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

Aktion T4 installation and film project

Some of you may know this already, so apologies for cross-posting. Liz Crow, a British filmmaker, has been engaged in putting together a commemorative and interactive installation chronicling Aktion Tiergartenstrasse 4, an extermination plan enacted in 1939 by the Nazi’s with the goal of eliminating people with disabilities from a society that sought Aryan perfection. Aktion T4 became the ‘successful’ blueprint for extermination camps with a broader mandate as the war progressed. In this clip–which is captioned in English, with spoken English as well–Liz Crow outlines the project and the film she’s working on.

You can also see more at the Roaring Girl Productions website, including a 3-D tour of what the installation will look like.

Conference – The Inclusive Museum – Of Interest to What Sorts Folk

University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
8-11 July 2009

At this time of fundamental social change, what is the role of the museum, both as a creature of that change, and perhaps also as an agent of change? The International Conference on the Inclusive Museum is a place where museum practioners, researchers, thinkers and teachers can engage in discussion on the historic character and future shape of the museum. The key question of the Conference is ‘How can the institution of the museum become more inclusive?’

Plenary speakers include:
*Stephane Martin, President, Ensemble Intercontemporain; CEO, Musée du quai Branly
*Alissandra Cummins, President of ICOM; Director, Barbados Museums and Historical Society, Barbados
*Kevin Gover, Director, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., USA
*Adi Meretui Ratunabuabua, Principal Cultural Development Officer, Ministry of Fijian Affairs, Culture and Heritage and Regional Development, Fiji
*Dawn Casey, Director of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia
*David Throsby, Professor of Economics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
*Marcus Wood, Professor, University of Sussex, UK
*Craddock Morton, Director, National Museum of Australia; President, ICOM Australia
*Catherine Branson, President, Australian Human Rights Commission

In addition, Continue reading

Interesting eugenics history site from Regents’ University in UK

This site might be of interest to those concerned with eugenic history. It’s done in an accessible and powerful format…make sure you turn off your pop-up blocker, and then enter the site through the left-hand side of this web entry page….