Nov 30, 2022

there is no contradiction

From the BBC:

Under current legislation for England, Wales and Scotland, there is a 24-week time limit for abortion, unless “there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped,” which includes Down’s syndrome.

[Heidi] Crowter, who has [Down syndrome], argued that the rules were discriminatory to people with Down’s. She said the legislation “doesn’t respect my life” and brought a case against the government at the High Court in July 2021 with Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, from west London, whose son Aidan has Down’s syndrome.

Ms Crowter said she and her team plan to “keep fighting” and take the case to the Supreme Court and “fight there.”

In a summary of the decision, by Lord Justice Underhill, Lady Justice Thirlwall and Lord Justice Peter Jackson, the judges said: “The court recognises that many people with Down’s Syndrome and other disabilities will be upset and offended by the fact that a diagnosis of serious disability during pregnancy is treated by the law as a justification for termination, and that they may regard it as implying that their own lives are of lesser value.

“But it holds that a perception that that is what the law implies is not by itself enough to give rise to an interference with article 8 rights (to private and family life, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights),” the judges said.

Clare Murphy, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, which provides abortion care services, said it supported the court’s verdict.

“There is no contradiction between a society which champions the rights of disabled people and one which allows women to make difficult decisions in heart-breaking situations,” she said.

It’s true that one can arrive at something like half a dozen mixed positions about selective termination and Down syndrome: the morality of the act of abortion itself, the act when it comes to genetic abnormalities, a theory of change that persuades or legislates or constitutionally declares, the role of the state’s interests in protecting life (where there is deemed to be life), and so on.

But more people could at least acknowledge that there is a contradiction — an irreducible contradiction — between the freedoms and protections for disabled people and the “bodily autonomy” principle that is the bedrock of most abortion rights justification. Selective termination means that a wanted fetus became an unwanted one. It’s the reason so few people on the left will touch this issue: Selectivity means that there once had been an implicit human in the balance, and now there is a clump of undesired cells.

Yes, for heaven’s sake, it’s complicated! But remember that abortion in the case of Down syndrome is highest in wealthy welfare states, and that making routine genetic screening for Down syndrome a default part of prenatal care seems to powerfully shape the entire matter: Down syndrome as merely risk and deficit and brokenness. I can’t get more than crickets out of anyone in progressive circles, and that includes most people in the disability rights community.