For Me, Pregnancy Is a Literal Death Sentence.
- by Bri -
Disabled peeps and abortion rights have a complicated history. Allow me to give you a brief synopsis. When fetal genetic testing became possible, many people felt that this would be the end of disabled people or people with genetic abnormalities. By allowing couples to choose if they want to have a child with the risk of that child being disabled or choosing to have an abortion, the argument became one that borders on eugenics. I get squicky when we start walking that line. However, these genetic screenings are incredibly problematic; they are not as accurate as we assume and are cost-prohibitive for those populations most at-risk for disabilities. (For more information on fetal screening issues read these articles: A New Era of Designer Babies May be Based on Overhyped Science, Genetic Testing Fumbles, Revealing ‘Dark Side’ of Precision Medicine, and As a genetic epidemiologist who has helped develop polygenic risk scores (PRS) for common, multifactoral diseases, I have... thoughts [Twitter Thread].) That being said, many conservative forces claimed that by banning abortion, they would be saving disabled babies and preventing eugenics against disabled peeps. Sounds good, right?
Wrong. These same people are the ones who regularly cut funding and programs that help people with caring for disabled children and disabled people themselves. As Kraft (2021) states in his Twitter thread, “The message it sends is… not good. As noted in a recent review on polygenic embryonic screening: ‘an important legacy of eugenics should be awareness that arguments from beneficence can serve as cover for less laudable intentions’.” And those less laudable intentions are to take away life-saving healthcare from vulnerable people. Genetic screenings to prevent people from aborting a fetus that would potentially have a disability is not only misguided, but based on pseudo-science. In addition, only the very wealthy can afford these tests – a population that is not MOST AT RISK for the diseases they are testing for. And as Hercher (2021) states: “By contrast, Orchid’s risk assessment includes common diseases, ensuring that a high percentage of prospective parents who do this version of preconception testing will find something to worry about. Those who choose to act on their concerns will soon have the option of paying for IVF plus Orchid’s embryo-testing package. According to its promotional materials, the company will provide a scorecard intended to identify, among various embryos, the future children least likely to develop heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, type 1 or 2 diabetes, and five other conditions that make up Orchid’s current common disease risk portfolio.” The tests are designed to find a worrying condition. The parents can then pay MORE money (on top of IFV and the original test) to access more testing materials. It’s a money-making scheme based on pseudo-science elaborations on gene science. Again this is stepping into eugenics territory and it makes me twitchy. There is nothing ethical about eugenics. But banning abortion is not the answer.
It's more complicated than that. The elimination of abortions WILL NOT RESULT IN A DECREASE OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE DISABILITIES OR GENETIC ILLNESS. In fact, it will most likely increase the population of disabled people (and population deaths) because many women will still try to get abortions illegally and dangerously. A large portion of us disabled peeps became disabled later in life. Where are the anti-abortionists crying out for our support? Sending us money because they care about disabled people so much? They aren't non-existent. In fact,
"Anti-choice advocates tend to idealize disability while opposing the entitlement programs and government funding of social services, such as state developmental disability programs, funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the access mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act that would make raising a child with a disability more possible." (Giric, 2016).
So not only are conservatives denying abortions to those who need them, under the guise of
"protecting disabled people", they're cutting all programs and services that would help children with disabilities and disabled adults. As an article from ALCU states, "It does not make it easier for people with disabilities to have — and keep — their children. And it does not protect people with disabilities from violence and abuse, such as coerced sexual and reproductive health decisions, sterilization abuse, and police violence." Pro-life, indeed. Pro-fetus, is more apt.
So conservatives use the cover of "saving babies with disabilities" by banning abortions as a screen to cover-up the violence banning abortions does to women/POC/Poor/Disabled people. Even if abortions are banned, study after study after study shows that pregnant people will STILL SEEK OUT ABORTIONS. It just makes the process more deadly, dangerous and harming for them. It also forces poor people, People of Color, and disabled people to be forced through pregnancy. The ACLU decisively states:
"Forcing someone to carry a pregnancy to term against their will does nothing to tackle underlying and systemic ableism and discrimination against people with disabilities. On the contrary, forced pregnancy threatens a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as the stability and wellbeing of their family, including existing children."
Now, allow me to make some hypothetical pontifications. Abortion is banned. It doesn't affect the wealthy, white men making the decision because they can afford to get secret abortions for their mistresses and wives. But it does force women, People of Color, disabled peeps and poor people to choose to seek out a now potentially deadly and illegal means of abortion or go through with the pregnancy. Many will be forced to continue the pregnancy because they can't finically afford an illegal abortion, or can't risk dying from the now-illegal procedure. So we have a boom of births that will eventually re-fill the population decrease the country is currently experiencing in the working and lower classes. Which means the wealthy, white men will have plenty of lower-class people to enslave in low-paying jobs to keep them (the wealthy, white men) in power and in riches. Oh. And many of these rich assholes are conservatives crying out to "save the babies". The Venn Diagram of people who support banning abortion and who benefit from the future labor of these babies born because of the ban is a circle. As an added benefit, this also gives the assholes reproductive power over women. Again, this is all just....theoretical....
So, "why the dramatic header?" you may be asking. Unfortunately, it's true. Pregnancy, for me, will result in both my and the fetus's death. After consulting with numerous doctors, and a few national specialists on my conditions, they've come to the conclusion that my body can't handle a pregnancy. As one specialist put it, "If you become pregnant, you have to notify me IMMEDIATLY so we can put together a team of doctors to try to keep you alive." So basically my body, while capable of being pregnant, would either 1) try to kill the fetus because it would register as a foreign entity to my immune system, or 2) just die early on in the pregnancy because it can't support another entity. (Please DO NOT send me the "I'm so sorry you can't have kids" or "there's always adoption". I appreciate the well-wishes but I'm barely able to keep my own body from falling apart and spontaneously dying. There is NO WAY I want to bring a kid into the scenario.) I'm on three types of birth control because I don't even produce enough hormones (or the right kind) to allow my body to function normally. BUT my body is still capable of GETTING pregnant. Am I supposed to deny myself sex, because birth control is never 100% effective? Poor Mr. Ghost Chicken (my partner). Even if I somehow got pregnant, I would absolutely die without access to an abortion. This legislation is taking the choice to live out of my hands. THE LAW BANNING ABORTIONS WOULD BE SENTENCING ME TO DEATH. This is not an exaggeration. This is not me being overly dramatic. This is a MEDICAL FACT because of my disabilities, confirmed by some of the best doctors in the country. How many other people will be sentenced to death because of this? I shudder to think of those who will be forced to seek out secret, deadly procedures just for the chance to live.
Ultimately, banning abortion is VIOLENCE against women, disabled peeps, People of Color, and those in poverty. In other words, Congress (and old, white, rich men) have declared war on women, disabled peeps, People of Color, and people in poverty.
They are voting to KILL US.
If you need access to abortion-related medical care, and are in a state that bans abortions, checkout these sites:
Begley, Sharon. (2016, Oct 31). Genetic testing fumbles, revealing ‘dark side’ of precision medicine. Stat. https://www.statnews.com/2016/10/31/genetic-testing-precision-medicine/
Comfort, Nathaniel. (2016, Dec 12). Why the hype around medical genetics is a public enemy. Sam Haselby (ed.), Aeon Media Group Ltd.https://aeon.co/ideas/why-the-hype-around-medical-genetics-is-a-public-enemy
Daneshjou, Roxana [@RoxanaDaneshjou]. (2020, Sep 12). I would like to lay out why this work is scientifically unsound and problematic [Twitter Thread]. Twitter.com. https://twitter.com/RoxanaDaneshjou/status/1305007016193093633
Stefanija Giric. (Dec 2016). Strange bedfellows: anti-abortion and disability rights advocacy. Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Volume 3, Pages 736–742, https://doi.org/10.1093/jlb/lsw056
Hercher, Laura. (2021, Jul 12). A new era of designer babies may be based on overhyped science. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-new-era-of-designer-babies-may-be-based-on-overhyped-science/
Kaposy, Chris. (2018). More people should choose to have children with Down syndrome. Aeon Media Group Ltd. https://aeon.co/ideas/more-people-should-choose-to-have-children-with-down-syndrome
Kolbi-Molinas, Alexa and Susan Mizner. (Jan 14, 2020). The offensive hypocrisy of banning abortion for a down syndrome diagnosis. ALCU.Org. https://www.aclu.org/news/disability-rights/the-offensive-hypocrisy-of-banning-abortion-for-a-down-syndrome-diagnosis
Kraft, Pete [@GENES_PK]. (2021, Apr 9). As a genetic epidemiologist who has helped develop polygenic risk scores (PRS) for common, multifactoral diseases, I have... thoughts [Twitter Thread]. Twitter.com. https://twitter.com/GENES_PK/status/1380553618777063427
s.e. smith. (May 29, 2019). Disabled people are tired of being a talking point in the abortion debate. Vox. https://www.vox.com/first-person/2019/5/29/18644320/abortion-ban-2019-selective-abortion-ban-disability