Yes, I have a child with a disability. I’m still pro-choice.

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I feel I have to write this post, in the midst of Spina Bifida awareness month and all, because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.

I see it a lot, parents of kids with SB or other disabilities, angry that at some point in their fetal diagnosis experience, a doctor dared offer them the option of terminating their pregnancy. I agree that a lot of the time, this “option” is presented in what some feel is a hurtful way, a way they believe suggests that their kids’ lives aren’t worth living, a way that seems to later produce parents who are defiant– doctors said my kid shouldn’t live, but NOW LOOK AT HIM! TAKE THAT, DOCTORS! No one ever presented that option to us, just like the fetal surgeries weren’t an option for us, because it would have risked the other twin too much, so I have never felt pressured in any way to terminate a pregnancy.

I also admit that I read things like a stat that says 60% of parents who receive a fetal diagnosis of Spina Bifida choose termination, and it makes me sad. Because I look at my beautiful, vibrant Claire, and I do think her life is obviously worth living. I’m madly in love with her. I can’t imagine life without her.

But the thing is, I realize that my life, my choices, and even my daughter aren’t the same as everyone else’s situation. I realize, and have testified to that effect before the Arkansas Senate (and on the local news), that not everyone receives a manageable fetal diagnosis– many receive a devastating one. And in the midst of tough choices and pain, I want every family to have safe, compassionate, OPTIONS.

So there it is. I’m the mom of a kid with a disability, and I’m pro choice. Part of why I write, part of why I participate in things like #embracethebif and want people to see what Spina Bifida looks like is because I do think that 60% stat should be far lower. I do think parents should know that kids like Claire are whole, complete, beautiful, and vibrant, because that might make the choice to carry such a pregnancy a little bit easier. It’s also why I support disability rights, fight stigma, and want access to healthcare, childcare, and developmental services. It’s why I support education and employment access. All things that might make the choice to bring a child with a disability into this world a little easier.

But I’m still pro-choice. Pro-child, pro-family, pro-disability, pro-choice. I hope that even if you disagree, you can respect that. I hope that even if you disagree, we can keep fighting together for all the other stuff we do agree on. I don’t want to fight with anyone. I just had to put this out there because I was uncomfortable with some of the anti-choice ways Spina Bifida Awareness rhetoric can be used, and I don’t want to be lumped in with that.

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16 thoughts on “Yes, I have a child with a disability. I’m still pro-choice.

  1. Yup, much of the same happens in the Down syndrome community. I wish the conversation could be had without the anti-choice agenda, because there is a real conversation to be had there, with some very gray issues.

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  2. This is so very important. Of course, I will always have your back, even though I know we disagree on this topic. An honest question for you, if you’re comfortable (and if not, just delete this, lol) — isn’t it a bit of cognitive dissonance to say that, on one hand, you’re fighting against ableism and discrimination, but on the other, saying that it’s okay for someone to end a pregnancy *by virtue* of a SB diagnosis? If we support that choice, aren’t we tacitly agreeing with the line of thinking that says that death is a better alternative than a disability?

    Not trying to challenge you or anything, I’m just genuinely curious what your thoughts are on that. They seem like mutually exclusive ideologies, to me. I get that other people may not have the same resources — there is no SBA in five states, for example. We have EXCELLENT insurance and we still pay out of pocket a lot of miscellaneous crap that really adds up. I get that not everyone has the same resources, and we need to fight to make that better. But given that we live in an imperfect world and that some people might choose termination regardless, isn’t that “choice” akin to discrimination?

    Seriously delete this if it starts shit or if it’s not appropriate, will totally understand. Honest question.

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    • I guess, for me, the thing is that I just can’t presume to know what any other family can handle. I guess some can see it as a judgment against the fetus’s disability, but I don’t think the way to solve that is to criminalize abortion. I think the way to solve it is through disability activism. I don’t judge someone else’s reasons for their choices, I just want to do all I can to make sure people are safe and informed– which is why I support both legal abortion access (safety) and things like #embracethebif (information).

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    • And here’s some more after more thought: even if I don’t think SB is a “valid” reason to end a pregnancy, I do think there are plenty of complications incompatible with life that ARE. And since that’s the case, I think the choice is better left up to women and their families and their doctors about where that line lies than say, some sort of special abortion court that would mete out who was “worthy” (say, anencephaly) and who was not. If that makes any sense. I rely on education and activism to help cut down on the things that I might see as “unworthy” of termination and want to keep the option safe and legal for the others.

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  3. I do agree on everything, except that I have a different view on abortion. I respect your perspective, but the use of anti-choice to describe my view, which has less to do with reproductive freedom than the respect for the life of an unborn that’s already alive, is unfair. I wouldn’t use the word ‘anti-life’ to describe your view. It’s divisive, and makes it more difficult to unite on issues that we do agree on.

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    • I use “anti-choice” because it’s correct. The view opposes a woman’s right to choose an abortion, and I avoid using the phrase “pro-life” because it’s distasteful. It *maybe* applies to the anti-death-penalty, pacifist, consistent-ethic-of-life view. Calling folks “anti-abortion” makes folks like me “pro-abortion” which is really not a correct way to describe what I actually think and support– I support it as a legal, safe option. People who want to make it illegal do not.

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        • Yeah. I’m never going to use pro-life. I’m sorry if that’s perceived as disrespectful. And a big part of my reason is that “pro-life” people have called me “a member of the death squad” just for supporting safe, legal abortion access.

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      • I was on board with you until your comment on pro-life/pro-choice. You’re essentially saying that labels with a negative connotation to the opposing side are only okay when it’s the side you agree with. I’m pro-choice, and you can sugarcoat it all you want but it can also be referred to as pro-abortion. As in, I am for the existence of abortion. Just like you can call the pro-life movement anti-choice, because they are against the existence of choice in the matter of abortion. Too bad we can’t respect other views while demanding respect for our own.

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        • I guess I don’t understand why they feel “anti-choice” is negative? If you want abortion to be illegal, you obviously don’t want it to be a choice? Unlike calling people who support abortion rights “murderers” there’s no real stigma associated with the word “anti-choice.” I really just feel it’s the least-loaded, most-accurate way to describe the view of those who oppose legal abortion unless I want to spell out “those who oppose legal abortion” every time.

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        • Also: I am pretty sure I used the phrase “anti-choice” exactly once in this post, and it was used to describe rhetoric, not people. As in: writing about disability is often used in anti-choice ways, in ways that oppose the right to legally choose to end a pregnancy.

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    • I am firmly with Sarah. Let’s break down the terminology:

      Pro-choice/anti-choice: individuals who are pro-choice are for women making the choice whether or not to have an abortion, whereas individuals who are anti-choice are against women being able to make the choice whether or not to have an abortion. This is logical and consistent with the rhetoric of individuals who are for and against abortion.

      Pro-life/anti-life: individuals who are pro-life value/respect (using your own terminology here) the lives of unborn fetuses, but by this logic, individuals who are anti-life do not value/respect the lives of unborn fetuses and would in fact be against their existence. This is the same rhetoric as the “pro-choice = pro-murder” bumper stickers I see around my city. I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-women-making-their-own-choices.

      Pro-abortion/anti-abortion: same problem as above. Women who are pro-choice are not pro-abortion. I cannot speak for every individual, but I’d venture to say that the vast majority of us do not necessarily want pregnant women to terminate their pregnancies. We do, however, believe that it is the right of those women to terminate said pregnancies *if they so choose*.

      As a pro-choice woman who (although I hope to never find myself in this situation) probably would not choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, I think the distinction between “choice” and “life” is a really huge one.

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