(Our first of two posts for Blogging Against Disablism 2011.)
More often than not, issues of reproduction and disability are approached solely in terms of ablebodied parents and disabled children. Of course issues like prenatal diagnosis and abortion of disabled unborn children are critical parts of the story.
But not all people with disabilities are children, whether unborn or already-born. Some of us are in fact adults, even if we are overlooked or infantilized. Like other humans, we are sexual and reproductive beings. And we face many forms of reproductive violence and injustice ourselves.
- Poverty, un or underemployment, poor housing conditions, poor nutrition, poor access to medical care, transportation barriers, and other problems that often severely undercut our ability to exercise our own sexual and reproductive preferences, whatever those may be.
- Stereotypes that we are either asexual, or grotesque sexual predators.
- Stereotypes that reproduction is a nonsequitur for us, or that we are by definition “unfit” parents whose “monstrous” breeding must be forcibly stopped.
- Heightened vulnerability to sexual assault and other abuse.
- Sex education that omits or glosses over us.
- Interference with our freedom to seek out and marry the partners of our own choosing.
- A long history of outright forced sterilizations and other pressures to use family planning methods we do not want, at the same time we are denied access to contraceptives we do want and that best fit our particular needs.
- Interference with our freedom to seek out fully supported parenthood, whether biological, adoptive, or foster.
- Intense pressure to abort when we become pregnant or partner to a pregnancy.
These injustices intersect mightily with the injustices resulting, for example, in the abortion or infanticide of children with disabilities. When I was pregnant with my daughter, for instance, a physician pressured me to have an abortion because he feared she might be “defective.” “You mean, just like me?!” I responded angrily. Hell if I was going to let him have his way with us!
Despite all the difficulties of that decidedly unplanned pregnancy- poverty, my ill health, disrupted life plans for me and my boyfriend, among other problems-I did have some resources for resistance, including the confidence that I could be a good mother. But what about other women who have disabilities and/or carry potentially disabled children-what if they lack the necessary resources? I already know the answer to that question. It is saddening beyond measure.
Even when and where it starts in the womb, the prevention and healing of reproductive violence and injustice against people with disabilities must continue ever after birth. And, as the disability rights slogan says, "Nothing About Us, Without Us." All of us.
2 thoughts on “Blogging Against Disablism 2011: Reproductive Violence and Injustice Against Disabled Adults–By Marysia”
So true, and one of the least talked about areas of disablism there is. Great post, thank.
We get more than enough of this sort of nonsense every day. I speak from having an autism spectrum disorder and I am very aware of how society treats people like myself. It doesn't help that I am very overweight. My overweight-ness and my perceived 'selfishness' all come to mean that I am denormalised or discriminated against. I can't go out for a beer without people talking about me behind my back or making derogatory comments. They have the right of free speech but I fear reprisal if I were to call them out on their bigotry – to add to that, the police often take the side of those people who would do me harm rather than the other way round. The police repeatedly show favour to those who are considered 'protected' members of society over those who don't rather than just using their common sense. It is as though the world has been turned on its bonce.
I fear having my benefits taken away for any number of reasons – by people who dislike me for who I am, by local Gauleiters who have a vested interest in opposing my political beliefs, someone I've upset by not understanding the social cues and being outspoken or perhaps just because someone thinks I'm a 'sponger'. In this sort of climate it's very difficult not to be paranoid when you consider the denormalisation of fat people ('guilty' and have the gastric band, paid for at great expense by my father), smokers, drinkers (I like a drink), photographers (I often take photos out and about in situations where paranoid and sometimes occasionally outright aggressive members of the public give me hassle), home educators (I was home educated). All this makes me very wary and defensive when I am out, and especially when I am approach. I really don't need people having a go at me for taking photos and being fat (which makes them an outright paedophile in their eyes).
This government, or rather the civil service behind it, are perpetuating an attack on individualism itself. We are not to be free in what we do; we are to be corralled; managed; ruled by people who think they know better than us. I am talking about the evils of 'communitarian' thought. I cannot tell any difference between one set of political cretins and the other. It is deeply dispiriting when you feel that nobody is listening to you but are listening to unrepresentative voices. This spans right across the board.
The problem is, like so many disabled people, it's considered 'lazy' I want to work and have done voluntary work (the only 'voluntary work' around here is to do with helping the state fuilfil its functions that, if it had any ounce of competence within it, would be able to do itself) and tell anyone that asks that I wish to do so but that is not good enough for them. I'm a scrounger who is making all my (largely invisible) disabilities up. I'm 'weird', 'odd', 'fat slob', and so on.
My politics would probably be considered 'unconvential' in the disabled community (classical liberal rather than centre-left) but all too commonly I come away with the impression that those 'lobbying groups' don't and never have spoken for me. The National Autistic Society goes on like it speaks for all autistics but I often heartily disagree with what is said. Those people do not speak for me but they are considered to speak for me because they are paid for out of the public purse. They aren't the real representatives of autistic people. The only people who are the real representatives of autistics (or other disabled people) are the people themselves. Too many fake charities use the 'disability' line in order to live off us without looking at what we actually need as people, what our needs are. We're just the collateral, the political football.
My opinion, though, is unimportant. And so, life goes on.
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