled person. 

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