For the purposes of this post, I would like to remind everyone that the range of disability includes people who are mentally ill, paralyzed, Blind, Deaf, permanently injured, autistic, physically disfigured, with compromised immune systems or disordered speech or chronic pain or cognitive impairments, and many, many others. Disabilities may be fatal or not, may be degenerative or not, may be apparent or not. Being painful, fatal, stigmatized, or poorly understood does not mean that life is not worth living, and I will not tolerate any attempts to enforce a hierarchy of disability; there is no category of Especially Bad Disability that destroys any chance of worthy life.
Have you ever participated in the stigmatizing of pregnncy, childbirth and childrearing when the parent, child, or both have, or could have or obtain, disabilities?
Have you ever participated in the cultural narratives that say:
- Older women should not have children because their children are more likely to have a disability
- Women with disabilities should avoid having children because their children might also have a disability, and it would be wrong, unjust and cruel to give birth to a child that is not in perfect health
- Women with disabilities should avoid having children because only temporarily-abled women can properly parent a child, or being a mother with a disability would somehow deprive the child of necessary experiences or put a burden on the child
- Women with disabilities should avoid having children because they are more likely to be poor and need public assistance, and their children would also be more likely to use public assistance in the future, resulting in a drain on temporarily-abled taxpayers
- Women with disabilities would be selfish to have children, and to do so would contribute to environmental destruction, economic decline, and even degradation of the human species, and they and their children would be less valuable members of society because of their lack of perfect health
- It would be a tragedy to have a disabled child, disabled children are less desirable than temporarily-abled children
- Life with a disability is inherently worse than life without one; life without a disability is the baseline by which all life should be measured, so of course to have a disability would be a negative and would make a person’s life worse
- Disabled children are a burden on their temporarily abled parents, more so than any other child would be, and this is because of the child’s disability rather than because of the lack of support and affirmation throughout all levels of society for PWD and their loved ones
- Of course it is more desirable for a child to be perfectly healthy than to have some sort of medical imperfection, and those medical imperfections are a big stress and hassle on the temporarily abled people around the child, and there is something wrong with the child for failing to meet an impossible standard of perfection
- Health and ability are objective concepts and our current cultural wisdom on them are completely right and the medical industry that puts them forth is infallible; our ideas about health and ability are the only right way to look at things and can be universally applied
- To violate those cultural ideas means that you are inherently flawed
- The answer to all of this is to go to excessive lengths to avoid ever having, or being around someone who has, health problems, up to and including letting the least healthy die off or be terminated before they can live at all
You know what? I’ll bet you’ve all done it. Even the most radical disability activist has participated in some of these cultural tropes at some point in their lives.
But I’ll bet the vast majority of people “blogging for choice” would never think of disability as related to “choice” issues, and if they did, it would be for the right of temporarily-abled higher-class white Western women to terminate a pregnancy that has a more-than-minute chance of resulting in a less-than-perfectly-healthy child.
This is why the “choice” framework fails. It fails all of us, but it particularly fails those of us who fail to meet society’s idea of the optimal person: the pale, thin, beautiful, and financially comfortable picture of perfect health. The person who never relies on others (no!), is “self-sufficient,” and isn’t likely to end up a burden on the important people.
The rest of us can “choose” to stop existing.
Do you really trust women? Or are you perfectly willing to override their choices if you feel they threaten your comfortable position in society?
And you expect me to think you’re any better for my rights and needs than pro-lifers, why?
Edit, Saturday 1/23: I am being very strict in moderating this thread. The primary response from people who do not identify as disabled seems to be “Well, I respect your choice, even though it is clearly cruel and bad/makes me ‘uncomfortable’/is the ‘wrong’ choice.” That is exactly the opposite of what this post is saying. If that is what you got out of this post, you have a LOT of stepping back, listening, and learning left to do.
I’m not asking you to be nice enough not to forcibly prevent us from ever having children, or anyone from ever having disabled children, even as you eagerly stigmatized disabled motherhood/childhood; I am asking you to genuinely examine the deep-rooted prejudices you have been taught and challenge your thinking on childbearing/rearing and disability. I am asking you to question why you have these ideas about disability, and whether they are appropriate to hold as a person committed to social justice. Including for women.
Because, here’s a hint: a lot of us women have disabilities, and all of us were children once, and some of us will have children of our own. And we are still women. Are you really protecting women’s freedom? Or are you merely preserving the temporarily-abled supremacist structure of society, with temporarily abled women as a convenient proxy?
I ask you to consider these prompts, to attempt to truly challenge your assumptions about disability and parenthood. If you aren’t willing to do that, please don’t drop in to explain why disabled women are “Doin It Rong.” Check your privilege. Thanks.