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.