I was conceived, unplanned, in Soviet occupied Latvia. I am also disabled. When I was born, I was born prematurely. I had deformed feet called “club feet” and I was very small. I was also born with developmental disabilities. Because I was unwanted I was sent to an institutional orphanage in Riga, the capital of Latvia. I lived there for 5 years, until my American family was able to adopt me. I have lived in America for 23 years now and I love it here!
I think of my birth mother a lot. I am thankful she let me live. She did not see my life as a life not worth living. In America, I learned that this is not true for all unwanted and disabled babies. There are pre-natal tests people can take to figure out if they baby is disabled, so parents can make a decision whether to abort or not. Some European countries brag that 90% of children with Down syndrome are being terminated before birth. Professors like Peter Singer have received tenure and accolades for saying that life like mine is not worth living, even after birth. These views sadden me greatly. I think of millions babies just like me waiting for chance to be born and to see this world.
I view “pro-life” as supporting a whole life, not just life in the womb. This is why I was a big supporter of Bernie Sanders, even through I cringe when he speaks about abortion. I see him being pro-life in his other policies, like universal healthcare and making sure social services are adequately funded.
My birth mother was probably very poor and could not take care of me. I understand. I’m not angry at her for putting me up for adoption. I am just happy she allowed me be born! We need make adoption more accessible for people with disabilities who want to adopt. We need to better support expecting parents. We also need make sure that disabled parents keep their parental rights. In Washington state I have heard stories of babies being taken away from their disabled mothers out of the delivery room. That is not pro-life!
I have heard in school and in text books that my life is not worth living. I have heard in debates that my life was another person choice. The words have always felt like daggers to my heart. I remember the first time I tried to be part of the debate about what should happen to people like me. I told my story about how I was able to overcome the orphanage and be with a family, but the person I was debating responded, “it would have been better if your mother aborted you! You would not have to live disabled.” I have never forgotten that interaction.
My pro-life views put me at odds with my left-leaning friends who also support disability rights. They assume I am pro-choice. I understand that many conservatives are not truly pro-life because they support policies that take away funding that people need to live. I understand why many disabled activists can’t stand many conservatives. When conservatives try to cut Medicaid and Medicare, that’s not pro-life.
I feel we all have right to life. I don’t feel that my life or any other unexpected life should be another person’s choice. A couple weeks ago I found out that I was pregnant. Now, I feel that I need to speak up on this issue as a expecting disabled parent whose child may also be disabled. I am terrified of having a child of my own, but my views will never waver. The baby inside me has the same right to life that I have. I will do whatever I can to make sure they are born. This baby was unplanned, but it will not be unwanted.
The disabled community is largely pro-choice. Every day on social media and in my advocacy work I feel like there is an onslaught of people saying my life was a choice and my birth mother had every right to kill me. I fear people saying this about my child. Sometimes I am scared to tell my more left-leaning friends that I am pregnant. I fear they will try tell me to go to Planned Parenthood. I know the history. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood supported the sterilization and death of disabled people through her support for and participation in the eugenics movement. While Planned Parenthood claims to not support eugenic views today, I am wary because they still support selective abortion of disabled children.
Some might say, “well, you’ve never had to deal with unplanned pregnancy,” but they would be wrong. My current pregnancy is unplanned. I was not expecting to have a baby untilI was at least 30. Being unplanned does does not mean I should have the right to kill my child. They are just trying to live. I can feel them living every day now. I could never try take that away from them. They are human, like I am human.
Even though some in the disability community don’t see this as a modern form of eugenics, I do. Eugenics is advocating for the death of those who are seen as a burden, as weaker or as an inconvenience. I understand there are situations where abortion is necessary evil, like if the mother life is at risk or if she was sexually assaulted However, I don’t feel a person’s life should be a choice because they are seen as a inconvenience or burden. We are human beings. even with the cases above a life was lost and that is sad and should be grieved.
I value my own life and life like me. We all just want to live, like any other human beings. I hope someday people will see this not as partisan issue, but a bipartisan issue that we can all agree on.