Ableism, False Compassion, and Abortion

The author at the March for Life

[Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Stapleford.]

A common trope of the pseudo-progressive idealization of late term abortion performed on

disabled fetuses is this notion that it is a loving choice, the best choice for the child, who would

assuredly be born into unimaginable suffering otherwise. Writer Miranda Sanchez, in her piece

for the website Narratively, affirms this trope with a sickening vengeance when talking about

the late term 20 week abortion she had performed on her son, because she felt like his life

would not be worth living. Her doctors told her that “Their consensus is that he will probably

live, but he will need spinal surgery every six months until he’s fully grown, and there are likely

other complications unseen” and that “he may never walk or move his limbs outside of the

womb.” On account of this, Miranda and her husband, because they, in her words “value the

quality of life, not the length of it” decide to abort her son. Sanchez and her husband never

sought the advice of people who were born and living with her son’s condition. She never

considered stepping outside of her position of able-bodied privilege and contemplating the fact

that “quality of life” is relative and often based on ableist constructs and able-bodied privilege.

Worse still, Narratively’s largely progressive readers apparently saw nothing wrong with this

mindset, congratulating the writer on her alleged “compassion” for her son and scolding a

commenter who was born with a birth defect and was horrified by Sanchez’s ableism. The

reality is, ableist narratives that privilege the opinions and beliefs of non-disabled parents and

doctors above the disabled person’s own opinions about their quality of life are not

progressive, they are regressive. Just because Sanchez, a relatively able-bodied person, would

not find a life like her son’s to be worth living does not mean that he would share that opinion.

As a woman living with both developmental and physical disabilities, as a woman who was

hospitalized for almost a year in high school, as a sister to a woman in a wheelchair, as a sister

to another woman who is intellectually and physically disabled, as a friend to many other

disabled people, some of whom suffer from chronic excruciating pain, narratives like the ones

promoted with Sanchez fill me with rage. Yes, I am pro-life. Sanchez’s narcissistic little rant

about doing whatever she wants with her body, which does nothing at all to explain why she

should have the right to have her son’s body poisoned and dismembered like she did, is

something that I obviously philosophically disagree with. However, if I were a die-hard pro-choicer, I would still find Sanchez’s ableism disturbing and her narrative oppressive. Judging

from the number of disabled pro-choicers who have written about the underlying attitude of

ableism in the pro-choice movement and how it contributes to the oppression of disabled people, I’m not alone.

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