(Our first of two posts for Blogging Against Disablism 2011.)

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 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.

Namely:

  • 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.

Tomorrow evening in Philadeplhia's Love Park, the organization Soulforce is having a Life Rally to stand against the hatred that drives so many LGBT people, or LGBT-perceived people, especially youth, to suicide. Systemic LGBT phobia is indeed a life issue. It threatens the lives of people worldwide through suicide, hate crimes including state-sponsored persecution and execution, family rejection into the cruelties of the street, and all too many other means. LGBT youth are more–not less–likely than heterosexual young people to experience unintended pregnancies, abortions, and unsupported parenthood, because they are pressured to be straight and as a result take risks with heterosexual sex. Just read Cecilia Brown's story–you can find it in our Links. If there is ever a prenatal test of sexual orientation, there will probably be a genocide of LGBT humans just as now there is a femicide of prenatally detected girls. Yet, outrageously enough, many–not all, but many–who identify as "prolife" on abortion are indifferent or outright hostile to the human rights of LGBT people to live and love. This makes no sense. Especially since the freedom to have same-sex relationships is a highly effective way to *prevent* abortion!

Unlike Jen, I did not attend the Open Hearts, Open Minds conference. But I did carefully look over the program materials beforehand, and was struck by how few people of color were involved in it. I was struck that while abortion of disabled fetuses was on the discussion agenda, there seemed to be little involvement of people with disabilities and disability rights advocates.

I am a person with disabilities, and though I am of European descent myself, am the very involved grandmother of a child of color. People with disabilities and people of color have in so many ways, including but not limited to abortion, been denied the rights to life and bodily integrity. So I am troubled by these apparent omissions of vital stakeholders from this conference. 

There is a disability rights movement slogan that occurs to me at this point: "Nothing about us, without us." Hopefully any future dialogue efforts will consider this at the planning stages, not after the fact.