The National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC), has found itself having to tread carefully in the area of abortion policy so as not to offend either of two important member groups holding opposite views on the issue of eugenic abortion.
The Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL, has long been a member of the national feminist lobby group. NAC has adopted the same policy as CARAL on abortion: on demand, without legislation.
However, one of the newest entrants into the feminist fold is the Disabled Women’s Network (DAWN).
The latest issue of the NAC publication Feminist Action, reports that in the 1988 resolution stating “that NAC firmly opposes the use of development of new reproductive technologies which encourage a eugenics approach to human reproduction…” CARAL objected to this wording, and the resolution was not debated, but was instead referred to NAC’s Reproductive Rights Committee for discussion.
CARAL questioned whether NAC would also oppose amniocentesis and CVS which are already being used to diagnose fetal abnormalities.
“Does NAC think pregnant women should be given fewer choices than they now have about bearing a disabled child?” CARAL asked.
The abortion lobby group then suggested an alternative motion urging “non-judgmental and non0biased counseling in the use of new reproductive technologies.”
DAWN has responded that CARAL’s proposal neglects to address the crucial issue of eugenics – attempted perfection of the human race through genetic manipulation, selective breeding, forced sterilization, and abortion for fetal abnormality.
While DAWN has no objection to the use of amniocentesis, for example, to detect fetal abnormality, the disabled women’s group finds the context for its use eugenically based.
CARAL’s insistence that non-biased counseling is all that is needed indicates an affirmative answer to the central question: Does a woman have the right to abort a child because it is handicapped?
NAC’s Reproductive Rights Committee Co-Char, Robin LeDrew, has proposed a compromise resolution in which NAC would oppose “a eugenic approach to the use of new reproductive technologies.” However, she also stated that the pro-choice feminist response to a woman carrying an “abnormal fetus” would be, “You have a choice. Here is non-biased information about the disability, here is some emotional support. Now…what do you want to do?”
DAWN’s original resolution opposed both the use and the development of new technologies which “encourage” a eugenics approach to human reproduction. NAC seems content to simply have their opposition to eugenics on record while adopting CARAL’s “here’s the information, it’s you choice” stand. DAWN appears to more accurately have determined that once the “search and destroy” technology is in place, counseling will obviously be weighted in favour of abortion when fetal handicaps are detected.
NAC appears to be paying lip-service to the concept that eugenic abortion is not a nice idea, and at the same time pandering to CARAL’s insistence on “choice.” If DAWN does not agree with this approach, NAC will find itself caught between defending the equality of disabled women in society, and their particular right to give birth despite genetic disabilities, and defending the choice to abort disabled babies simply because they are disabled.