Genetic Mapping as a Means for Further Stigmatizing the Disabled
Following recent technologic advances, the ability to prenatally test a fetus for certain genetic ‘maladies’ has become visible at the horizon of scientific innovation. While the benefits of a genetic screening process are great, a much more damaging and presumptuous side effect accompanies these bonuses: the implication that those currently living with disability are lesser citizens who are unhappy with their manner of existence.
The scenario is often portrayed as such: a pregnant woman and loving father decide to screen the fetus to protect the imminent child from a life lived in shame and discomfort. This notion seems straightforward and well intentioned. What needs to be examined is how are the parents basing the decision of what makes a burdensome, and to whom.
Many negative views surrounding disabilities are societally driven, and therefore wrongly paint medical conditions as having harmful effects on the child and families of the child. While in actuality, the experience in and of itself is nowhere near the stereotyped view of what a life with said medical condition will be dictated to be. Many disabled communities, for example the Deaf community, consider themselves to be cultures. By considering a disability as something that is negative, and in some cases abortion-worthy, the existence of all those disabled is diminished.
The technology that allows the choosing of desired traits therefore implies that some traits are undesirable. However, where does this leave the millions of humans with ‘undesirable’ traits who currently walk the planet? This kind of conversation denigrates their identity, and installs a hierarchy wherein the physically ‘perfect’ residing at the top wield the power to brand someone as having an undesirable life, when in actuality that person is perfectly happy. Those with ‘desirable’ characteristics undercut an entire population’s existence and life experiences due to the fact that the two groups share entirely different sets of values.
While having an ailment-free race seems ideal, it once again lends power to the majority who view themselves as untainted. Many blind people describe a life experience that is entirely fulfilling and drastically different than those with vision. Yet, imagine if you were having your own fetus genetically screened and you found out that your child would be blind, what would your response be? If the ability was there to correct this ‘flaw’ or to perhaps try again, would you?