‘Because Disabled’ Is Not a Pro-Choice Argument

I’m going to say this for the last time, because I am getting seriously tired of saying it: if you ever argue that access to abortion should be protected ‘because the fetus might be disabled,’ you are not making a pro-choice argument. You are making an ableist argument. And you are also playing directly into the hands of the right, if you care about that sort of thing, but more importantly, you are dehumanising actual living human beings, you are alienating people who care very much about reproductive justice, and you are making yourself look ridiculous.

Access to abortion should be protected because access to abortion should be protected. No person, anywhere, at any time, should need to justify, explain, or excuse an abortion. Every time people propose that abortion needs to be protected ‘because [reason],’ they’re feeding into the idea that some abortions aren’t justified, that some regulation of which kinds of abortions are allowed and which are not should be permitted. This is a hard and clear line for me, and it should be for other advocates of reproductive rights: abortion on demand and without apology. Period.

That line sound familiar? That’s because it’s been used as a rallying cry for generations, and there’s a good reason for it. Any time you make rights conditional, you open up the possibility of conditions. Abortion is not and should not be a conditional right. You need an abortion? You got one! You don’t need an abortion? Well, don’t get one! Protecting a firm line on abortion access in no way shape or form needs to dictate how people feel about abortion, which is a private matter — whether people are relieved, sad, or any other emotion is their business. They get to have those feelings because they accessed a medical procedure that was provided to them because the right to access it was protected.

Here’s the thing. When you say that abortion needs to be defended because fetuses might have disabilities, the message you’re sending is that obviously no one would want a disabled child. And that clearly, we need to make sure it’s easy to eliminate disabled fetuses. Which means that you’re telling actual alive disabled people that we are, in your eyes, something to be discarded — we’re so unimportant to both society and your movement that you are going to trample us in your hurry to ‘defend reproductive rights.’

Abortion and disability are extremely fraught and complicated subjects, and I’ve discussed them at length before. As I’ve said here and elsewhere, I will never judge a person who pursues an abortion, for any reason. Period. End of discussion. That includes abortions for disability. I also note that there are tremendous social pressures on expecting parents facing a fetal diagnosis, including the cold reality that raising disabled children can be expensive and that disabled people live in the face of tremendous social obstacles, including ableism, inaccessibility, isolation, and more. Parents who are not ready for a child shouldn’t have that child, regardless of the child’s disability status. Parents who think they aren’t ready to take on a child shouldn’t have a child, regardless of the child’s disability status.

Am I working towards a better world for disabled people, a world where some of these pressures are relieved? Yes. And I would argue that working towards that world should be a goal for all people involved in social justice, including reproductive justice, because reproductive justice is about much, much more than abortion. It’s also about creating a world where children are wanted, supported, loved, and respected. And I’m also working to create a world where parents have better resources and better access to information so they can make informed decisions during pregnancy and throughout childrearing.

But you know what? All that aside, abortion is still something that should be provided to anyone who wants it, period, without requiring an explanation or a good abortion(tm) certification from outsiders. The minute we start breaking down abortions into good and bad, justified and not, we make it easier for people to pull apart reproductive rights.

We make it easier for the right to call us a bunch of babykillers; can I tell you how often disabled children are used as pawns by the right in their fight to outlaw abortion? Do you even care? Are you aware of how much the right loves rhetoric about how abortion needs to be kept legal just in case of a fetal diagnosis of disability? Do you know that the right turns right around and spins that as ‘those lefties want abortion to be legal so they can kill innocent babies with Down Syndrome’? Do you want to feed into that?

Do you, for that matter, want to feed into attempts to create restrictive laws ‘in the name of the babies’? Because when you single out specific kinds of abortions for special attention, you cause the right to prick up its ears, wondering if it can target them. Want to bet on whether the right is scheming on laws to ‘protect’ fetuses with diagnoses of impairments, including those incompatible with life? Want to bet on how the right is planning to manipulate the good/bad abortion divide to create a pathway to restricting abortion access?

You don’t need to justify abortions. Ever. Period. It undermines your own argument, and it’s a slap in the face to your own community and the people who are fighting so hard to protect abortion access for all, for whatever reason. Don’t tell me abortion needs to be protected so people like me can be aborted. Tell me abortion needs to be protected because people can do whatever they damn well please with their bodies.

Did you like this post? Please consider supporting me on Patreon to help me keep this ain’t livin’ alive and well.