Disability and Whatever Is Meant by the Right to Life

I’ve always been displeased that anti-aborttion Christians have colonized the term “right to life”—effectively trademarking it. I support a woman’s right to choose. I also support the right of disabled people to enter this world. The two positions are antithetical. I know this. I’m a person with a disability. I know a great deal about cognitive dissonance. My “every day” is pure cognitive dissonance. 

Do fetuses have a right to life? What is “the right to life” precisely? Who defines that right? All too often America offers unwanted children lives of neglect and poverty. Is poverty a right? Forgive me for writing like a sophomore in Ethics 101 but too many conservatives utter the RTF slogan while simultaneously voting against social services that help women and infants succeed—and yes, they also vote against education and medical care for the disabled and elderly. 

The corporate medical community knows very little about disability but what they do know they don’t like. Genetic counselors routinely advise  against bringing disabled fetuses to term. Blind? No! Down Syndrome! No! I am horrified by this. Not long ago twin brothers in Belgium who went blind in middle age were allowed to end their lives under the nation’s physician assisted suicide law. Doctors agreed: blind life can’t be good. 

In the end I stand for positive imagination where disability life is concerned. I stand for full education and medical care for every citizen. Yesterday I applauded on Facebook Ohio’s law protecting unborn Down Syndrome fetuses from abortion. The trouble is, any obstacle to abortion is in fact a setback to a woman’s right to decide. This outcome deeply troubles me. The disabled may in fact be political red herrings in Ohio. Certainly Governor John Kasich opposes abortion and has a miserable record when it comes to supporting medical care and education.

In a society where women can’t raise children without fear of poverty and inadequate opportunities for health care and education both for themselves and for their children, I still stand for a woman’s right to choose. What Kasich did yesterday is cynical insofar as he’s not on board with progressive social programs. I know my desire to support disabled life is being manipulated. But I can’t shake it, this pervasive feeling that disabled life matters. Cognitive dissonance, yes.   

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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