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Pro-abortion, feminist scholar says why she opposes pre-natal diagnosis and selective abortion. Marsha Saxton, a University of California, Berkeley lecturer and one of the authors of the landmark feminist health book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, is wondering about something: "Why have many people in the disability activist community reacted negatively to [prenatal diagnosis] and selective abortion, when this same group tends to be pro-choice?"

She might well be asking about herself.

Saxton, a senior researcher at the World Institute on Disability in Oakland, is an abortion rights supporter — but one who argues persistently, passionately, and personally against detecting and destroying unborn babies with disabilities.

CCD asked Saxton to explain how the "right to choose" collides with a feminist ethic of "inclusiveness and diversity."

First-trimester prenatal diagnosis (PND) for Down Syndrome and other genetic conditions may soon be routine for all pregnancies. What's troubling about that?

Saxton: Unfortunately, it buys into a consumer perspective on our children.

Is there a danger that people with disabilities will be regarded as people who unfortunately were not aborted in time? Who "ought" to have been detected and eliminated?

I have heard comments to this effect, quite blithely, often from health care workers who, sadly, and of all people, may objectify people in the "patient" role as their condition rather than as a valid and valued person who happens to have some kind of disabling condition.

For example, I heard a nurse say about a child with diabetes, "Too bad they didn't catch that before birth" – meaning it wasn't prenatally detected and therefore the child wasn't aborted. A "mistake."

Some parents argue that they have the right to the type of child they want: an "optimal" child, so to speak. Doesn't that imply that the "sub-optimal" child who manages to be born deserves marginalization because he is insufficiently cute, smart, and appealing?

It's not just "cute, smart and appealing" but, more fundamentally, I think, a representation of the parents' [own] idealized sense of self, the image they desire for themselves to be displayed in their children. This is what they are demanding of their babies who will become bearers of their name.

A disabled student in my class at Cal this semester – who has a prenatally screenable genetic condition — told a story about her relationship with her mother about her disability. My student is twenty but her mother is still trying to conceive a "normal" child and has had several abortions of fetuses with my student's condition.

This is devastatingly painful for this young woman. She is clearly getting the message that she failed her mother by being born "defective." Even though this student is successful enough to attend the university, only a "normal" child would please her mother, who keeps trying and testing years later to get the "valid" child she wants.

Interestingly, when my other students heard the student share her story, there were tears shed by several students in the class. I think they "got it": that prenatal testing has powerful effects beyond the immediate issues of mother and child. [25May07,]

Excerpts from postings following this article:
Posted Friday, May 25, 2007
Eugenics is a frighting concept,unfortunately not a new one 

Pre-natal screening is simply legalized eugenics where parents that when screened are told that their children will develop a physical disability like Down Syndrome and then are told to abort by doctors and other medical professionals.

In America the amount of parents that do take pre-natal tests and are recommended…to abort shows that close to 90% of these parents end up terminating their unborn baby children because the pre-natal test results suggesteded their unborn baby child may have Down Syndrome or other major disabilities. In a number of documented cases, many parents that were told their unborn baby child should be aborted due to the pre-natal test results, refused to terminate…

In quite a number of these cases unborn baby children were born perfectly healthy, without any major disablities present, as the pre-natal tests had previously shown. In other words, tests that should never have been used in the first place (to eliminate the disabled) have been shown to be inaccurate in some cases. Those that are born with Down Syndrome and other major disablities are literally a gift to their families and are not to be conveniently disposed because the world considers them an inconvenienence or a burden.

Most families that raise those with Down Syndrome and other major disabilities say that their special child or adult brings a joy to their family that none of their other so called healthy children can bring. For these special parents, taking care of these special children and adults is an act of true love…

Posted Saturday, May 26, 2007 2:10 PM By Nan Rodgers
I am thinking that people who want designer children maybe should not have any children at all. They will never be satisfied with any child if their expectations of what a child should be like are so extreme. At least psyciatrists offices will be busy for years helping these offspring then deal with having had such critical and unhappy parents to start with. No one will ever meet these type of expectations. Having a child who shows no defects or unwanted items be it sex of a child, downs syndrome or whatever it may be that causes a pregnant woman to abort, there is never any guarantee with any child in regards to looks, intelligence, gifting, personality etc. It seems that the values which…hold up…all human life, no matter what we look like etc., is a beautiful and good way to look at all life and I hope that it will catch on with more in our world.

Posted Friday, May 25, 2007
So, a woman should not have selective abortion of disabled children, even if the woman's stated reason is that it's too much of a burden to raise a disabled chi

ld. Conversely, the same people (disabled pro-choice proponents) want it to be legal for women to have abortions because an unplanned or crisis pregnancy might be too much of a burden in their lives 'at this point'. So, the only burdens that they think are not justifiable for abortion are those that would have aborted them, otherwise, it's OK to abort. Sounds like an emotionally based argument to me…. 

Posted Friday, May 25, 2007
Remarkable that a pro-abort feminist could speak so eloquently in the defense of all unborn life. The bit about her disabled student is heart rending.

Posted Friday, May 25, 2007
I think the attitude goes beyond medical disability to encompass a whole range of ways in which a child may be “not good enough.” This reminds me to review my expectations to see if I’m inadvertently conveying a message of rejection to my own children, who go on being, obstinately, themselves! Some human rights activists have worked themselves into a position where they know that killing a disabled baby communicates devaluation and disrespect to ALL disabled people; but they don't quite get that killing any baby devalues and disrespects ALL babies, by saying they shall be permitted to survive only at our pleasure. But this Marsha Saxon is a thoughtful woman. She will "get it." Give her time and plenty of opportunities to clarify her thoughts, and she will. She will follow that thread to the end.