Yes, that's right, a six-hour symposium: Reaching for Common Ground: Prenatal Genetic Counseling and Disability Equality.
|GREAT picture from Judith Tsipis!|
I'd like to give some public applause to Katie Stoll, who worked her ass off to make this whole event happen, and who looked incredibly calm for the whole six hours even though she was scrambling inside. Katie is contributing to the research I'm doing for my book, and she's an amazing human being.
Katie introduced the symposium and used my definition of disability--it's an embraceable form of human diversity. That was incredibly cool.
Here's some of what I offered in my talk. I was going to focus a bit on some of the extensive comments on my Motherlode articles--quotes that often were shocking in their emphasis on getting rid of Down syndrome. But what I realized as I was preparing the talk was that the comments from Motherlode are often indistinguishable from things obstetricians have said in the last 18 months to pregnant women I've interviewed, women whose prenatal tests showed that the fetus had Down syndrome. I offered this list and asked the audience to think about which ones were from Motherlode and which were from OBs:
- “In my opinion, the only kind, acceptable solution for the handicapped fetuses/babies is abortion at the earliest possible time.”
- “The cheapest and easiest way of dealing with this is having an abortion.”
- “The odds are your baby won’t be high functioning. It’s good that you found out now. These kids don’t do well. A lot of them are in institutions.”
- “You’re talking about deliberately bringing people with painful medical conditions and zero chance of a full and meaningful adult place in society into the world, and then dumping them on the taxpayers when you’re dead.”
Numbers 2 and 3 are from OBs. Interesting, right? Here's what I said:
So what I’m seeing are various communities of experts as well as just mainstream folks who are operating based on powerful, unexamined assumptions. Again, I want to stress that my research isn’t based on the notion that we need to eradicate abortion, or eradicate abortion after prenatal testing—I’m happy to talk with you in more depth about my aggressive support for abortion. But what my research is revealing is that we seem to see disability as something wrong that needs to be eradicated or cured. And I want to suggest that it’s our job as a society to offer alternative framings of disability, because seeing it as “something wrong” is a cultural construction.After the talk I got lots of positive feedback from folks who were open to considering this perspective, and open to considering the possibility that offering a totally blank screen, as genetic counselors do (no guidance, letting potential parents make their own decisions) is both exactly the right thing to do and troubling because it allows stereotypes to present themselves as simple "truth."
Alright, that's it for now. I'm actually going to try to grade some student essays. More later from Anaheim (which is kind of a butthole of a city, although the hotel is wonderful).