Friday, September 23, 2005
Because I am too depressed about my country’s descent into theocon-administered kleptocracy, I haven’t bothered to keep track of the charade known as the Roberts confirmation hearings. (Though while in SF I did catch a few minutes on NPR and heard Roberts being asked if there were any specific precedents he’d like to revisit, and though he didn’t reply audibly, I did hear Arlen Specter say, “Three words. OK. First word. Rhymes with. Under. Beneath. Low. Low! Rhymes with low. . . .")
So I missed this lovely moment, captured for us Internets users by Michael Scherer at Salon:
Not to be outdone, Sen. Sam Brownback. R-Kan., brought in Abby Loy, a pretty 14-year-old girl with Down syndrome, who wore a blue flower made of ribbon on her dress. For a few moments at the hearing, she stood behind Brownback’s chair, a prop in his continuing effort to outlaw abortion. “We want to celebrate her,” Brownback said, by which he meant that he was happy she had not been aborted. Last week, Brownback used time during the questioning of Roberts to talk about “Jimmy,” a man with Down syndrome who runs one of the Senate elevators.
“I would just ask you, Judge Roberts, to consider—and probably you can’t answer here today—whether the individuals with disabilities have the same constitutional rights that you and I share while they’re in the womb,” Brownback asked
OK, Senator Brownback, listen up and listen good. Jamie Bérubé is a 14-year-old with Down syndrome, and I celebrate Jamie every mother-lovin’ day. Right now, in fact, Janet and I are celebrating his right to attend seventh grade with his nondisabled peers; we visited his science class yesterday, and we celebrated his use of the microscope and we celebrated the moment he raised his hand in response to a question, was called on, and said that some cells might look like “rectangles or squares.” And while I’ve counseled other parents—and genetics counselors themselves—that a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome should not be followed automatically by a decision to terminate the pregnancy, I strongly believe that all such advice should be a matter of persuasion rather than coercion. Many families, for whatever reasons, decide that they do not have the financial or emotional resources to raise a child with a significant disability, and I do not support clerics, mullahs, and their elected-official enablers who insist that the police power of the state be marshalled to compel those families to bear children against their will. Furthermore, unlike most contemporary conservatives and unlike all libertarians, I insist that the full health-education-and-welfare resources of the state be made available to every family that does decide to bear a child with a disability.
You, Sam—you and your cohort of extremists in Opus Dei, together with your extremist counterparts on the other side of the Reformation—profess to be worried about the constitutional rights that accrue to fetuses, embryos, and zygotes. Indeed, you are so worried about the rights of fetuses that you will install at the head of our nation’s highest court a man who almost surely will strip numerous constitutional rights from living humans. But then, your cohort is not always as concerned about humans ex utero as humans in utero. You all have made that clear time and time again. And one of the differences between people like me, who are actually raising children with disabilities while supporting other prospective parents’ right to determine what will happen with their bodies and their families, and people like you, for whom attractive 14-year-olds with Down syndrome are props to be used in the service of theocracy, is that people like me do not necessarily want to invoke the power of the state to ensure that our own choices are made mandatory for everybody else. People like me celebrate reproductive rights as one of the cornerstones of individual freedom; people like you are dedicated to finding ways of making individual rights pass right through a woman’s body, so that they adhere only to the zygote-embryo-fetus in the womb.
I’m not alone, either. People like Digby say
I believe that a woman’s right to choose gets to the very heart of what it means to be an autonomous, free human being. Control of one’s own body is fundamental to individual liberty. If the church believes that abortion is morally wrong it should instruct its voluntary membership not to do it. Individuals must always be allowed to follow their own consciences. But there should be no legal coercion on such a personal matter.
And people like Dr. B. say
Women have abortions because they need them. They have them because they know that they cannot raise children right in poverty, in abuse, with no educations, under punitive social conditions, in desperate circumstances. They know that adoption is, at best, only sometimes an option, and they are unwilling to take that chance with their own children. Women have abortions, at great expense and trouble, despite abuse and ostracization, despite great shame and disapproval, in the face of myriad laws trying to prevent them from doing so, because they are responsible.
I’m just so proud of Jamie, you know. That’s why I celebrate him all the time. And I’m grateful to live in a country where our decision to welcome him into the family was our decision—mine and Janet’s. We think that’s the way it oughta be.