What’s the Difference Between Eugenics and Pro-Choice

A lot of people can’t really parse the difference between being pro-choice and supporting eugenics. If choice is choice, what does it matter if people choose to abort children with disabilities specifically? Doesn’t it make sense that not everyone is capable and able to care for a child with a disability? Aren’t we taking away a person’s right to choose by saying that making that decision on the basis of disability is wrong?

It can be confusing and difficult to deconstruct, until we realize that when we are discussing eugenics and why it is dangerous, we are not discussing whether or not a person has a right to choose to end a pregnancy, but discussing the bigoted ideas that may be the reason for the decision.

Pro-choice activists can instinctively understand for example why abortion on the basis of sex or race would be wrong, while not seeing that assertion as invalidating a person’s right to choose. So why do we have this difficulty with disability?

Because socially we see disability as a bad thing, so much so that we have a tendency to see disabled people as not being fully human. This may seem like an extreme representation of the opinion until you realize that there are still arguments over whether people with certain disabilities have consciousness, are able to experience pain, etc. That treatments considered torture against abled people such as ABA and conversion therapy (not to mention bleach enemas) are not only still allowed for treatment of certain disabilities, but outright fucking encouraged by charities that claim to speak for these disabilities. That the murder of disabled children is often excused and almost never results in jail time.

The idea behind Eugenics is that disability is inherently bad and that the way to solve that is to stop there being disabled people by killing them off and preventing anyone with a disability from passing on their faulty genetic material. That the way to solve the plight of disabled people is to just make it so they don’t exist anymore. It is based on two major but fallacious assumptions: that disability is the cause of misery/living with a disability is miserable and that the solution is to eliminate disability.

When you make the decision to terminate a pregnancy because you don’t think you are able to provide for a child with a disability that’s understandable. In the same way that you might make a choice that any child at this given moment is too much of a burden.

If the decision is based however, on the presumption that abortion is always the right choice when it comes to a fetus with a confirmed condition, that decision reinforces the cultural perception that disabled people aren’t worthy of being kept alive. That disabled people lack inherent value. Those opinions will inform more than just your personal choice of termination. It will inform how you treat other disabled people in your own life.

The decision presumes that all disability starts from birth. Many things can happen along the way to turn a child that was once abled into a child that is disabled. Some things you cannot screen for, accidents during birth happen, and so do accidents after birth. People can develop chronic conditions throughout their lives. A person who feels so unprepared to handle disability that they would abort an otherwise wanted child runs the risk of becoming a parent to a disabled child anyway. Their disabled child is starting out against existing ableism and resentment.

The solution presented by eugenics is intangible because it ignores the realities of what disability really is. It wants to counter the problem of ableism not by eliminating the bigotry but its subject. It would be like suggesting getting rid of misogyny by killing all women. Or eliminating homophobia by killing all gay people. It’s not the people themselves that are the problem, its society’s hateful attitude. It is literally victim blaming.

Aborting disabled fetuses will not solve ableism in the same way that it won’t prevent disability. The only way to prevent suffering is to fight for a fully accessible society. It is to treat disabled people as having inherent value regardless of productivity or ability. It is to provide access to all types of medical care to everyone regardless of income. It is to change how we feel about disabled people.

 

 

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18 comments

  1. Would you force a disability on your parent? On your friend? On your spouse? Why force it on your child?

    Disability is bad by nature. Why be blind? Would you trade places with a blind man? With a wheelchair-bound man? Saying a disability is bad isn’t saying that the people who have it are bad people. It’s a flaw that hurts them, just like mental illness hurts the person/

    Keep in mind that all life is forced upon the non-existent without their consent. All life is a gamble, and once you force life on someone they can never leave it. Not only people don’t have the right to force people to exist against their will, forcing disabled people against their will?

    How sadistic are we, that we will force the disabled to exist?

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    1. How sadistic are you that you would clearly, given the opportunity, force “the disabled” not to exist?

      No one* gets to decide whether someone else’s life is too miserable to continue. No one.

      * Caveat inserted for the medical professionals and family members of someone in a situation such as Terri Schiavo’s where there is no realistic hope of the patient ever recovering enough to communicate the end-of-life desires they did not express earlier. Which is a different ball game from what Ania is talking about above, though it’s the same sport. On that note, I strongly encourage everyone who hasn’t done so already to get over their fears of morbidity long enough to make a living will. Aging with Dignity has the Five Wishes form for that, costing a tiny sum. Though admittedly it may be US-exclusive, I don’t know for sure.

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    2. I was born with a chromosomal disorder that has caused a bunch of disabilities to occur in my body at midlife. I am 52 and between 2007 and 2010 I lost 50% of my hearing and have osteoporosis in both hips and osteoarthritis in my right hip, among many other conditions. If DNA testing had existed when my mom was pregnant, you are saying she should have aborted me ?! I will tell you that I had a great life before my conditions became an issue and a great life, if sometimes challenging, now that they have become a problem. I would not give up my life now or before for not ever having been born at all. I am fully and completely thankful that my mother and father had me.

      I will also say that I have several friends who live with disabilities, including three who have vision disabilities and one who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. None of them would have chosen not to be born. Each of them has a great life and contribute to the world in many ways, and have family and friends who they love and who love them.

      Mattie Stepanek was a young man who was born with a form of Muscular Dystrophy. He was a gifted poet, and a peacemaker. He met and became close friends with Oprah Winfrey, and Jimmy Carter, among others. He lived until he was 13 years old, but I know he was glad that he did live, and he would rather have lived than not ever have been born.

      You need to re-examine your prejudices and your assumptions about people with disabilities and how they live. I will hope that your eyes are opened and your heart grows three sizes at least, not unlike the Grinch’s.

      To be clear,
      Heather

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      1. If you didn’t exist in the first place, you wouldn’t suffer and wouldn’t be bothered because of all the things you missed out on (because you don’t exist).
        There is a difference between life worth starting and life worth continuing.
        Of course, nowhere will I be for the killing of ‘useless/disabled/weak people’ against their will. This is an infringement of these people’s right to live, and is as bad as forcing a person to live, preventing suicide and rape.
        People don’t live for us. I don’t judge whether someone’s life was worth living or not based on their achievements. Hemingway decided otherwise, despite his life looking from the outside.

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    3. You seem to be stuck on the notion of “force”, when by definition having a child is forcing a person to exist. That person could, at any time, become disabled, so maybe we just shouldn’t have children, to prevent disability from ever occurring?

      Or maybe a better idea–shock horror–is to properly accommodate people with disabilities, whether they have them from birth or they are acquired later in life.

      Your idea that disability is “bad” or a “flaw” shows your ass on this subject. You’re already biased against people with disabilities, because you imagine that there is something wrong with us, and we think so too. Maybe I would trade places with a blind or wheelchair-bound person, but only if they would rather have a chronic pain disorder. That doesn’t mean I think I’m bad or flawed. In fact, as a relatively normal-functioning person, most of society already accommodates my disability, and I experience few social issues when out and about. Life hurts, and I deal with it. If my mother told me she’d rather have aborted me so I wasn’t in pain, I’d be flabberghasted.

      It’s not sadism to believe a disabled person has the right to exist, and that our existence shouldn’t be aborted by default. You keep saying we are “suffering”. While some of us experience hardship, and some experience more than others, you don’t get to determine who is suffering. Only a person experiencing a hardship deep enough that they would call it suffering can do that. You don’t have the right to dictate that people with specific birth related disorders will suffer and therefore would be best never living.

      You don’t get to “stand up” for a vulnerable population by stating that they should never exist to be vulnerable in the first place. That’s not defending them; that’s destroying their humanity.

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      1. “You seem to be stuck on the notion of “force”, when by definition having a child is forcing a person to exist” – Yes, this is important. Every birth is unethical unless assisted suicide available. Every birth is force life on a person, and that person has absolutely no option of refusing. Even if it did turned out well to you, it was still unethical at the end. It didn’t make it any less forceful.

        How does the non-existent suffer if we don’t bring them to existence? That’s my main argument – I come from antinatalism. It’s not that I don’t believe people have the right to exist. It’s that people have no option of opting out of existence. Existence is forced upon us, and that’s what makes it so immoral. Forcing a disabled person knowingly is even more immoral. For every disabled person who lives well, there are many others who wish they were never born. Disability is a major reason for suicide, if I remember correctly.

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      2. It is precisely as ethical—or, momentarily accepting your anti-natal position, unethical—to bring into existence a disabled person as an abled person, for the clear and simple reason that the two people are precisely as human.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I take it you’re not a fan of the abortion rate for black fetuses being less than 100%. After all, it’s cruel to bring racialized babies into a racist society.

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  3. “Brain in the jar”
    OMG ! You are actually saying that my life and the lives of my friends with disabilities were not worth starting ?! Seriously ? That is unmitigated gall. Chutzpah and gall don’t go anywhere near enough to capture how horrifying your attitude of privilege is. No one gets to make the decision about whether my life was worth starting but ME !

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  4. I say again, Brain in a Jar:

    I take it you’re not a fan of the abortion rate for black fetuses being less than 100%. After all, it’s cruel to bring racialized babies into a racist society.

    Also, the fact that you’re taking this tack AT ALL tells me you haven’t bothered to dive into the extensive bank of links you’ve been offered.

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