Of mice and men and intelligence genes

Marta Russell ap888 at SPAMlafn.org
Mon Sep 6 13:56:16 MDT 1999

Macdonald Stainsby wrote:

> Andy:
> >I am assuming based on this endorsement of a general principle with
> >respect to abortion that sex selection via abortion is in principle
> >different from sex selection via infanticide or euthanasia. It probably
> >follows that race selection via abortion (and sterilization, too?) would
> >also be in principle different from race selection via infanticide or
> >euthanasia.


> It is always different should it be done by the choice of the woman alone.
> BTW, how the hell is science ever going to determine race? The father does
> that, at least as far as I learned the birds and bees, anyway.

I think Andy meant that abortion decisions are sometimes made on the basis of
what race the child may be.  Women's families for intance may decide they do
not like the race of the father, hence pressure a woman to abort.  The white
race has targeted people of color for sterilization in the past.


> It is a valid decision to leave up to the mother to-be. I know that many
> people simply could never carry a child to term and then give that child up,
> nor could the same parents be capable of raising a handicapped child. I
> realise the immense power in the statement that was made by the woman who
> Marta quoted, but let us remember that Marta is quoting a person- not a
> fetus. Perhaps what frightens you is that it reminds us all just how
> vulnerable we once were when we were "potential" rather than "actual"
> people. Nonetheless, it is a decision that only one in the situation can
> make. Whatever you may say on the issue of "selectivity", it is a form of
> judgement. As well, your post makes no reference to the immense amount of
> struggle that goes into raising a mentally handicapped child, not to mention
> financial.

I support the woman's right to choose but I am questioning whether in fact
there is a choice when support systems are missing in our society to assist
with the raising of a child with a disability.  For instance, I think parents
of disabled children should be entitled to an assistant - personal assistance
services - just as adults with disabilities advocate now for themselves, so
that the parent is not the one doing the attendant work.  That should be a well
paying job for someone. And universal health care which was disability
sensitive - now the playing field is skewed making it materially difficult and
that impacts parenting choice.

>   Macdonald:

> the people who can least afford (physically and
> financially) the task of raising such people will grow, while the rich will
> remain "unburdened".

Again I agree about the material inequality present in today's culture.  But I
think you are forgetting that raising a child, any child is rought with risk.
For example, children develop childhood leukemia and juevenile diabetes before
they are 18 years old where the parent no longer has legal responsibility for
them.  Now these conditions are not detectable in the womb, but if they were,
those born without a "visible" disability would become targets for abortion

80 percent of the population will develop some disabling condition in the
course of their lives.  Those who are predisposed to heart attacks, alzheimers
later in life could also become targets in prenatal screening when those genes
become detectable pre birth.

Why not focus on making our health and social support structures more amenable
to these realities?

> Macdonald:
> The fetus IS NOT HUMAN, anymore than an egg is a chicken, or a seed is a
> tree. It has no rights outside of the woman, regardless of the reasoning
> behind termination. You should not be concerned about "status" for any
> reason. I know that you do not question legality, so your argument seems to
> lead towards some form of counselling, be it before or during said
> pregnancy.

But to be parents and society DO put value on the status of fetus.  If parents
did not, they would not go through all these genetic screening tests to see
what kind of fetus they have got, they would just have the baby.  If social
institutions did not give a status to the fetus, they would not be so eager to
counsel parents to abort disabled fetus as they do now.

> Andy:
> >However, while I reiterate that I oppose any restriction on individuals
> >choosing abortion, it is a different situation when pregnancy would be
> >carried to term *if but for* the sex or race, etc. of the fetus. The
> >question now includes the status of the fetus. For example, we should be
> >concerned when cultural oppression forces women to abort female fetuses in
> >the same way we should be concerned about FGM and a host of other
> >restrictions on or violations of women's freedom.

> snip

> >the principle is not only about the woman's right
> >to choose, but about cultural pressure to abort undesirable fetuses and
> >prevent such fetuses from becoming human beings. A different principle is
> >concerned, one that is admittedly ethically complex with respect to a
> >woman's right to choose.

I agree wholeheartedly, no choice can be made where there is such inequality in
our material reality, where there is an economic interest to rid the world of
unproductive and poor people, to restrict the reproductive rights of women of
color, and where ideologies prevail which hold that a person with a disability
is unequal to nondisabled people.


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