New feature: Choice and disability

// 4 December 2008

Are feminist pro-choice politics on selective abortions sidelining the concern of disabled people? Victoria Al-Sharqi argues the case

Recently I stumbled across Clare Laxton’s thought-provoking article, Abortion and disability – whose voices are heard? As a disabled woman, I have struggled with many of the questions that Laxton raises. This struggle has been internal. I have never been able to find a forum, among feminists or elsewhere, where my concerns could be welcomed and critically discussed. I hoped to find such a place at my university’s Women’s Union, but the overall reaction to me was one of uncertain embarrassment, occasionally deepening into hostility. The phrase ‘anti-choice’ was only used once, but I was aware that I had been branded with that label within minutes of opening my mouth on the abortion issue.

I carry more labels than the tins in a supermarket canned goods aisle; most of them applied by people who scarcely know me, so this latest addition to an already inaccurate collection did not bother me too much. What did perturb me was the way in which my serious objections to abortion on the grounds of foetal abnormality were interpreted as an assault on choice, rather than seen for what they really are – an engagement with the ethical questions surrounding such abortions, and a vital challenge levelled against social prejudices about disability.

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