By Dave Andrusko
Having graduated from the University of Minnesota and done master’s work in journalism there, I have a fond spot in my heart for my alma mater. The two years I wrote for the student newspaper were two of the best of the first half of my life.
So when someone who works at the University as an “Undergraduate Academic Advisor” writes a viciously biased piece which is awash in contradictions, I feel the call to say a few words.
David M. Perry writes for, shall we say, left of center publications, including The Nation, where “Republicans Are Using Fear of Eugenics to Attack Reproductive Rights” appeared Thursday.
It’s a long piece, the gist of which is “prioritizing bodily autonomy” (i.e., doing nothing to try to stop aborting kids because they have been prenatally diagnosed with a disability) is not only “ethically correct, but remains the best path forward to support disability rights.” That’s a headscratcher, if ever I read one.
What makes the piece even more odd is that Perry and his wife are the parents of a child with Down syndrome. Anywhere from 60% to 90% of preborn babies found to have Down syndrome are aborted. Place, like Iceland, brag about someday very soon being “free” of Down syndrome.
So somehow Perry has to square the first part of this paragraph (underlining mine)
I’ve spent many years now asserting the need to re-order how we ascribe value to diverse human lives. My son may not participate in the capitalist economy, live independently, or speak (he might also do all of these things!), but his value as a human is intrinsic. I’d like others to see it that way too. Selective abortion, as I’ve written for The Nation, reveals our attitudes about disability and other forms of difference.
with the rest of the paragraph that reads
Still it’s time to affirmatively support the right to eugenic abortion. The struggle for disability rights begins with the affirmation that no one gets to tell anyone else what to do with their body. That includes abortion.
Part of the “solution”—a huge part– is to vilify pro-lifers who dare to introduce, let alone pass, laws that ban abortions based on disability. Ohio just passed a law that bans aborting children diagnosed with Down syndrome, which was the jumping off point for Perry’s column.
It’s a “winning wedge issue,” Perry tells us in a fit of pique. The only reason we care is because children with Down syndrome are “cute”—it’s one of the “sympathetic disabilities”–and therefore likely to find a more receptive audience.
Warming to the task, a few paragraphs later he tells his readership, “Enter the anti-choice activists and their politics of division and destruction. They can exploit people with Down syndrome (often stereotyped as angelic) to push back reproductive rights.”
Note, by the way, this is the same man who a few paragraphs before noted, “With community and educational supports, people with Down syndrome live happy, inclusive, meaningful lives, and there’s data showing that having a sibling or child with Down syndrome strengthens overall familial bonds. At the same time, screening technologies are becoming more accurate and can be used earlier in a pregnancy.”
These contrasting paragraphs capture the inherent tension between his affirmation of an absolutely unfettered right to abort for any reason or none and a recognition that the lives of people with Down syndrome (and their families!) can be blessed.
But so what? Nothing but nothing can “undermine reproductive rights.”
Perry also angrily takes a shot at pro-life feminists who, of course are, for him, a contradiction in terms. He is annoyed that we use the language of disability rights and feminism to make the case for life.
But the reason we “use” these languages is because they reinforce what Perry himself concedes: that we all have “intrinsic” human value.
Perry refuses to see the moral schizophrenia inherent in espousing the causes of disability rights and feminism and then offering up three cheers for those who would abort children because they have a disability or are the “wrong” sex! Instead Perry insists if we look deep enough, we can square the circle: blatant, lethal discrimination will further the cause of people with disabilities and women. Figure that one out.
It’s nonsense, and Perry knows it. But he must keep his pro-abortion credentials burnished if he going to write for The Nation and Rewirenews, The Guardian, and Vice.com. And what better way than for the father of a child with Down syndrome to say he’s fine with aborting children with disabilities.