Consumer Children: Pre-natal Diagnosis & Selective Abortion

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...