Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sarah Palin: No Friend to Children or Adults with Disabilities.

h/t to Jennifer Baker (via facebook).


jch said...

thanks for this. so very true.

Carolyn said...

Thanks for the link. I have mixed feelings about the author's substantive argument, though, because I think it ignores the larger issue of how unlimited access to abortion is arguably far worse for the cause of persons with disabilities than these cuts in Medicaid spending. I agree that cutting funding for programs that support persons with disabilities is extremely problematic. But I think that there is an equal if not greater evil threatening those with such disabilities coming from the Democrats: if you learn that your child has disabilities, you should have the unlimited right to terminate the pregnancy. Most statistics I have read indicate that 90% of women who learn they are carrying child with Down syndrome choose to abort. Naturally then, as a result of legalized abortion, we now have a lot fewer individuals in our society with Down syndrome (or other disabilities that can be diagnosed in utero). I fail to understand how this is not equally problematic, not just from a moral standpoint of the decision to abort, but by the fact that the presence of fewer children with disabilities in our society will naturally result in fewer programs and less public understanding and support of persons with these disabilities.

This touches another means through which abortion ultimately harms women (again, aside from the morality of the choice to abort), because when women are granted full access to abortion, and they choose life, they are then faced with society's attitude that because this child was their choice, they shouldn't receive assistance or special treatment. Martha Beck's book "Expecting Adam" explores this a bit, describing the lack of support she received from her professors when they learned that she wouldn't be aborting her child after receiving the Down syndrome diagnosis while in the midst of completing her dissertation.

I struggle to see how the natural decrease of persons with disabilities through abortions will ever result in better funding or more programs for those with disabilities. These persons will only become more under-represented in our society than they already are. Like I said above, I don't agree with the decision to cut funding--I think that is wrong. But I also don't think that the side pointing the finger can ignore how unfettered and unlimited access to abortion harms potential programs and funds for those with disabilities just as much, if not more so than cuts in Medicaid spending, through the gradual elimination of these individuals from our society.

JTB said...

Hi Carolyn,

I think the issues you raise are interesting and quite substantive...though I'm not sure that criminalization of abortion would necessarily be the answer.

One contributing factor as I see it, for example, is the 'medicalization' of birth--which includes the administering of tests, like that which tests for Down's, which often result in false positives and are not necessary or even indicated much of the time (I for instance had to consciously opt out of the 'quad test,' even though I had a very healthy pregnancy and was under 30). Sometimes TMI is not just embarrassing, but positively harmful. Here the problem is not just access to abortion, but the entire context of medical birthing which leads women to make their choices on bad information and from a truncated array of options.

Your main point I find persuasive, and can't help but note that the same objection is voiced in opposition to gung-ho transhumanists (who will promptly brand you a bio-Luddite). That is, as we create more opportunity for deliberate choice in procreation through advances in biotechnology, that not only people with disabilities become more discriminated against as a result (for the reasons you outlined) but also eventually non-enhanced persons, for the same reasons. Transhumanists generally seem to either not care (the libertarian types, anyway) or not give much credence to the possibility of such discrimination.

I'm interested in the phrase "unlimited access to abortion"--it seems to imply that you might defend some sort of "limited access"? Am I reading you right?

Carolyn said...

Those are interesting issues. The idea of discrimination against non-enhanced persons makes me think of the movie Gattaca. I'll need to do a little research to figure out if "bio-Luddite" would be an appropriate label for me, since I'm unfamiliar with the term, though my quick perusal of wikipedia indicates that it's not usually a complimentary description of someone. ;-) Where do you fall on that spectrum?

I do agree with your point about the complicated issues arising from the medicalization of birth. I read an article recently that mentioned a bi-partisan-sponsored bill (that ultimately failed) that would have required medical professionals to inform parents that genetic tests are sometimes inaccurate, and to give them information regarding the quality of life of individuals with Down syndrome. (Text of link here: It seems to me like such a bill represents a good compromise, without restricting the access to information (something I would feel uncomfortable advocating). As you noted, it's often bad (or incomplete) information that is creating a lot of these problems, and when people are making life-and-death decisions, we should be very concerned that the information given to them is accurate and complete.

I think that abortion should not be illegal if it is necessary to save the life of the mother. So in my view, any legislation that attempts to ban abortions, even late-term abortions, should always have an exception for this purpose, and women and their doctors should not have to fear being questioned or prosecuted for utilizing an abortion technique in this instance. My main point in my comment above was not to advocate my position on abortion, but more to highlight the inconsistency present in the main article's argument, in that it disregards the impact that abortion has on the presence and plight of disabled persons in our society. But since we're on the subject, I also cannot square the Democratic party's position that they are the party that will help the oppressed, represent the weak, and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, while they simultaneously vigorously advocate for unlimited abortion rights. An article expressing this frustration is found here (text of link:

Sorry for the long links--I haven't figured out how to properly post a link with html in a blog comment!

Carolyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JTB said...

mmm...I wouldn't say that I'm real tempted by the transhumanist movement, so that probably makes me a bio-Luddite despite my technophilia and general love of things posthuman. It's a sort of you're with us or against sort of thing with the H+ crowd, I think.

I've been considering maybe posting on the topic of abortion again soon, since it looks like it's shaping up into an important voting issue, again. Not sure what I might say other than I think there is a huge middle, common ground that the discourse has successfully obscured. But I might chicken out; plus, I'm about to be very busy over the next week...

Thanks for the comments and the links, I will be checking them out.