A few days ago, Anna had a post over at FWD/Forward about reproductive rights discussions among feminists and their implications for people with disabilities. Some of the concerns Anna addresses, drive me away from some feminist blogs, too. It isn’t really the focus on abortion. To be honest, I ignore oversensationalist pro-choice posts (“Healthcare for everyone, except for you, lady!” when referring to the Stupak amendment, and such) with as much ease as I ignore oversensationalist pro-life posts (eg. those that condemn the entire Senate healthcare bill just because it funds abortions). What irks me about feminist blogs are really not the easy-to-ignore abortion posts, but the proclamation of “reproductive justice” that goes with them, when, in reality, reproductive justice goes far beyond legal abortion. There are still people who would otherwise carry to term forced to get abortions by partners, families or their social or economic situation. Oral contraception is not always covered by health insurance (and if it is, some women don’t have insurance). If a woman is pregnant and at risk of carrying a child with certain disabilities, she is pressured to undergo prenatal testing and have the child aborted if found to be disabled. Women are even still sterilized without consent. Most of these affect women in minority groups disproportionately. All of these are reproductive rights issues, yet they are hardly addressed by most feminist bloggers.
With regards to women with disabilities, their right to abortion is often emphasized significantly, to the point where, in countries where abortion is illegal, besides rape victims, the first women poster puppeted for the pro-abortion movement, are those with disabilities. The fact is usually ignored that disabled women may actually choose to have children, and if they choose to be childfree, disability may not be the reason.
Anna, who I get from her post chooses to be childfree, stopped getting questions about her reasons for not wanting children as soon as she dropped the fact that her husband has a genetic disability. This is regardless of the question whether or not Anna and her husband’s reasons for not wanting children, are related to disability or not: they are automatically assumed to be, because of course it is horrible to pass on your debilitating genetic condition to a child, it is thought.
Even if your disability is not genetic, if you choose to be childfree, it is quite psosible that people will automatically assume that your disability is the reason. After all, of course you must realize how hard it would be for you to care for a child, or how hard it would be on a child to have you for a parent. In fact, people with certain disabilities routinely have their right to have children questioned even by professionals. The Dutch professional association of physicians for people with intellectual disabilities at leas tused to have an official position statement that says parents with intellectual disabilities should not have more children if Child Protective Services had to be involved with the child(ren) they already have. What about forcibly sterilizing anyone whose children had to be placed under supervision? I’ve not heard a single professional, let alone professional association, state that.
But then, do we have to argue that disability plays absolutely no role in a disabled person’s choice to be childfree, just so that we won’t stereotype all other people with our disabilities? Like, I don’t want children myself, and disability is one factor. It is not the only factor – I have many other reasons common to non-disabled peopel who are childfree -, but it is a factor. Not genetics, mind you, even though autism is thought to have a strong genetic basis. In my case, yes, I do feel I am unfit to parent a child, and symptoms of my disabilities contribute to this. Am I not supposed to say so? Am I supposed to say I just don’t like children, when a child’s shrieks send me into total overload? Is it sending a negative message about all autistics if I say I fear I might have a meltdown in front of my child? It could be seen as such, but I think in reality it is not. It isn’t a statement about all autistics, after all; it’s a statement about me.
In the same way, I can see that some people with intellectual disabilities should be recommended not to have children, just like some people without disabilities. I also know people with genetic conditions who decide not to have biological children for fear that the genetic condition will be passed on. I am fine with that choice, presuming they were not coerced into it. The disability does not by itslef determine whether a person is fit to be a parent, or should want to have children. There are people whose parenting skills are not as good as they should be, regardless of a disability, and there are many reasons why a person, including someone with a disability, would choose to be childfree. If disability-related problems are a factor in this for one person with a certain disability, they shouldn’t necessarily be for someone else with the same disability. It is a matter of each potential parent’s individual situation and the choices that person (together witht their partner) makes.