Monday, February 8, 2016

Zika virus raises issues of both abortion rights and disability rights

Women in 2015 protest a bill in North Carolina to increase restrictions for women seeking abortions.

Chloe Angyal writes in the Huffington Post about how the Zika virus may put abortion rights and disability rights on a collision course (although the causal connection between Zika and birth defects has not been established). Below is an excerpt from the article:

"While abortion rights advocates might well point to Zika-linked microcephaly as evidence that the U.S. needs to liberalize abortion laws, disability rights advocates might argue otherwise. On the issue of abortion, the feminist and disability rights movement often come into uncomfortable conflict as they struggle to accommodate both the rights of a woman to control her own fertility and the rights of people with disabilities to exist.

"Now, with the threat of Zika-linked fetal abnormalities looming, that fault line could well crack open, and at least one thought leader in disability rights is concerned by the hastiness with which calls for loosened abortion restrictions are being made.

"There are clear parallels between the experiences of women and those of people with disabilities (not to mention overlaps between the two groups), noted Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, a professor of English at Emory University and a pioneer of the discipline of disability studies. Through much of history, she said, able-bodied women were not allowed to control their own reproduction.

“'There’s a long, deep and troubling history of women’s reproduction being taken over by men and by a variety of other cultural institutions,' she told HuffPost. Likewise, people with disabilities have long been subject to reproductive coercion, from the abandonment of newborns with disabilities to mandatory sterilization of women with disabilities. They have, said Garland-Thomson, 'been eugenically eliminated from the world through selective abortion and other biomedical practices.' 

"Both groups have similar histories of subjugation, particularly around medical decision-making. And on the issue of access to abortion, particularly in the age of prenatal fetal testing, those histories collide."

Read the whole article in the Huffington Post.

Why we stare at those with disabilities


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