Monday, October 08, 2007

We do know better

We may call on the surgeon for any act upon an individual which is to benefit him. We may not treat him as we do with our cattle, for the benefit of ourselves or the state.

--Alexander Johnson, "Report of the Committee on Colonies for and Segregation of Defectives," Proceedings of the National Conference on Charities and Correction, 1903.
Happened upon this quote in an article I've assigned for my online course in US disability history this week. We're reading about the history of eugenic sterilization laws, policies, and practices this week. The idea that all disabled people, all convicted criminals, all poor folks should be sterilized once made sense to a frightening lot of Americans. It's heartening to know that, even at the height of the eugenics movement, some folks realized it was wrong, and said so, like in the quote above. Johnson and his committee were all heads of state schools for "feebleminded" children, and they all objected to the idea that sterilization should be added to their duties. In the end, their position was vindicated, but not before many thousands of routine sterilizations were performed in the next several decades, often without consent or even truthful explanations.

I wish this quote wasn't quite so timely. I wish folks didn't talk about major surgery as a casual thing (even when it's medically necessary, it's a big deal, with plenty of pain and risk, no matter what it looks like on TV). I wish the child's rights and interests were taken seriously. I wish folks weren't so squeamish about ordinary bodily functions. I wish people wouldn't use the "unless you're a parent like me you can't understand" line of defense, because that presumes parents like me understand, and I don't.

I wish we knew better. Oh wait, we do.

More on the same subject (I'll be updating these links as necessary):
Biodiverse Resistance
Falling Off My Pedestal
Miss Crip Chick's Weblog
(and more from FRIDA, and more still from FRIDA)
Wheelchair Dancer
(and more from Wheelchair Dancer)
My Beautiful Wickedness
Tiny Cat Pants
The Life and Times of Emma
Brown Femipower
(and more from Brown Femipower)
The Strangest Alchemy
(and more from The Strangest Alchemy, and still more from The Strangest Alchemy)
Ryn Tales Book of Days
Jemma Brown (at Ouch!)
Kintropy in Action
Wheelie Catholic
Planet of the Blind
Growing Up with a Disability
Not Dead Yet News & Commentary
Terrible Palsy
Andrea's Buzzing About
The Gimp Parade
Arthritic Young Thing
Pipecleaner Dreams
A Tedious Delusion
A Renegade Evolution
Lisy Babe's Blog
Mind the Gap Cardiff
Diary of a Goldfish
Bad Cripple
Big Noise
Quench Zine
Modus Dopens
Sunny Dreamer
Walking is Overrated
Nickie's Nook
Benefit Scrounging Scum
Fetch Me My Axe
Text and the World
Bastante Already
R. Mildred
The Voyage
Maman Poulet
The Seated View

NOTE: After the last round on this topic, when we had lovely comments comparing people like my son to doorstops and turnips (thanks so much, CNN, for sending the anonymous hate this way), I'm just not going to respond to anonymous or ugly comments. In truth, I might not respond to any comments. I've got a carnival edition to assemble.


Jacqui said...

We do know better and I am very thankful for blogs like this one and the ones that you list that are out there saying that this isn't okay.

Anonymous said...

The parents of the 15-year old English girl with cerebral palsy feel that their daughter’s life is already too “undignified” because she needs personal care, and that she might have painful menstrual periods or would be frightened or confused by her “inconvenient” monthly menses. They also fear that she would be more vulnerable to sexual molestation if she is fertile.

People are uncomfortable with the fact that disabled children can grow up to be disabled, sexual adults. And what happens? People seek drastic steps to relieve their own discomfort and fears of human sexuality by literally trying to cut them out of the bodies of young girls.

Talk about undignified.

Anonymous said...

This pervasive inability and unwillingness to see and embrace the humanity of others is disabling our society.


Kathryn said...

It's sterilization! It's just another way for this kid not to get to experience life to it's fullest. And that is the gift - being alive. The parents are projecting their own abberations on their daughter. It's so awful that Doctors think this is ok. That the argument is out there that a hystorectomy of a healthy uterus is more humane than having a period is insidious. Humane - like neutering a pet? Katie and Ashely and my Ellie are people. Ellie can't talk but she can communicate by other means that really show she has opinions, cares and worries like the rest of us. I wonder if Ashley and Katie were ever given other means to communicate their opinions, cares and worries.

Even if they can't ever communicate them, their bodies are theirs! To remove healthy organs and deny them the right of passage into adulthood is criminal. And should be treated as criminal action, not as a medical intervention considered humane. It's not humane! It's mysogeny and grievious hate towards the disabled. Obviously I feel strongly about this.

If people don't speak up then we are letting the lunatic fringe create a world in which we treat people with cognitive and phsycial differences as less than human. That is not a legacy I want to leave my daughter. Please go to Emma's sight and follow the link to the petition protesting this. That is a start.

Ashley's Mom said...

Here's my blog entry on the subject:

Yet another Ashley treatment case

Trinity said...

here are some more links on blogs/LJs I frequent, some by PWD and some not:

Trinity said...

that second one looks cut off, so just in case

the link

Daisy Deadhead said...

After the last round on this topic, when we had lovely comments comparing people like my son to doorstops and turnips (thanks so much, CNN, for sending the anonymous hate this way), I'm just not going to respond to anonymous or ugly comments.

Good god, did they really say these things?

Sometimes, I don't even realize how naive I am...

Kay Olson said...

Those anonymous comments from last January don't lose their punch, do they?

It's been quite a year. I'm glad you're keeping the list of links. It helps too, to see that list grow.

Penny L. Richards said...

Hi Daisy--yes, they really did refer to a child as "the turnip" and "a doorstop." The phrase "let the vegetable die" was also thrown around, which was especially frightening because NOBODY in that case was talking about euthanasia or life support... All anonymous, of course.

Kay, yes, it's true, the comments of last January still hold a lot of pain. That's why I'm keeping this link list, to remind myself that there are so many bloggers who know better. We do know better. We do.

Rob at Kintropy said...

Thanks, Penny, for keeping us all up to speed.

I recently finished watching Where's Molly? - a documentary about a man searching for his sister. She was institutionalized by her parents here in Oregon in the late 50s-early 60s. These days, it seems like some are medically and chemically reproducing the institutions inside our kids: locking them away from their selves, their choices, their future. We should be moving forward, not backward.

Book Girl said...

Hi Penny,

Another link:

The Goldfish said...

Well done for collecting these Penny.

I really don't think this will happen, you know? I really hope not, but I'm quite optimistic that this won't be allowed to happen. But I did post something about the press coverage in any case; here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this list together! It makes me a little happier that all these voices are out there. I've added my own rather small but no less passionate one, in the spirit of solidarity. It's startling, appalling, and horrifying that more people don't 'know better' and think it's okay or justified to engage in this kind of institutionalized violence against a young woman.

Anonymous said...

Add my voice to the cries in this wilderness we find ourselves in.

And, thank you for keeping the list among all the other things you do for our online disability community.
aka Big Noise

Anonymous said...

"These days, it seems like some are medically and chemically reproducing the institutions inside our kids: locking them away from their selves, their choices, their future. We should be moving forward, not backward."

This is so true and so scary to me. With adults with psychiatric disabilities, some parents are trying to force "hospitals without walls": outpatient committment with PACT teams, on their adult children and other people's adult children.

If giving healthy children hysterectomies becomes acceptable in our society, we will have gone back a very long way as we fear we have already gone back a long way with adults with psychiatric disabilites.

maudite entendante said...

I had a really fascinating conversation with my partner about this, and tried (and failed) to reproduce some of it on Quench:

(A note about my scenarios - Quench generally discusses gender/sexuality issues, and many of our contributors and readers are trans. It struck me as odd that you can only get a healthy uterus removed if you're not the one who wants it.)

Red Nicholson said...

A similar case is happening in New Zealand as we speak, where they are trying to have an intellectually impaired girl sterilized so she won't get pregnant again.. Link to my blog post about it

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Hello, I'm new to your blog, but could I add my post on the subject? Thank you, Bendy Girl

Sharon McDaid said...

Thanks for the list. It has been heartening to read these posts, since the mainstream media articles have been mostly awful.

I have just blogged on this too. Here are a few other links;

Maman Poulet

William Crawley

That last link I have just looked at, and I see a shocking comment stating, "A spastic woman is no more likely to be able to be a successful parent than the busybodies are likely to raise a spastic woman: whatever makes life simpler for both mother and daughter is at this stage of primary importance".

Lene Andersen said...

The thing that kills me... OK, all of it makes me nauseous and want to cry. But there's such a simple test for this: substitute another word for disability - say, black and if the resulting sentence makes you horrified, IT'S NOT ETHICAL!

And the media's clear bias - like the article in the Times ( that makes sure to soothe its readers by mentioning that "The treatments, which would not be carried out on able-bodied people...". Well, then it isn't a treatment, is it? Then it's discriminatory mutilation!

It's so, so vile.

icarus said...

Thanks for linking to Quench!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the link!