Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Watch out - here comes a political post!

I was going to post this on my personal journal, decided I didn't want to risk antagonizing my friends, some of whom might take exception to my views on abortion, and posted it here. It was inspired by this disturbing news article (pointed out by Trin) about women who choose to abort because the fetus had minor defects that are easily fixable with surgery.

To be honest, before I started reading the journals of Trin, Bint, Miss Nomered, and others who focus on disability activism, I had never seriously thought about ableism before - and especially not about how it affects the whole pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. Fortunately for me, I'm starting to learn more about disability activism, and it's really changed the way I view society, including how I view abortion. So, after a bit of mulling, here's my long-winded stance on abortion as it stands at the moment:

I hope I will never need to get an abortion. I know for some women abortions are no big deal - not much different than taking emergency contraception, if a bit more medically involved - but I have a hard time seeing abortion as a "morally neutral medical procedure," as I've seen it put, because I think you're still killing something that, if it doesn't miscarry on its own, could become a whole person. It may be a product of my socialization, but doesn't make my apprehension less real.

However, that does not mean I think a woman's right to get an abortion should be infringed in any way, shape, or form. The rights of a woman trump the rights of a bundle of cells in her uterus, full-stop. End of story. Having a child can drastically change one's life forever, and only the woman herself can decide if she's ready for that. If she isn't, then she deserves unfettered access to the resources she needs to avoid having children, which means not only abortions but also safe, effective, and affordable contraception. Conversely, if she is ready, then she deserves quality health care to make sure she and her child are safe, regardless of her age, income level, or marital status. (Of course, implicit in this is that a woman also deserves a comprehensive, accurate education on sexual health so that she is able to make an informed choice.)

But what about a woman who was going to have a child, then found out the fetus had a developmental defect and decided to abort it? On the one hand, raising a child with a disability can require a tremendous dedication of time and resources that the parent(s) simply cannot afford. That's perfectly understandable, especially considering how fucked up the US's health care system is at the moment. On the other hand, when a woman decides to abort just because she doesn't want her kid to be a "freak" with six fingers or (heaven forbid!) "retarded," that's ableism. To call that morally questionable would be the understatement of the year.

What it is not, however, is a reason to restrict abortion access. There is no possible way for the government or any private organization to divine whether a woman's intentions for getting an abortion are "pure." It would end up going one of two ways: either officials would look the other way while women aborted "defective" fetuses anyway, or officials would "err on the side of caution" and wind up denying access to hundreds of women who genuinely needed abortions. It's entirely possible that both scenarios could happen simultaneously, with the first one applying to upper-class women and the second scenario affecting lower-class women. Regardless, it'd be shitty all around.

So what can be done? Far as I can tell, the best thing to do is try to change how society views people with disabilities and what it actually means to be disabled. Once women realize that having a child with a disability isn't the end of the world, they will probably be less likely to abort because of a developmental defect. It's basically the same thought process behind reducing abortions through comprehensive sex education and affordable sexual health care - if you give people the resources so that they don't need (or feel they need) abortions, then naturally they won't get them.

Of course, changing the deeply-ingrained opinions of all of society is really fucking hard. So it's going to take a lot of work, and it's not going to happen any time soon.

Actually, I'm thinking maybe I will post this on my other journal. A friend of mine who's been making uncomfortably ableist remarks reads it; maybe reading this will give her the gentle poke she needs.


missnomered said...

Right on.

One of the reasons I stopped posting at Aspies For Freedom is it became a place for a lot of ridiculous anti-choice bullshit. (That, and I found out that I likely have NLD, not aspergers. Similar, but different.) I mean, it was like "Abortion could be used to prevent autistic spectrum people from being born, therefore, abortion is bad." Such an oversimplification...I mean, Jesus Christ.

And thank you for the linkage!

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