Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reproductive & Disability Justice

Admittedly, I've been writing less directly about the intersection of reproductive justice with disability justice that I originally intended. So perhaps it might be worthwhile to return to that topic given everything I've been learning this summer.

Through my experience in this program, I've recognized just how closely the two can be bound up together. How we cannot have reproductive justice- where barriers are removed that prevent individuals from making decisions in this realm which they deem best for themselves- without disability justice. With the term "disability justice", I am referring to the legal & economic empowerment of people with disabilities together with a larger component of cultural change. In essence, remedying our current society's notion that there is a preferred way of existing & living in this world. Ableism currently defines which bodies are deemed "worthy" enough & which ones are stigmatized & considered disposable. When groups such as Autism Speaks situate me & all others on the autistic spectrum as "entrapped" within a "shell", there is a privileging of a specific way of communication where those of us who do not always communicate in the same as those who are neurotypical must be "normalized" by any means necessary. These standards of which lives are considered superior have been used to justify forced sterilization, oppressive institutionalization, denial of reproductive health care & countless acts of abuse against people with disabilities as well as a culture of eugenics which still prevails today. It's clear that we cannot have reproductive justice for all when such ableist assumptions about people with disabilities continue to be made.

I have to confess that never before had I begun to think about how even though I have certainly experienced ableism throughout my life, I simultaneous benefit from assumptions society makes about our bodies. This is certainly relevant when it comes to the realm of reproductive health. For example, I do not need to rely on a reproductive health clinic having materials in Braille or large print, a sign language interpreter, an accessible entrance & equipment, or the like in order to ensure my health & well-being. It's less likely that I will be in a situation where a caregiver will withhold necessary information about my health which I have a right to know. Because I am not currently taking any medications, I will not be stigmatized as an "addict" by a provider. Thus, these are just some examples of how reproductive justice is contingent on erasing these barriers of accessibility & exclusion many people with disabilities face.

As I've said before, these entries have been a great way to record so much of what I'm learning. I hope you're enjoying my entries as much as I've enjoyed writing them!

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