Week 9 Day 1 Discussion Question 1

One of the issues that Feminist Disability Politics raises is the potential conflict between mainstream feminism’s commitment to optimizing reproductive choices for women, including prenatal genetic screening, and disability rights activists’ concern that such screening targets potentially disabled offspring and is thus highly discriminatory. What do you think about this issue?

3 thoughts on “Week 9 Day 1 Discussion Question 1

  • March 30, 2022 at 12:33 am

    Prenatal screenings allow for parents to detect signs of disability within their child and therefore they can decide if they want to abort the baby or give it life. I understand a parent’s wish to have healthy offspring but this wish is emboldened by a society that is not equipped to handle physically divergent people. Instead, there is stigma and ostracization attached to an individual on the basis of their condition. We see this in the documentary about Judith Butler and how she feels “…socially isolated.” The reasoning behind wanting to abort a child with possible down syndrome or other physical disabilities is often explained as “not wanting the child to have increased challenges in life” but I believe that the real focus should be on changing the norm as well as the connotations that surround physical disability. The differently abled community is right to argue that this is a form of discrimination that stems from ableist viewpoints but I can also see the validity from a parental standpoint. I am honestly not sure about this issue because I want women/parents to have complete autonomy over their body which includes the choice to abort a child but I also do not want anyone to feel discriminated against. I do have a genuine question however which is how would the disable rights activists view the current attitudes around smoking/ drinking while pregnant.

  • March 29, 2022 at 8:28 pm

    While I do believe that being able to get prenatal genetic screening perpetuates ableism, I think that there are two sides of the coin. While it is heartbreaking and discriminatory towards the disabled community to target disabled offspring for abortion, a mother who does not feel capable of raising a disabled child should not take on that task. Firstly, the mother may not have the means to give a disabled child a good life. Between doctors, travel costs, assistive equipment and more, having a sick or disabled child is far more expensive than having a “healthy” child. Furthermore, the cost of care or ability to take a step back from work to take care of a disabled child is a privilege that many people do not have. Additionally, if a mother does not want her child, the last thing she should do is keep it, only to resent the child and not give the child adequate love or care. The decision to have a disabled child after prenatal screening also comes with the acceptance that the parents will have to watch their child face a lot of hardships and heartbreak over the child’s lifetime, and experience those hardships and heartbreaks themselves.
    While this is not the same situation at all, I was very sick for many years with Lyme disease and coinfections that led to immunodeficiencies and many other hidden disabilities. Luckily, my family is privileged enough that, with some adjustments, we were able to afford the many treatments, doctors, and flights across country that it took to get me better. Moreover, my mother made it her full-time job–on top of her full-time job–to do research to figure out how to make me better. Even as a child, I saw the toll it took on my parents and my family to raise an ill child, and luckily it was a burden my family could shoulder. However, without my family’s resources and my amazing parents, I cannot say I would be where I am today. Additionally, my case is different than someone who is born with a disability that they cannot recover from.
    I think it is inhumane for a person to have a disabled child if they feel unfit to raise the child. So, while I would hope that people considering having a child would consider all possibilities and choose to love their child unconditionally regardless of disability before getting pregnant, if they do not believe they are capable of raising the child, it is within their reproductive rights to not keep it.

  • March 29, 2022 at 4:39 pm

    According to Mayo Clinic, prenatal genetic testing will inform whether a family will have a baby with down syndrome or other chromosomal conditions. Due to the ableism embedded in economic, healthcare, political, and social structures, families are provided the choice to abort the baby with a “birth defect”. However, this choice is rooted in ableism and eugenics movement, where disability is pathologized and seen as “something to be cured”. Such screening perpetuates the pathologization of disabled offspring and discriminates the disabled community. Such families may face these choices due to the financial hardships in providing for the disabled baby, inaccessible spaces, healthcare costs, and more. However, these hardships are founded on the idea that disabled people are abnormal – to be cured and othered – and thus, should have no space in society. With this, disability is seen as a private responsibility rather than a public responsibility. I believe that disability feminist scholars can help reframe feminism’s commitment to reproductive choices by acknowledging the overlap between disability and women’s justice.

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