The right to choose…

// 10 March 2008

There is an interesting piece over at the Guardian about one woman’s decision to not have the Down’s Syndrome amnio test.

But if, like me, you are a disabled mother-to-be, there will be one more question from the well-meaning inquirer. Unlike the others, this may not actually be spoken, but it will be there, teetering on the tip of their tongue, while they wonder nervously whether it would be politically correct to take the plunge. What people really want to ask is: “Could that rogue of a gene that causes your sight loss have tumbled from one generation to the next, afflicting your unborn child with more than just your genetic predisposition for being bad-tempered or having big ears?….if, like me, you know that impairment need not be synonymous with “low quality of life” and that the “pain and suffering” we seek to avoid are largely inflicted not by the physicality of the disability itself but by the negative attitudes of others does pre-natal screening still feel like logical scientific progress? Something I am happy to buy into to ensure my first-born is top-notch? Or is it just a covert attempt to purify the human race of folk who don’t come up to scratch, veiled in the guise of parental choice?

Abortion has always been a clear-cut issue for me. I’ve shut the door in the faces of anti-abortion campaigners. I’ve kicked over the candles of vigil-holders brandishing plastic foetuses in tiny coffins as they heckled women visiting the abortion clinic near my home. I’ve always been a pro-choice feminist, firm in the belief that reproductive destiny belongs to the individual and choices to terminate should be made free from the value judgment of others.”

Well worth a read…

Comments From You

Amity // Posted 10 March 2008 at 4:09 pm

Interesting read, thanks for posting that. I’m due to have my 12-week scan on Wednesday and have decided to skip this test as well. I’ve had friends who were told that they have a high risk, only for the baby to be absolutely fine in the end, causing needless anguish and worry for the remainder of their pregnancies. Just as it should be our infallible right to choose whether to carry a foetus or not, we should be able to choose how we proceed with our pregnancies and which tests and procedures we want and which we don’t. Forcing these things on women ‘for the good of the baby’ is a dangerous, slippery slope, one that we have already been sliding down.

Pregnant women are under so much pressure to comply with societal expectations and medical standards, even when it concerns their very own bodies and private lives. “Keep your beliefs off my uterus” is a common pro-choice chant in defense of those who choose not to carry their pregnancies to term — it should apply to wanted pregnancies as well.

Sian // Posted 10 March 2008 at 6:17 pm

I really liked Rebecca Atkinson’s article, very interesting and also fairly worded in terms of the pro-choice debate.

I don’t know what choice I personally would make if/when I become pregnant (long way off in the future!), the thing about Down’s syndrome specifically is that it usually causes little pain/suffering for the person with it, unlike most of the conditions with available prenatal screening. Not to mention the number of false positives (due to the low incidence rate of the condition).

Ruthie Samuel // Posted 11 March 2008 at 12:21 am

I completely agree with the article. My brother has downs syndrome and is a happy, lively, good little boy. He requires a little bit more care and attention than most children (psysiotherapy appointments, more difficult potty training etc.) but equally ‘normal’ babies sometimes turn out to need more attention for so many reasons that don’t show up on foetal scans. If a parent isn’t ready for that possibility then they’re very naive.

My mother said something interesting when my brother was born, and we were feeling shaken that he wouldn’t lead the ‘normal’ live we’d envisaged. Lots of children defy the expectations of their family in some way, the difference with downs is merely that expectations are ripped apart at birth (or before) rather than however many years along the line.

Virago // Posted 11 March 2008 at 11:13 am

My uncle had Down’s Syndrome and he lived a full, happy, wonderful life with just as much value as anybody else’s.

I read (albeit years ago) that the Down’s Syndrome test has a 1 in 3 risk of causing miscarriage. Now, the procedures may well have changed but I find it rather ridiculous that a woman would risk the health of her baby for the sake of ‘just in case’. Also, as the article quite rightly argues, who are we to decide the value of human life? What about false results?

I am entirely pro-choice but I find this concept – of aborting a child because it may be disabled – wanders into the territory of eugenics and ‘designer babies’

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds