Though the 2016 Olympics are over, the Paralympic Games have just begun. Athletes from more than 170 nations are competing for Gold while reminding the world that the label “disability” does not mean one cannot excel. 267 athletes competing in 20 separate sports represent the US in Rio, each athlete an example of determination, hard work, and incredible talent.
The Paralympic Games have been rightly recognized as a powerful tool in the fight against social, legal, and cultural barriers to success for women and men with disabilities worldwide. Thankfully, more and more political leaders are using the games to highlight the value of each individual and the right each possesses to achieve greatness, regardless of their physical condition. Anastasia Somoza, an international disability rights activist, was even given the podium at the DNC Convention last July to advocate for greater disability rights.
After all, every person deserves the chance to succeed and no one should be devalued because of a physical condition.
While popular interest in disability rights and the Paralympic Games continues to grow, little has been done to change the danger the disabled face in the womb.
Studies indicate that when an amniocentesis finds that a child will be born with Down Syndrome, 90% of women choose abortion over carrying the child to term. Due to abortion, there are approximately 30% fewer DS women and men alive today.
Down Syndrome is not the only disability that results in abortion. As Zika continues to spread, there is evidence that it can cause Microcephaly in developing fetuses. Though scientists caution that there is still much to learn about Zika and its relationship to microcephaly, abortion activists have increased demands for abortion access for women diagnosed with Zika.
Disability rights activists have warned that these pro-choice efforts devalue the lives of those born with disabilities and cement social biases against those whose physical condition does not measure up to an arbitrary ideal.
No doubt, pro-choice activists would respond that the unborn child is not a person, but rather only a fetus. As such, it is a social good to prevent a child from being born with a disability and burdening his parents and society with the costs of treatment.
The logical problems with trying to make the fetus something other than a person aside, this position inherently devalues persons with disabilities.
Logically, a child born with a disability will come to realize that if genetic testing had been available, if his parents had truly known what he would face, they would have aborted him. Such pro-choice logic insultingly suggests that only the ignorant give birth to disabled children.
Personhood rooted in parental ignorance is a shaky foundation for human rights.
Ultimately, the fact that disabled children can succeed despite their disability is an outcome that abortion cannot account for. This is because abortion has no foresight. Abortion looks at a woman and her child’s situations and says they will not get better, only worse.
After all, if a woman aborts her child, none of the circumstances that led to her pregnancy change. If she were in a bad relationship, she will still be in a bad relationship after she gives birth. If she were poor, she only avoids being poorer (maybe, in the short term). If she aborts her child, she has not alleviated his/her suffering due to a disability, but simply eliminated him/her altogether.
This is why according to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, around 50% of abortions are performed on women who already had an abortion. Their first abortion did not change any of the circumstances that led to their unplanned pregnancy.
Abortion then is nothing but a preventative prescription offered to prevent a child from continuing to live. It cannot predict a child overcoming the social stigmas regarding disabilities and setting world records, winning Ms. Wheelchair America, and representing the US in the 2016 Paralympics.
But that is exactly what Eliza Mcintosh is doing. When Eliza was in her mother’s womb, doctors diagnosed her with spinal dysgenesis. They told her parents that she would probably be born in a vegetative state and have to rely on a respirator to breathe.
Their prescription? Abortion.
After all, what kind of quality of life would she have? The merciful thing to do was to kill her before she could be born with such a condition.
Though her doctors did not value her life, Eliza’s parents did. They decided to fight for their daughter’s life and future rather than accept the position that there was no hope. Today, Eliza is setting world records and advocating for those like her: women and men devalued by a society that thinks it knows what constitutes a life worth living and that it has the right to make that determination for another.
Ironically, many of the same individuals who applaud the winners of the Paralympics, turn around and attack efforts to protect the disabled in the womb. Though Hillary Clinton’s campaign allowed those two disabled rights activists to speak at the DNC convention, she is unwilling to protect their rights in the womb. Hillary called legislation meant to prohibit abortions performed because of a disability diagnosis anti-woman, saying, “I will defend a woman’s right to make her own health-care decisions.” She holds this position despite the fact that aborting a child due to a disability diagnosis has no impact on a mother’s maternal health.
For pro-choice activists, the only disabled people who deserve to be applauded and valued are those who survived the womb. What they can’t seem to recognize is that by saying that children can be aborted for no other reason than their disability, they are ensuring that we will never eradicate the bias and disability shaming that works against people like Eliza.
So let’s not just applaud the rights of the disabled once every four years during the Paralympics.
Let’s put action behind that rhetoric.
Let’s work to eliminate all barriers to success faced by the millions of women and men with disabilities worldwide, both inside the womb and out.