If we in the pro-choice movement don’t start paying serious attention to the ways in which our own practices contribute to the dehumanization of people with disabilities, we can’t keep claiming to operate under a reproductive justice framework at all.
… I have a problem with the idea that certain fetuses are more available for abortion because of their apparently disabled futures. When people who aren’t usually pro-choice (like most Texas legislators) start making exceptions for fetuses with “abnormalities” in the same way that feminists do, I get nervous. I have to conclude that the rhetorical choice to justify abortion this way sacrifices the humanity of all people with disabilities on the altar of feminism.
… At the same time, as a young, queer, poor mother of color who has experienced disabilities and sometimes still does, I understand the fear of giving birth to a baby with disabilities. It is incredibly difficult to raise children with disabilities in a neoliberal, capitalist society that creates obstructions to accessibility for them and those who support them. I can never condemn anyone who has been in the position of having to make that decision.
So I’m not interested in criticizing individual choices. Rather, I’m calling attention to the (supposedly) feminist discourse that reproduces stereotypes about people with disabilities, in turn reinforcing the barriers to rights they already confront. My focus is on those who shape the debate: media outlets, organizations, corporations, and people who are trying to change the culture around abortion. Because if we’re truly interested in crafting a just movement, we have to stop emphasizing narratives that implicitly encourage the abortions of fetuses with disabilities.
All I ask is that feminists acknowledge the systemic pressures felt by pregnant people whose fetuses have been diagnosed with a disability. I want to open up space for individuals to come forward and talk about their abortions without censorship. But if we don’t encourage a variety of narratives, we are contributing to the idea that certain abortions are justified and others aren’t. Until feminists begin to openly recognize and work against this argument, people with disabilities and those who care about them will continue to be alienated by pro-choice rhetoric. If feminists are going to claim to use a reproductive justice lens, we had better stop marginalizing the very people whose lives we’re claiming to save.