A disabled woman with an unwanted pregnancy wants a choice, too

Some believe that all disabled people would disagree with abortion, but that's simply not the case.

Share
Related Topics

 

Pro-life campaigners are seeking a repeal of what they call “the discriminatory section” of the 1967 Abortion Act. That’s the bit that allows termination on the grounds of physical disability. Post-Paralympics, their argument goes, we now have to rethink what we mean by “disabled” and “able”.

I am disabled. I believe in equal rights for disabled people. And I am pro-choice on abortion, including abortion on the grounds of disability. These beliefs are not contradictory. I am pro-choice because I accept there are times when a woman may not want or be able to continue with her pregnancy. It is a choice which, luckily, I have not had to consider myself. But I’m glad it’s available to me.

What is unnerving is how pro-lifers use the fear of “eugenics” and the success of the Paralympics to try to engineer a change in the law on abortion. In a letter to a newspaper this week, the ProLife Alliance used the word “eugenics” twice. This is, of course, a way of associating the prevention of disability with Nazism. It is an easy and lazy argument for pro-lifers to make. Want an abortion because the baby would be severely disabled and you couldn’t cope? You’re a Nazi. Want to use prenatal or antenatal testing to avoid passing on inherited conditions? You’re a Nazi. Admit that you can’t bear living as a severely disabled person and want a doctor to help you die surrounded by your loved ones? You’re a Nazi. And a self-hating crip. Disability is more complex than this and we should beware arguments that use such loaded terminology.

We should also keep in mind that some of those pregnant women considering abortion may be disabled themselves. They already know the joys and challenges that being disabled can bring. And they certainly don’t need to be made to feel that they’ve let the side down by contemplating an abortion.

A pregnant women told her unborn child will have a disability should be given appropriate information and counselling so she can make an informed choice. Those who choose to end their pregnancy, and the medical professionals who support them, should not be condemned as Nazis or damned for depriving us of future Paralympic heroes.

Art imitates life, up to a point

The Archers has a storyline in which a couple have been told that their unborn child will have Down’s Syndrome. I’m not going to get too excited. I remember when EastEnders’ Billy Mitchell and his wife Honey had a little girl, Janet, with Down’s Syndrome. I thought how great it would be to see the issue of bringing up a disabled child covered by a “soap”. But, alas, Honey left Walford with Janet and now we only get fleeting glimpses.

Perhaps the producers think the setbacks that typically befall the young of Albert Square – alcoholism, prostitution, teen pregnancy, discovering your sister is actually your mum, sleeping with your boyfriend’s dad, impregnating Heather Trott, murdering Heather Trott – are not suitable for a young girl with Down’s Syndrome.

But I have a little fantasy that, in 15 years’ time, Janet Mitchell will blaze into the Square in a BMW with Jack Branning’s paralysed daughter Penny (who is mentioned in hushed tones about once a year), wind in their hair, fags in their hands, intent on creating havoc.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Developer / Mobile Apps / Java / C# / HTML 5 / JS

£17000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Junior Mobile Application Devel...

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress – arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?