Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Baby and the Bath Water

I do try to see the other side of things. I think most of us do. But sometimes it's a huge struggle for me.

I just read this article online. I've been seeing the sensational headlines all day on my iGoogle page. "Parents to sterilise daughter, age 11." Finally, curiosity got the best of me, and I took a look.

Angela, the eleven-year-old child, in Brisbane, is profoundly disabled. Her intellectual age is three-months old. The parents say the reason they want their child to have a hysterectomy is that her periods cause cause pain and fatigue. They also suspect that menstruation triggers epileptic fits.

Certain people in the disability advocacy community are not happy with the parents, and the court that ruled that the parents CAN do this.

Therese Sands from People With Disability Australia says, it is our view that nobody has the right to sterilise a child, not a judge, not a parent, not unless it's a matter of life or death.

How would this child be helped by NOT being sterilised? Are we denying her the right to have children? How in the world would someone with the mind of a three-month-old take care of a baby?

Angela can't walk. She can't talk. She can't even do sign language. Her parents have to feed her, and change her diaper.

I would be all with the disability advocates if this child was mildly or moderately disabled...maybe even severely disabled. But Angela is PROFOUNDLY disabled. Parenthood is really not in the cards for her.

So is it about the right to menstruate? Are we denying poor Angela her moon time? I hate having my period, and always have. I don't care if it's a natural part of being a woman. To me it's gross, messy, and sometimes painful.

The other issue is this: Is Angela really going to go out and have sex? I don't think someone at that intellectual level is going to be seeking that type of fun. In my depressing opinion, Angela's only chance of sex would be rape and molestation. She's vulnerable, and sick people like to take advantage of people in that situation. Really. She can't say yes or no. So at the very least, her sexual experiences would be statutory rape. I really hope that doesn't happen to her; but if it does, at least she and her parents won't have to deal with a pregnancy.

My heart goes out to Angela.

My heart goes out to her parents. I found it very hard to take care of an infant. I loved Jack from the day I found out I was pregnant. I was one of those lucky moms who was quick to bond. But I often look at eight-year-old Jack, and think I am SO glad you're this age now, and no longer a baby. I can't imagine having a child who I know will never progress past infancy. For me, it would be heartbreaking, hopeless, and depressing.

I think families in this situation deserve our support, not our judgments.

I find reading about all this ironic. Recently, I've really climbed onboard the whole Autism-Pride and pro-neurodiversity camp. I find it offensive that mild forms of Autism (like Aspergers) are considered a disorder/disease. It makes me mad when I hear people say they want to cure autism. Jack somewhat fits the profile for being mildly autistic, and I love him the way he is. I don't think he needs to be cured. In fact, I think the world would be better if more people were like him.

But not all Autistic kids are like Jack. Some kids are severely impaired. They can't talk. They can't manage basic self-care. They're closed off from the world. I really don't think it's right for me to push my neurodiversity mindset on them, or their parents. For these families, I WOULD want a cure.

Sometimes we take the RIGHT ideas, and push them too far to the extreme.

I hate that white Australians stole black children from their parents. It makes me cry. It makes me want to scream. But if you make a law, that says no black child should ever be taken from their parents....that's not good either. Sometimes children DO need to be taken away. It shouldn't be for forced assimilation or to prevent poverty. But if there's true abuse, the child should be rescued.

I hate that the Nazis euthanized disabled people because they weren't perfect enough for Hitler's little dream world. That's disgusting. But if you sit there and say, NO people should be euthanized, no matter how sick, hopeless, and painful their life is; that's just really unfair.

I think there should be laws that prevent people from easily sterilizing others. I think most disabled people (or those folks that differ from the norm) would make fine parents, and they should be able to have the opportunity. But I don't see the point of banning ALL sterilization. I personally think it should be a case-by-case decision.

I'm glad the court decided things the way that they did.

I wish Angela and her family a quick recovery from the surgery, and I hope they're not overly harassed by people who have no idea what they're going through. And no, being disabled yourself, does not mean you can understand. If you're smart enough to read about the situation, have an opinion, and protest....your situation is NOTHING like Angela's.


Although I may disagree with you, I'm open to hearing opposing opinions. If someone could help me better understand the other side of the argument, I'd appreciate it.