Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Abortion, Disability Rights, John McCain, and the Supreme Court

Since John McCain's recent pick of a running mate, Sarah Palin, who holds very strong pro-life views and has an infant son with Down Syndrome, I've seen a few people in the autistic community arguing that the Republican ticket would be the best choice for us. A prenatal test for autism could be only a few years away, this argument goes, and the only way to save our people from eugenic extermination is to vote Republican so that McCain can appoint more conservatives to the Supreme Court and put the abortionists out of business before they start killing off autistic babies.

Although this argument packs a strong emotional punch, it doesn't reflect what would actually happen under a Republican administration with a conservative Supreme Court. First of all, even if the court were to decide that there was no constitutional right to abortion, that in itself would not outlaw abortion. It would simply allow the states to legislate on abortion as they saw fit. In liberal states such as California and New York, abortion would remain legal. In the most conservative states, abortion would be promptly banned; but these states have very few abortion clinics anyway, so the only difference would be that their residents, most of whom already have to go out of town to get an abortion, would have to drive a few more hours to get to a clinic in another state or in Canada. The overall number of abortions in the United States would not be significantly reduced.

What's more, even the strictest anti-abortion laws would not ban prenatal tests, most of which have legitimate medical purposes. A prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, for instance, can result in better medical care for the fetus because the doctor can consult with specialists during the pregnancy. If a specialist determines that the baby will need heart surgery immediately after birth, which sometimes happens, there will be a surgical team standing by. Although autistic infants do not have similar medical issues, parent groups reasonably could argue that a prenatal autism diagnosis would help families to get on waiting lists for early childhood enrichment and therapy programs. I think it's highly unlikely that any state legislators would risk their wrath by proposing to outlaw prenatal testing for autism.

That leaves us with the question: If we can't put a stop to selective abortion by legislating it out of existence, how can we protect the next generation of autistic children from being routinely aborted? To find the answer, I believe we need to look at parents' reasons for choosing abortion when they are told their child will have a disability. Most parents who opt to abort are not selfish monsters who just don't want to be bothered with the child; rather, they agonize over the decision and then conclude that abortion is for the best because the child likely would never have an independent and fulfilling life.

And they're not just relying on outdated prejudices and stereotypes in thinking so. It is a fact that people with disabilities face many barriers to independent living in today's society—lack of community services and housing options, in particular, and widespread employment discrimination. These are issues that can be addressed effectively through the political process. When we remove the barriers and build a society in which all people are empowered to live as equal participants in the community, regardless of disability, the rationale for selective abortion disappears.

Therefore, when choosing the presidential candidate whose policies are most likely to bring about an America in which autistic children and others with disabilities are not routinely aborted, we need to consider the candidates' views on disability rights issues and vote for the one who will act to remove barriers to independent living.

That candidate definitely is not John McCain. As I mentioned in a recent post, McCain opposes the Community Choice Act, which would provide funding for community services and housing for Medicaid recipients who would otherwise be forced to live in nursing homes or other institutional facilities. On the employment discrimination issue, let's talk about the Supreme Court again for a moment. The House of Representatives recently passed, and the Senate is now considering, amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act. These amendments became necessary to restore the act's original protections after they were significantly eroded by a series of Supreme Court decisions—authored by those conservative justices Senator McCain so often praises.

When Senator Tom Harkin, a longtime supporter of disability rights, challenged McCain on this point at a community forum in July, McCain asserted that the decisions had nothing to do with the conservatism of their authors, but that Congress was to blame for not being specific enough in drafting the ADA. Uh-huh. Apparently, McCain would have us believe that his pals on the Supreme Court just didn't notice that the ADA was supposed to be an anti-discrimination law. Well, I'm not buying it—and I'm not voting to give McCain a chance to appoint even more conservatives to the Supreme Court so that they can take another whack at our disability rights laws, either.

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  • Agreed! Excellent post ABFH! Thank you

    These are excellent examples of how Democrats get swayed and end up allowing the wrong candidate to be elected ....which they later regret.

    By Blogger Ed, at 2:42 PM  

  • I couldn't agree more.

    By Blogger sanabituranima, at 4:46 PM  

  • When we remove the barriers and build a society in which all people are empowered to live as equal participants in the community, regardless of disability, the rationale for selective abortion disappears.

    YES. Thank you for articulating this.

    By Blogger AnneC, at 5:56 PM  

  • Hi Afbh!
    Well I have to take issue with sime what you said. I dont think it is a given necesarily that prenatal testing will happen. Even if somebody tried or did that nd hd an abortion becase of it , there exists the possibility of a lawsuit or asking for injunction until all the issues are resolved. There would be grounds to take definitive action.

    Do more than old a sign. If it can be defined as a medical procedure that is necessary why do they need to scare the crap out of moms to be that fail the test for DS??
    It doesnt pass musteas a necessary procedure now medically and it wont then either.

    The As Man

    By Blogger An American, at 7:20 PM  

  • Absolutely! Perfectly articulated, and spot on.

    We need to vote for candidates that seem to be more concerned about the dignity and humanity of those outside the womb.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:16 PM  

  • Applause. This lays out the issues very, very well. Linking disability rights to an abortion-related movement obfuscates virtually all of the disability rights political agenda.

    By Blogger Sarah, at 7:52 PM  

  • If abortion regulations are given over to states...how will republicans get elected? It's their one ace in the hole for the presidency. They've used it and another wedge issue (gay marriages, immigration, etc, etc.) and come up with the votes to make the rich richer.

    Not that I'm cynical or anything, but these things only come up around election time, and it's how Palin got into office for mayor.

    I was taken by Palin...for about 2 days.

    By Blogger r.b., at 8:03 PM  

  • BS"D

    I strongly beg to differ, even as I agree that the Republicans have their weaknesses on such issues as independent living. The problem in this election cycle is that Obama, alone among U.S. Senators, is an extremist on sanctity of life issues. As a state senator in Illinois, he repeatedly blocked legislation which would have saved the lives of disabled newborns who had survived botched abortions, even when the legislation contained abortion-neutral language. Such infants were being left to die in soiled utility rooms in a hospital in the Chicago suburbs. The same legislation, the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, passed the U.S. Senate in 2002 by a vote of 98-0.

    More recently, both Obama and McCain were asked by pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church the question, "When do babies get human rights?" Obama responded that the answer was, in his own now infamous words, "above my pay grade." He did not say, "at birth" the way McCain said "at the moment of conception," because Obama does not believe that disabled newborns necessarily have human rights -- especially if they have survived an abortion.

    No wonder disability rights advocate Nat Hentoff calls Obama "the Infanticide Candidate for President" (http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/896416.html). And Obama's stand on end-of-life issues is no less scary. He claimed on Meet the Press that his greatest regret in the Senate was not doing more to stop the Republicans (and Tom Harkin, mind you) from trying to save the life of Terri Schiavo.

    I am Jewish and have never been involved in the abortion wars, except to oppose fetal disability as grounds for abortion. I have published articles on eugenics, "euthanasia," and the psychiatric profession's responsibility for the Holocaust, one of which ("Silence on the Psychiatric Holocaust") appeared in The Disability Rag back in 1992 and was later republished in The Ragged Edge. It is precisely because of my understanding of the origins of the Holocaust that I am compelled to denounce Barack Obama as an apologist for infanticide and an accomplice to medical murder, one step away from the infamous Princeton professor of "bioethics", Peter Singer.

    Reasonable people can disagree on abortion. But we must never, ever tolerate infanticide. Obama crosses this moral line, and this is why he is manifestly unfit to be President.

    By Anonymous Stephen Mendelsohn, at 11:48 PM  

  • BS"D

    Here is the link to Born Alive Truth, which is running an ad featuring Gianna Jessen, a woman who survived a botched late term abortion, has a disability because of it, and lived to tell her story:


    And note again Obama's remarks on the human rights of born babies:

    Pastor Rick Warren: "At what point does a BABY get human rights, in your view?"

    Barack Obama "...answering that question with specificity... uh... you know is, is... uh... above my pay grade."

    ~ Saddleback Forum, August 16, 2008

    By Anonymous Stephen Mendelsohn, at 3:52 AM  

  • You know, if the Republicans truly had their way, I think we (those of us that aren't NT) would all be forced into institutions and involuntarily drugged. Women who got pregnant wold be forced to remain so against their will, white men would have all the power (well, more than they already do), the separation between church and state would finish crumbling, and husbands would be allowed to beat their wives.

    I won't vote republican. The fact that Obama blocked that particular piece of legislation doesn't concern me personally. All I care about is that that he's not another "Dubya" and that he's pro-abortion.

    I will not vote for someone who stands in the way of my right to an abortion. Besides, I like everything else Obama stands for. He's certainly much better than that wrinkled, sociopathic geezer McCain or that arrogant, spoiled cunt Palin.

    All politicians are scum, anyways. May as well vote for the lesser of two evils.

    By Blogger AngryReptileKeeper, at 5:18 PM  

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