Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. As always, it’s good to have you here. I’m going to waste no time, and crack straight on with this week’s subject, which has been prominent in the news following the SCOTUS overturning Roe v Wade: Abortion. I’m nervous about writing this, because I’m a man. I’m genetically male, and I identify as male gender. What’s more, my demographic is widely considered one of the most prejudiced, discriminatory, and reactionary around; white, straight, middle-aged, British male. Who the hell do I think I am talking about abortion? With these nervous thoughts in mind, I’m going to lay my cards on the table: I am pro-choice.
I believe it is the right of a pregnant person to choose whether they want an abortion or not. I believe a person who chooses abortion should have immediate availability of the procedure in a safe medical environment, free from pressure or judgement, paid for by the taxpayer. I believe a person considering abortion should have full, comprehensive and immediate access to all relevant information about the procedure, including both physical and mental health support. I believe that preventing pregnant people from accessing safe abortion should be a crime. I believe that criminalising or judging pregnant people who choose abortion is morally wrong. You can disagree with my view if you want. You can even argue with me about it. In fact, I would fight to preserve your right to disagree with me, because I cherish freedom of expression. I say all this while believing that my own mother, with whom I had an excellent relationship, would probably have aborted the pregnancy that led to me if there had been better access and information at that time. I’m fine with that. So, I’m glad you know where I stand. But if it’s all so cut and dried, why am I talking about it? Well, this is an autism blog, so that should give you a clue to where I’m going…
If you think I’m going to make a special exception to my stance on abortion for autism, you’re mistaken. So let me make this clear: I believe that if a person wants to have an abortion because they believe that if the baby comes to term it will be autistic, and they don’t want an autistic child, then I still support their right to make that decision. I’d be upset by that decision, but it’s the pregnant person’s choice; not mine, and we have to respect their right to choose. But wait, how likely is it that this situation could arise, anyway?
My concerns spring from the genetic research that is being carried out into autism. As things stand, it is estimated that literally hundreds of genes play a part in a person being autistic. There is no single autism gene that can be switched on or off with sophisticated genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR. Autism doesn’t work like that. But as many autistic people have pointed out, research such as the detestable Spectrum 10k project headed by the Dark Lord of autism research, Simon Baron-Cohen, could open the door to eugenics, and an attempt to wipe autistic people from humanity. He insists Spectrum 10k is not working towards a eugenics program, but nevertheless, he also admits he cannot control what future governments might do with the genetic data collected by S10k and similar projects.
Considering it already feels like we’re living in a George Orwell novel with the likes of Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin involved in running the world, we should be worried. I digress. Let me get back on track. The connecting step between genetic research and full-on eugenics is pre-natal screening for autism.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I often talk about the multi-billion-dollar global industry, from which people are getting rich, that is based entirely on promoting and exploiting public fear of autism. Genetic research could well open up a lucrative new line of pre-natal autism screening.
I’ve already said that I fully support a person’s right to choose abortion, and I stick by that, even if a person chooses abortion purely to avoid having a healthy baby who would have probably been autistic. I just want to make sure women in this situation have the correct information before making the decision. Why? What the hell has it got to do with me? The only way I can explain is with a short hypothetical tale:
Let’s imagine a woman, we’ll call her Eve. She’s desperate to become a mother. When she falls pregnant, she is overjoyed. At a routine screening test, she is delighted when she is told there is no sign of any abnormalities to be concerned about. She is also informed that the latest screening techniques can spot genetic signs of autism, and there is a 95% chance her baby will be autistic. Eve is puzzled; she doesn’t really know anything about autism. Later, she and her partner decide to do some research online. They end up watching a few videos. One clip from a documentary shows a celebrity weeping because his children have been diagnosed as autistic, and he is worried they will never be able to experience love or live a full, normal life. Eve and her partner are rattled by this. Then they watch the old I Am Autism commercial, and they get scared. After that, they click on a link for an old documentary – you might know the one – in which a mother talks about considering killing her autistic child. Eve and her partner are now distraught and terrified. After some discussion, Eve decides to pursue an abortion. Her partner supports her. Soon after, Eve is no longer pregnant.
In the following months, Eve tries but fails to get pregnant again. A few weeks later, Eve is walking down the street, and sees a group of people handing out leaflets with the heading, Understanding Autism! Considering what she has been through, she decides to take a leaflet, and she gets talking to one of the people from the group; we’ll call her Linda. Eve finds Linda to be a warm, friendly person, but she can’t agree with all the positive things Linda is saying about autistic people. Eve explains that she’s seen the videos on the internet, and knows how awful life can be for autistic people, and that she could never bring a child into the world to suffer that fate; never experiencing love or joy. Smiling, Linda explains that she is in fact autistic. She is married and loves her spouse very much. She has two wonderful kids who are autistic. Linda also works as a midwife when she’s not handing out leaflets at the weekend. Eve is confused. Linda takes some time out to gently unpick the myths that Eve had fallen for. Eve is now more distraught than ever.
Okay, I repeat; if a pregnant person wants to abort because they believe the baby would be autistic, and they don’t want that – I fully support their right to make that decision. But someone should at least make sure they get the right information about autism, so that their decision is correctly informed. Unfortunately, the horrible prevalence of harmful myths about autism and autistic people is likely to give some prospective parents the wrong impression.
If a person believes that autistic people are so broken, so wrong, so deficient in humanity, that they shouldn’t be born, then to me, that’s like saying I don’t deserve to be alive, and that my fellow autistic people don’t deserve to be alive, either. It hurts. I will still always support a pregnant person’s right to choose, but honestly, the prospect of what gene-oriented research into autism could lead to if it’s not properly managed, and if we cannot achieve true acceptance of autistic people in society, scares the crap out of me.
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That’s all for this week. Until next time, take care.
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Why Do I Write This Blog?
When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism. I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation. With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery. Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers. I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.
You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.