George Tarr

Ableism and Abortion

Any fight for disabled rights and recognition is pious posturing if it fails to address the selective abortion of the disabled.

The Picture

98% of babies pre-diagnosed with Downs syndrome in Denmark are aborted. 90% in England. 77% in France.

In the same breath, the global drive for human rights has burst forward in colour. The equality of individuals has been espoused from paper to platform, with campaigns that extend far past the basics and into nuanced and complex demands for equal representation in the arts, the reshaping of language, the rewriting of curriculums and the revision of political symbols. Assaulting assumptions, humanity is grasping at an ever deeper, more real conception of equality and human dignity, which looks, not simply at paper laws but at the most intimate social realities of marginalised life.

But the world must be asked: What reaction does it expect from a disabled person who reads the statistics above? Is it not appropriate for those with Downs syndrome or other conditions to feel utterly unwelcome in society? As they wait for their regular check-up, are they to feel grateful or inspired by the “it’s okay to be different” poster you pinned up in the doctor’s lounge?

“In my last appointment,” the poster should say, “I advised the termination of a child precisely because they would be like you. It’s not okay to be different. Of course it isn’t. Your life value directly – unambiguously – correlates with your conformity.”

A little analogy

Indulge this. If the UN Human Rights Charter is anything at all, the following parallel should be entirely unproblematic:

Jeffrey is an advocate for equality. Enraged by police violence, he joins the Black Lives Matter movement. He advocates for better access, better representation and better treatment of his black brothers and sisters. Jeffrey lives in a society which systematically, intentionally, openly aborts 98% of children determined pre-birth to be “too black.” Of course, parents know the risks: Even when conceiving with someone relatively light-skinned, there is a chance that a child might be just a tone too dark. But the risk is worth it, for the chance at a beautiful, light-skinned little one. So, 98% of the time, when the colour chart sees fit, darker children are aborted precisely and exclusively on account of their blackness. In Jeffrey’s society, the de facto value placed on human life increases proportionally with whiteness.

Of course, Jeffrey has absolutely nothing to say about this. Abortion is a women’s issue, not a race issue. It affects little else but the woman concerned and says next-to-nothing about society more broadly. Jeffrey thinks that his black friends should still feel just as welcome in society and just as assured of their potential for equal opportunities and representation. Indeed, they should trust whole-heartedly in his avocation of their cause.

“Thank-you for telling us that we matter, Jeffrey. How fortunate that our government did not make it illegal for dark-skinned people to be born, only highly improbable. The 2% of us that slipped through are eminently grateful for your unfailing acceptance of our differences. And we are so glad you enjoyed ‘Black Panther’.”

It’s primary school

Those with some form of disability comprise 15% of our global population. That hundreds in Europe have been aborted for things as minor as a cleft palate, and that abortions for disability are so directly proportional to the conformity of the child, is categorical proof that the value of a human life in our society is utterly contingent. And in such a context, words on disabled rights and recognition are utterly worthless – drenched in a pharisaic virtue-signalling, which overlooks the most morally abhorrent.

So yes: This is primary school stuff. If you can understand why people of colour need representation in Hollywood films, you can understand why disabled people might need not to watch the majority of those identical to them being systematically, intentionally, wilfully prevented from being born.

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