[TW: ableism, classism, forced sterilisation] It has to be said…
I’m not denying that prochoice conversations can and do have ableism problems, full stop. But people like to counter this with copious amount of classism. Feminists are usually really good at understanding that choices don’t happen in a vacuum, but on this subject their minds go completely blank. No abortion or pregnancy needs to be justified, but to humor you here are some reasons someone might abort a fetus with a possible disability:
- They themselves are disabled and they don’t want that life for their child.
- They themselves are disabled and they know they can’t care for a child, let alone a disabled one.
- They are in poverty and cannot afford a child with special needs, nor do they have the support system to give such a child adequate care.
- They live in a society that devalues disabled people and therefore have ingrained ableist attitudes or stigma.
We live in a world of ignorance and hate, where even the moral model of disability still has substantial cultural traction. Cerrie Burnell
was denied a role onreceived multiple complaints for appearing on children’s television with one hand, which some claimed was “too scary”. Riam Dean was shoved in a stockroom for violating the “Look Policy” of Abercrombie & Fitch – by having a prosthetic arm. We read books where it’s hipster-hilarious to punish Mr Wickham for his sins by paralysing him in a carriage accident, and to punish Lydia for her sluttery by making her change his soiled linens. We are around service providers who think Gregory House is an instructive case study. We have been brought up with images of the village idiot, the pitiable invalid, the circus freak, the insane murderer, the disfigured outcast, the crippled villain. We have been raised to see people with disabilities as disgusting, repulsive, frightening, and even evil. We have been socialised to see people with disabilities as either impossible to love or desire, or the object of “deviant” fetish. (source)
- They are given biased information about their fetus’ potential disability by a doctor that scares them into abortion for the “fetus’ sake.”
- They aren’t ableist at all but have an aversion to their future child suffering (this suffering may be real or exaggerated depending on how much objective information they’ve been given).
- They live in a society that ridicules disabled people and the people that knowingly choose to give birth to them. A society that lacks resources, support groups, and accessibility.
And we live in a world where mothers of children with disabilities struggle. We live in a world where women with children are disproportionately poor, where some are denied healthcare on the basis of disability, where carers are badly underpaid, where childcare and respite and educational options are constrained. We live in a world where we know that children with disabilities will grow up to deal with all of the negative attitudes that the moral and medical models bring to society (source).
- They may be disabled and suffer from ableist attitudes from other people who think they shouldn’t be able to have children.
- They may be scared that if they are in poverty, or god forbid an immigrant, their disabled children will be forcibly taken from them by the state to be adopted by a picturesque rich white family.
- They may have other disabled children to take care of.
- Any combination of the above. This list is not exhaustive.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Are you seeing a lot of variability and unpredictability? Are you seeing many different circumstances? Are you seeing societal issues in addition to individual attitudes which may be prejudiced? Yeah?
Like with any other abortion, you don’t know a pregnant person’s circumstances. No pregnancy and no abortion has to be justified. We can have meaningful and important conversations about ableist language within the prochoice community, and we should. What we shouldn’t have are people drawing arbitrary lines that separate valid from invalid reasons for abortion, nor should we encourage positions which lack nuance and ignore the lived realities of pregnant people whose choices are often influenced by larger societal problems.
This is such an amazing post. People on both sides of the abortion debate should read and learn.