Much of the conversation about abortion, and especially about late term abortion, is really a coded defense of ableism.
When you get a poor prenatal diagnosis (and I have), doctors typically talk to you about the immense suffering your child will experience if she survives. They paint the worst possible scenario. For my child, it was under-developed lungs, twisted limbs, cerebral palsy, and nebulous “developmental disabilities.” Some of these prognostications were accurate, and others were not, but they were presented to me with utter certainty and complete hopelessness.
I was lucky that my doctors didn’t harp on these risks and moved on quickly when I told them I understood, but that’s not always the case. I have seen countless women whose doctors induced labor following a worrisome prenatal event without so much as presenting alternative options. Some doctors may present the option to continue a pregnancy, but then guilt and prod and shame parents for having the audacity not to “prevent suffering.” As though such a thing were even possible.
By determining that some lives are unworthy of living, we tell people who are surviving with such conditions that they are better off dead.
We tell them that we consider them burdensome and ourselves merciful to help them end their “misery.” It becomes more difficult to find disability services and a harder battle to access the accommodations that allow the disabled to live more independent lives.
Cruelty Disguised as Compassion
It isn’t compassion. It’s cruelty. We are telling people that their lives have no value. My friend Beth Fox gave an amazing speech at a Rehumanize International conference (her talk begins in the twenty-second minute), but one line really stood out to me. She said: “They ask, ‘Who would like to live like that?’ Me! I would!”
By saying that some lives are unworthy of living, we tell people who are surviving with the disabilities that they are better off dead. We tell them that we consider them burdensome and ourselves merciful to help them end their “misery.”
Her disabilities were discovered before she was born, and her mother’s doctors thought she wouldn’t survive till birth. And if she did, her life was be miserable. They urged her mother to abort her. “As far as quality of life, they couldn’t have been more wrong,” Beth said. “My life is very much worth living. And I am grateful every day that my mom had the strength and the courage to tell those doctors that abortion wasn’t her option, that she wanted to fight for me and to give me the chance to fight.”
Her life has still been a fight. “But I don’t believe myself severely disabled. I believe I have challenges, but I believe we all have challenges.” A friend can’t do math, but she loves it. “I have trouble climbing stairs. You can climb stairs, you can’t do math. I can do math, I can’t climb stairs. They’re kind of the same to me.”
The Abortion Lie
Instead of listening to the people within the disability community who loudly affirm that they find their lives full of love and goodness and hope, abortion pushes the lie that some people are better off dead. It considers it progress to “prevent” disability by killing the disabled before they are born. There seems to be little thought as to how doing so darkens our world.
When disability activists point out the insidious way that abortion harms them, they are often belittled and infantilized. People living with the very conditions held up as reasons for “necessary” abortions are not considered experts on their conditions. Lived experience means nothing to a society that would rather the disabled disappear than speak loudly about their lives.
The very existence of the disabled and neurodiverse is a call upon all of us to form a more inclusive world. Instead of acknowledging that challenge and working to improve the world for all of its inhabitants, the abortion lobby instead seeks to silence disabled voices by keeping them from being born.
Society must stop dictating what constitutes a worthy life and recognize the dignity of every human being. Disability does not strip us of our humanity.
Lauren Pope is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of six. When she’s not writing or teaching small children how to write, she enjoys talking to everyone who will listen about the necessity of the Consistent Life Ethic.