The discourse around Zika has included a constant barrage of ableist language in which reproductive rights advocates suggest that a disability like microcephaly naturally means a mother would want to terminate.
There clearly is a problem with access to reproductive choice, but I always maintain we can make that argument without implying that disability equals a death sentence.
Here’s a solid piece on the issues from Girl With Pen.
Whereas news stories about Ebola since 2014 have often included images of supine suffering bodies surrounded by white hazmat suits, recent images about Zika feature babies born with small heads on the laps of parents (interestingly, often with their own heads cropped out of the frame). The story of this disease is one of disabled children.
Schuetze, the author, handles the complex issue well, emphasizing the way that media discourse treats the babies as the disease and preventing the babies, through abortion or birth control, as the remedy. She concludes:
A life with disabilities has challenges and complexities that vary from one person to the next, but it is a life. We need to stop treating the birth of Zika babies as the outcome, the end point of the narrative of the Zika virus and focus on the lives the children and their families will live.
A simple way to begin focusing on the Zika babies as new lives and not tragedies is to change the language used to discuss them. A simple shift from “malformed” and “birth defect” to impairment or disability changes the story. Rather than a medicalized diseased body with its “defects,” we have a human being with a challenging life ahead.
I really like this post. Your thoughts?