Remember that awful “ban abortions for disabled foetuses” letter to the Telegraph yesterday, which I took down here? Twitterer @jonanamary has done something rather brilliant. She’s written to all the signatories asking them what they actually do to help people with disabilities. The full text of her letter is below, and she’ll let us know if any of them bother replying. She’s not hopeful for any replies, and neither am I!
The letter states:
“A special-needs child in the womb can be aborted at up to 40 weeks. But once he or she is born, we do a moral volte-face and become full of compassion.”
I was wondering how you square this assertion – that “we”, i.e. society, become “full of compassion”, for “special-needs” children – with the recent and extensively covered cuts to essential benefits and services for people with disabilities?
Here are just some examples of articles on cuts to services and benefits for people with disabilities:
I could continue. The evidence is clear that life for people with disabilities is difficult, and becoming even more so, as austerity measures target essential services for disabled people. The side-effect of this – the demonisation of people with disabilities in certain parts of the media – has led to a rise in hate crimes against disabled people (see BBC News article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19589602
). This grim picture seems far from the “compassion” you claim disabled children are met with – although it should go without saying that there are still many good people, in the NHS and outside it, who do their utmost every day to help disabled children and their parents/carers.
It seems nonsensical to talk about the abortion of foetuses with severe abnormalities without looking at the wider economic picture which influences decisions regarding termination. I do not doubt that many parents making the agonising choice on whether or not they feel able to support a disabled child would opt to bring a pregnancy to term, were better support guaranteed to be available – and were the outlook for disabled people not so grim.
I am sure you agree that the truly compassionate act, in this instance, is to look to change societal attitudes about people with disabilities, and to support benefits and services which help make the lives of disabled people and their carers easier – despite the government’s counterproductive austerity drive.
I note that in your letter, you do not refer to the savage cuts causing havoc to the lives of many, many people with disabilities, as outlined in the links provided above. I am sure this is a simple oversight.
To this end, I would like to know if your organisation has:
- campaigned for the protection of services designed for people with disabilities, including children;
- spoken out against the cuts, because of the impact they will have on those caring for a disabled child;
- lobbied the government to protect such services, publicly or behind the scenes;
- offered economic support to charities and groups which offer care and support to disabled people;
and finally, if you are prepared to issue a statement or letter – similar to the one sent to the Daily Telegraph – which sets out in the clearest possible terms your opposition to the erosion and outright destruction of the support infrastructure upon which many people with disabilities rely on a daily basis.
Thank you for your attention. I hope to hear from you soon.
Yours [Jonanamary's real name]
20/9/12: A response has been received from Comment on Reproductive Ethics, reproduced below.
Dear [Jonanamary's real name]
Thank you very much for getting in touch.
You raise very important issues which we are indeed aware of and some of the other signatories to the letter will no doubt reply to you and explain some of the specific things they have done and are doing to address the needs of children and adults with special-needs and disabilities.
The letter today is just intended as the first step in a long battle of raising public awareness as to the reality of our current attitudes to disability before birth, and I would encourage you to write directly to The Telegraph to add your comments to the discussion and focus on the inadequacies of support for those who do get past the birth hurdle. There is already quite an extensive exchange taking place online.
LIFE, for example, has a particular focus on babies and children with special needs, and colleagues working in Down Syndrome Research UK are also searching for positive responses to the specific special needs of those they represent, whether of a medical or a practical nature.
We work together on a number of issues and one particular initiative I have been involved in recently has been the creation of a directory of hands-on help for women in crisis pregnancy situations, which includes contact for positive help to face whatever problems lie ahead, which often includes advocacy for special-needs children and their families. This initiative is being supported by a number of those who signed the letter. This directory will be launched next month and we hope will be added to by others as it becomes known.
This is by way of an immediate albeit brief response to your letter, but I hope we can keep in touch and find ways of collaborating in the future.