Disability Rights and Women’s Rights – Petition



You may want to consider supporting this statement and sign on:

Letter / Call to Action

Robert Edwards, Virginia Ironside, and the Unnecessary Opposition of Rights

Please feel free to show your support and sign on to this statement below.

As people committed to both disability rights and reproductive rights, we believe that respecting women and families in their reproductive decisions requires simultaneously challenging discriminatory attitudes toward people with disabilities. We refuse to accept the bifurcation of women’s rights from disability rights, or the belief that protecting reproductive rights requires accepting ableist assumptions about the supposed tragedy of disability. On the contrary, we assert that reproductive rights includes attention to disability rights, and that disability rights requires attention to human rights, including reproductive rights.

We offer the following statement in response to two recent events that promote eugenic reproductive decision-making, and that further stigmatize disabled people by presenting disability exclusively in terms of suffering and hardship. Although seemingly disparate events, they share the presumption that disability renders a life not worth living and that people with disabilities are a burden on society. Moreover, they seem to imply that the only appropriate response to disability is elimination, thereby limiting women’s reproductive choices; they suggest that all women must either abort fetuses with disabilities or use IVF to de-select for disability.

The awarding of the 2010 Nobel Prize for medicine to Dr. Robert Edwards demands a more considered response. He has made no secret about promoting reproductive technologies to prevent the birth of disabled children, arguing that it would be a “sin of parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children.” We protest any recognition of Dr. Edwards that also fails to acknowledge his discriminatory statements, and we dispute the notion that his political views should be isolated from his medical accomplishments. It is precisely this separation that pits reproductive rights against disability rights.

Edwards’ work has assisted in the birth of four million babies worldwide and has helped single people, people struggling with infertility, and gays, lesbians and transgender people to have biologically related children.

However, we can celebrate Edwards’ accomplishments and also call out his controversial advocacy against disability. In the same way that most of the articles celebrating his achievements acknowledge the religious and ethical controversies of his techniques, we can recognize his problematic disparagement of disability. The role he has played in increasing the reproductive options for women and families does not need to be justified or substantiated by arguing for an elimination of disability. It can be marked as an important reproductive option and means of creating families without denigrating disability or people with disabilities.

We also protest any use of disability by anti-abortionists in their criticism of Edwards and his work in developing assisted reproductive technologies. Many people with disabilities have used such technologies in creating their own families and recognize that IVF has made their families possible. Although we share the concern that women and families do not always have the information they need to make reproductive decisions about disability, and that stereotypes about disability persist, we do not think the response to that situation is to oppose assisted reproductive technologies or limit women’s rights.

The recent statements by British advice columnist Virginia Ironside about the “suffering” of disabled children similarly require a challenge from disability and reproductive rights supporters. In arguing for the right to abortion, Ironside stated that knowingly giving birth to a child with disabilities is cruel, and that in such cases abortion is the “moral and unselfish” response. She added that if she had a sick or disabled child, she would not hesitate to “put a pillow over its face,” as would “any loving mother.” Although Ironside’s comments about infanticide have been rightly condemned, her assertion that abortion is the only proper response to disability has prompted little controversy, as has her assumption that advocacy for abortion rights requires accepting the construction of disability as unrelenting tragedy. As reproductive rights advocates who are committed to disability rights, we refuse to accept the rhetorical use of disability as an argument for abortion rights. Reproductive rights demands not only access to abortion but also the right to have children, including children with disabilities, access to information about parenting, and the social and economic supports to parent all children with dignity.

In other words, we hold both disability rights and reproductive rights together, refusing arguments for women’s reproductive autonomy that deny disability rights, and refusing arguments for the human rights of people with disabilities that deny the right of women and families to make the best reproductive decisions for themselves.

Although our statement is motivated by these events, we recognize that these are only the most recent manifestations of long-standing prejudices against people with disabilities and of the use of disability stereotypes to undermine women’s and families’ reproductive autonomy and access to abortion. We hope, with this statement, to support other activists and scholars who are equally committed to both reproductive rights and disability rights. We hope that as advocates in movements that share similar values around civil and human rights we can continue to speak out against the use of reproductive rights to undermine disability rights and the use of disability rights to undermine reproductive rights. Reproductive rights and disability rights are intertwined.

Download Robert Edwards, Virginia Ironside, and the Unnecessary Opposition of Rights (PDF) http://www.generations-ahead.org/files-for-download/articles/DS-RJ-statement.pdf


CBC News – Edmonton – Alberta’s sex sterilizations re-examined

from CBC Edmonton, last night, with stacks of comments already.

CBC News – Edmonton – Alberta’s sex sterilizations re-examined.

‘Newgenics’ still rampant in Alberta, conference told

Front page, Edmonton Journal, by Andrea Sands:


‘Newgenics’ still rampant in Alberta, conference told.

Living Archives: Inaugural Events

The 5-year project, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada will launch its public face with some inaugural events in Edmonton at the end of this week.  All events are free and open to the public, and we welcome community and university members, individuals and organizations.

We start on Friday 22nd October, 2010, with a keynote address by Professor Douglas Wahlsten at the Telus Centre on the campus of the University of Alberta, at 7pm, entitled “Eugenics in Alberta: Science and Politics”.  The talk is in Room 150, doors open at 6:30 and a reception will follow.

Events on Saturday October 23, 2010 take place on the lower floor of the Stanley Milner Library located opposite Churchill Square in Edmonton.  We will be downstairs in the Edmonton Room, with coffee and snacks available at 9.45am and the first session starting at 10.00am.  Members of the public are also welcome to attend a short meeting of the governing board, which will begin at 9.00am in the same location.  The Saturday events include:

  • Dick Sobsey & Heidi Janz “Picturing Eugenics: Telling the Story of Eugenics Through Alternative Communication”
  • Erika Dyck, “Building a People’s History of Eugenics: Archives Past and Present”
  • Gregor Wolbring, “Dynamics Around Eugenic Acceptance and Rejection: Lesson for the Future”
  • Claudia Malacrida, “Creating an Oral History of Eugenics Questions of Scope, Ethics and Access”

To register for the free lunch or request disability accommodations, please contact moyra@ualberta.ca or register directly at http://www.whatsorts.net/register/.  You can also get updated information at http://www.whatsorts.net Continue reading

“Project Prevention”

The story below by Nick Collins is from the Sydney Morning Herald; h/t Peter Chen.

What year is it?  From what they’re doing, you might think 1910, rather than 2010.  And from the name of the project, you might think  1984.  See also the earlier BBC News story, from February 2010, “Should drug addicts be paid to get sterilised?”

Charity pays addict $320 to have a vasectomy

Nick Collins

October 19, 2010

LONDON: A drug addict has become the first person in Britain to be sterilised in exchange for cash under a new project.

The man, known as John, who has been addicted to heroin for 15 years, was given £200 ($320) by a US charity to have a vasectomy.  Project Prevention, the charity running the scheme, has made similar payments to thousands of men and women in the US in a campaign to prevent them having children who may inherit their addictions. //

The 38-year-old man said he had been involved with drugs since age 11 or 12 and that the offer of money had prompted him to have the operation.  ”It was kind of what spurred me into doing it in a way. It was something that I’d been thinking about for a long time and something that I’d already made my mind up that I wanted to do. Just hadn’t got around to it.”  The charity began offering the cash incentive to British addicts after paying 3500 Americans to be sterilised.

You can read the full story here, and an earlier story on passing the 3000th person milestone, back in April 2009, over here. There is also a Facebook group, “No to eugenics in the UK! Keep Project Prevention Out of the UK“.  You can also see how Project Prevention presents itself on its website; it is a 501(c) registered charity in the US.

Call for abstracts reminder Canadian Disability Studies Association Conference

Hi everybody,

the deadline for submission that guarantees notice of decision before Christmas has passed. However you can still submit abstracts for the conference till Dec 15th.

I want again to highlight the virtual option people can chose
for the first time meaning that their paper will be debated on a
discussion forum after the live conference.

I think this is a good option for people who know they won’t have
money for travel. It opens up the door for example for undergraduates
and graduates that have something to show to submit papers even if
they know they can not obtain travel funds.  It looks good for the
students to have conferences on their CV.

I look forward  to many more submissions. All the documents for submitting the abstract can be found at  http://www.cdsa-acei.ca/conference.html 


Gregor Wolbring
President CDSA-ACEI
University of Calgary

Canadian Disability Studies Association / Association Canadienne des
Études sur l’Incapacité (CDSA-ACEI)

Web-site / site-Web:http://www.cdsa-acei.ca

Join us at our 8th Annual Conference on June 1, 2, and 3, 2011, in
Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada!
Joignez-nous à notre 8ème conférence annuelle le 1 Juin, 2 et 3, 2011,
à Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada!

LIVING ARCHIVES ON EUGENICS – Inaugural Public Conference – October 22 & 23, 2010 – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Friday, October 22, 2010 ~ Opening Keynote Address by Professor Douglas Wahlsten “Eugenics in Alberta: Science and Politics” at the Telus Centre Room 150 (111 Street & 87 Avenue) Doors at 6:30 p.m. Keynote Address at 7:00 p.m. Reception to follow – Cash Bar.

Saturday October 23, 2010 ~The Edmonton Room (lower floor) at Stanley Milner Library ~ Doors at 8:30 am ~ Everyone Welcome Please register by October 18, 2010 for Free Lunch at http://www.whatsorts.net/register/ Continue reading