Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mid-week re-blog because it is important- Pro Choice Should NOT Mean Ableist

The very talented Elsa from Feminist Sonar went on a bit of a rant on people using disability as reasoning for being pro-choice and what ableist bullshit that is.

From the article:

"For the last two weeks I’ve been following all of the debates in MULTIPLE states as the country begins to restrict the right of a woman to make choices about her own body.

My voice has not been heard.

Representative Thompson said that children of incest are “retarded” and that they are “deformed”.

Hey, pro-choice brethren? THE ABLEIST RHETORIC HAS TO STOP.

The rhetoric that abortion is for getting rid of disabled lives, has to STOP.

The use of the words “retarded” “deformed” “broken” have to stop.


It's a short and very worthwhile read, and you can find the rest of it at feminist sonar which is an awesome blog and I highly recommend. She (and the guest writers) are talented and smart and seriously go blog binge. I know that is a thing you guys do.

I am also not posting this to open up a discussion about pro-choice vs pro-life, simply pointing out a problematic and appropriative aspect that is getting used in the rhetoric and not being called out enough. A disability is not a death sentence, and disabled people are still just that- people. I would request that commenters stick to discussion of ableism and appropriation please.


  1. It *is* an *extremely* creepy argument, when you consider it dispassionately:

    point: Abortion is bad, mmkay?
    counter: what if we just used it on deformed people? Nobody wants those guys.
    point: oh, totally ok, then. Go Team Eugenics!

    The counterpoint assumes that the original speaker is only objecting to abortion because it kills desirable members of society (which may or may not be true; assuming the speaker has an 'all life is sacred' objection, the counterpoint should not be convincing). I can see how it's tempting to make the argument, because just saying "having a baby is life-changing, and not everybody wants one" isn't very convincing (because the solution to that gets you all involved in the birth control vs abstinence debate). But yes, it's problematic. It probably started with the "but what about in cases of rape or incest or incest rape" question, which tries to avoid slut-shaming for conceiving in the first place. And then someone asked "well, but what about the baby" and the response is... um.... nobody wants... that baby.... um... and then they had to come up with a reason that baby is objectively less desirable, rather than addressing the horror of having to carry your father's child inside your body, which, if you're a guy, apparently isn't creepy?

  2. I am not sure what you are trying to say here. I think you're trying to explain why pro-choice people would go for the argument in the first place, but it's unclear and edges into pro life/choice territory.

  3. (Is a comment on pro life/choice discussion meta enough that it doesn't count as starting the discussion itself?)
    In the more shameful, nutbaggy portions of the US Bible Belt, rape is usually not enough of an "excuse" for an abortion, because in their minds, rape happens because a woman did something wrong. Plus, babies are like magic pixie dust for women and make all their problems go away in a haze of maternal bliss or some shit. Incest, however, is embedded deeply enough as a cultural taboo that it's enough to make an impression in the thought-processes of even entrenched misogynistic assholes. But when you break it down, the reason that they think it's icky is because it's supposed to make deformed icky-babies. The difference between husband and father is creepily small in this world where women are supposed to be childlike and super-submissive. I don't think the horror of being violated even pings on their radar, and even if it did, they think the pixie dust of maternal instincts magically makes everything okay.
    It's awful. It's awful that there doesn't seem to be any other way to make an impression on these types of people, and I'm hesitant to give up what seems to be the discussion-wrench with the most grip. I need a better wrench, but I don't know where to find it.

  4. The thing about going for the 'incest and deformations!' argument is that it still doesn't work, because the best you can hope for is that they say "Okay, I guess in some situations that I personally validate it might be okay, so we'll make that a rule" and then they just go back to shutting down every other possible avenue, so it doesn't help most people who need it and it definitely doesn't win anyone over to valuing choice.

    In general 'I don't want to stop dehumanising this marginalised group because I think it helps me make an impact on this other bigoted group' is a bad statement to make. In specific, 'I don't want to stop being ablist because I think it's the best way to win over misogynists' is a bad argument. Let's not ever do that.

  5. I think, after real sleep and more coffee, I was trying to figure out why the argument is being made the way it is, and whether we can think of an argument to replace it with that is equally or more effective, rather than simply saying "you can't make that argument." I'm pretty sure we do need to address the source of pro-life sentiment in order to craft an effective argument for pro-choicers to use. I'm also pretty sure that the original ableist argument does NOT address those sentiments appropriately, so not only is it prejudiced, it's ineffective. Let's do better.

    I hope that was more coherent.

  6. TL;DR - ok, it's an ableist argument. Can we do better?

  7. It is, thanks for clarifying! Personally, I think there are many better arguments for pro-choice than "but ableism!" already. To avoid turning the comment section here into a choice/life debate and derail from the ableism topic I won't start listing them, but if you want to have the conversation on twitter (@Snappy Erika) or by e-mail (somethingshortandsnappyblog@gmail.com) I'd be more than happy to chat.

  8. Using ableism as a point in pro-choice arguments makes an anti-choice argument in itself. If abortion is okay when "undesirables" are being aborted, doesn't it follow that people who choose to carry disabled foeti to term and to raise them are choosing "wrong"? It really just has to be up to the person carrying the foetus. Other people might be well-meaning, but constantly bringing up rape, incest, or disabilities in the foetus only invalidates the choice of people (I say people rather than women here, since some trans men can get pregnant) who don't want abortion in those instances. And it also invalidates those who choose abortion when there is no rape, incest, or disability of the foetus that caused them to choose it.