Mike is an 18 year
female to male transman. He is currently studying psychology at The
Evergreen State College between making quilts. He someday aspires
to be a social worker, and in the mean time, he wants to fix the
fact that not everyone is born with an inherent right to be
Quick AN: I use gender neutral language throughout this post because there are people with uteruses who don’t identify as female.
I was talking with a friend of mine today about disability and abortion. As a disabled autistic person, I am obviously not in favor of having an abortion because you are worried about the quality of life for your unborn child. But that puts me in a rather sticky situation, because I am pro-choice. The more I started to think about it, the more it bothered me. It wouldn’t bother me if a person wanted to have an abortion because ze couldn’t afford to take care of hir disabled baby because of the failing health system. It wouldn’t bother me if someone decided that ze personally couldn’t handle taking care of a disabled baby and had an abortion. So what is it exactly that I find so appalling about someone having an abortion because they are worried about the quality of life for their child?
I am somewhat ashamed to say that I have not been pro-choice my entire life, and even after I reluctantly decided that abortion shouldn’t be illegal, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why people would WANT abortions. Then I heard the argument that we wouldn’t force someone to chain themselves to a son or daughter in order to keep them alive for months. We don’t force people to donate organs, wouldn’t conscript people to keep others alive, and gestating a baby is, if nothing else, the temporary donation of the uterus. Whether or not that fetus has a potential for life, the parent should get a say in whether or not ze is used as an incubator.
To me, the essence of pro-choice is focusing on the parent rather than the fetus. It is saying that the rights of this person who can articulate through whatever means ze has what ze wants, what ze needs, and hir capabilities, are more than the rights of a fetus living in hir body. This isn’t the reason that most people give when they are arguing for abortion based on disability, and I find the reasons they do give chilling. The main argument is quality of life, of not wanting to bring a person into the world if their life would be defined by pain and loss and a body that doesn’t work. But I am someone whose life is defined by pain and loss and a body that doesn’t work and I would still say that life is pretty great most of the time. I am going to be graduating college this June, I’ve written a lot of rather amazing stuff that I’m really, really proud of, I’m training my own service dog, and I have a whole bunch of people who help me to do what I do. I’m living an amazing life, and even if I need help to live it, it’s still amazing.
I find this rhetoric so chilling, this idea that people who are not disabled, who have never experienced disability, can determine what makes for a quality life. Because I find people all the time who try to determine my quality of life, try to talk over me, try to make my choices for me. My life is determined to have so little value by the people around me because I have a power scooter to get around, because I need help cooking for myself sometimes, because I can’t always go out and do things. I get pity, I get offers for help from total strangers, and I get asked asinine questions, all because I am disabled. It’s not a fun idea to think about the fact that this treatment of disabled starts before they are even born. Just like those people who deserve to choose whether or not they have a baby, I get to choose my quality of life. I get to choose that my life is worth living and I get to live it, because it is wonderful, fantastic, full of amazing people, and most of all, MINE.
So if you want or need an abortion because you don’t want to take care of a disabled baby, if you don’t want to have a baby in your uterus until it is born, if you can’t afford to have a disabled baby and are worried that you don’t have the resources to help keep them healthy. But DON’T put a value on disabled life. Life is equally valuable and precious as a disabled person, even if it looks a little different.