This is an image of an ultrasound of a fetus with signs of Down syndrome.

The Disability Rights Movement Should Be Pro-Life

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.

17 thoughts on “The Disability Rights Movement Should Be Pro-Life”

      1. I think you should have reconsidered you support for Bernie Sanders, considering that he supports abortion without restrictions all the nine months of pregnancy and wanted to put the Departament of Justice against the states with most pro-life legislation. I can guess that if it was for him there wouln`t even be disabled people being born.

        1. Yes I have been reconsidering with his latest statement on it. It makes me very uncomfortable. But only reason I support him his he aginest the drug war taken many lives and distory many families and he support universal health health care something we should fight for. But it does make me very uncomfortable with his pro-choice stance. But I felt Hillary was worse because she did not support universal health care and was fine with drug war with fine with going to war. I wish there a candidate like Bernie who was pro-life I would switch to them in a heart beat!

  1. Great article. I am an Autistic mom with two kids–my son is Autistic and have tons of medical issues. And while I would not have considered terminating either of my pregnancies, I love my kids, it is a different story now.

    All I wanted to say is a possible reason that many disability rights activists are pro-choice is not because they do not want children–but getting pregnant themselves can be life threatening. That is where I am now. I’m not as healthy as I used to be, and I have some chronic health conditions that sometimes make parenting my own challenging, and I can’t risk my life to give them a sibling if it means losing me in the process.

    So it’s not an easy matter…you know? Some expectant mothers have died from doctors refusing to terminate a pregnancy due to their beliefs, and in many cases the baby was wanted but something went wrong medically with the mom.

    What I’m trying to say is that it works both ways…and is sometimes medically necessary to save a life, and that is what the pro-choicers in my neurodiverse/disabled social circles generally believe. I hope that makes sense.

    I wish you all the best with your baby…I kind of miss my kids being babies some days, now that they are 7 and 4 and sometimes they make me crazy. 😉 Just…don’t blink. They grow up way too fast. <3

  2. I love your final line, “I hope someday people will see this not as partisan issue, but a bipartisan issue that we can all agree on.” I am also an individual with a disability, and while I am I presume that much more conservative than you are in general, I am incredibly encouraged that there are other people out there who feel like this can be an issue where we can come together across the aisle.

    1. Indeed! I all for working across the aisle! Something I encourage! I used to be one side of spectrum on my political. When I was in high school I was very right wing! But then I was put in a abusive job situration and damped my interests in captialism. I then went to university where I complete walked over to the other side of the political spectrum. Now I am a mix of the two. I still very pro-life but I am for social services I want to get out of war! I support both sudden aspects of socialism and captialism both have good parts.

  3. Self determination belongs to every individual. I would no more force you to have an abortion than I would force you to be sterile. Your personal opinion works brilliantly for you. Saying your choice is appropriate for anyone else is no better than me, as a typically/temporarily abled person, telling you that my opinion is “for your own good”.

    1. I honestly don’t know what happens to my birthmother. The Soviet goverment faked her name and issues me a name from the goverment. For all I know I could have been a product of sexual assault. I honestly don’t know. I stand by that my birth mother did right thing by allow me to live. I value my exist that why I am pro-life. It honestly self preservation

  4. Thank you for writing this! As a chronically I’ll person with a measure of disability, who is parenting a special needs child I did not give birth to, this issue is near and dear to my heart.

  5. I’m very moved by your piece. I;m active in the American Solidarity Party, which is pro-life and pro-social justice. I here that you have discomfort with both parties, as I did. I would go to pro-life events and find many people not supporting polices that are good for children and mothers because they allied themselves with the Republicans. And then pro-peace Democrats that were quite willing to see infants killed in the womb. So with the ASP we have many former Democrats and Republicans that share these concerns. see:

  6. First off, congratulations Ivanova and secondly, I agree with your article and position wholeheartedly. The USA has political polarization, the left; typically supports social services and Pro-Choice, while the right; is Pro-Life and continues to cut services to those who need services and supports to raise happy and healthy children.

    Continue your work and advocacy, it is needed!

  7. I didn’t really want to be sterilized but I was so afraid of being trapped in an abusive relationship, should I conceive a child with my abuser, that I didn’t see any other option (and was afraid of losing access to abortion). Now I am sad that I may never be able to have children but at least I got out and am alive.

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