Bodily Autonomy (Trigger Warning)

This Post Contains an Ableism trigger warning due to the forced steralization.

As a person with a disability I am facing a challenge. You see, I do not want children and lately there has been a big push with in the advocacy community for all persons of disability to push out about how they want to reproduce. This is being in essence demanded for a simple reason. There is always someone somewhere that wants to steralize everyone with disabilities as if we were household pets. There is always a lack of education for children who are disabled and sexual education. There is always a lesser than status.

This is seen as the fight for bodily autonomy. By not wanting children I have had people imply that I am against the cause for all autonomous rights. I have had people tell me that I cannot be an advocate and think it’s okay for ME to not have children. Bodily Autonomy goes both ways. I see this argument as another side of the abortion debate in a way. The Right to Choose is not limited to choosing abortions but is instead the right to choose to abort your pregnancy, give the child up for adoption, or to give birth and raise your baby. I have the right to choose, with my bodily autonomy to not want children.

I have reasons that are very much against what a lot of disability advocates want people to hear. I do not believe I can raise a child without help, I do not believe that I can emotionally OR physically handle the strain of children, and frankly I don’t see admitting my personal limits as a bad thing. There are plenty of parents in wheelchairs, many parents with mental health issues, and pretty much any sort of disability out there. They range from good parents to bad. So why do I have to be a parent in order to advocate?

When I made the choice to not have children I was very young, but I made the choice out of knowledge of who I am. I was unaware that I was different, I was unaware of disability, and unaware of the arguments I would have in the future. I chose to not have children because I just didn’t want to be a mommy.

My reasons now are defined by things children need. Things children do. My pain. My PTSD. How good a parent can I be if I cannot hold my child when the child needs it? How good a parent can I be if there are days when I cannot cook for my child? How good a parent can I be if during flashbacks triggered by children making noises (IE EXISTING) I want to strangle them? It’s a PTSD response but I fear that I will act on it with my own child, because a parent cannot take the time to themselves to rebuild their existence mentally. They cannot avoid the crying baby in Walmart. I know my coping skills for dealing with children (which include praying they cannot tell that I am having trouble because it isn’t their fault that I learned that crying babies mean death and pain) work in the short term. I actually love the young people in my life dearly. I also know I make an awesome aunt, who  has the option of skipping out on the noisy events.

Does this mean all parents with traumatic childhoods or disability should not be parents? No! It means I chose to not be a parent because I don’t think it is in my best interest. Secondarily the interest of the child? Not in the baby’s either. There are parents that hire extra help, build special cribs, and find a way around the exhaustion. There are parents that amaze me with their goodness to their children when I just want to curl up and scream because of the things that MY ABLE BODIED parents taught me.

There’s another element to this. I am sterile. No one sterilized me but I was born without the ability to reproduce, I then went through menopause at the age of 20, and have been told by many doctors of the uterine specialist variety that if I get pregnant I will die. I am told often by people I should just adopt an older child, which does circumvent a lot of my challenges but this again presumes that I must be a mother to be fulfilled. This presumes that everyone wants to be a parent.

I think the war for bodily autonomy needs to go farther. Symptoms of the lack of autonomy that the ignorant privilege wielders try and prevent for anyone who may have the slightest mental or physical imperfection go farther. The moments when able bodied people ask how they can get a wheelchair because it must be nice to have a ride, ask what your disability is, the pharmacists or insurers that tell you that you don’t need or deserve medication, the people that presume you are not human, those people infringe on your autonomy.

Autonomy itself is a struggle for people with disabilities. We must fight for equal access. We must strain and struggle for everything we have. Does it not infringe on my autonomy when someone else tells me what food I can buy because the Walmart Cashier presumes she just knows better? She presumes I cannot afford the $5 dollar box of noodles and picked it up on accident, despite the fact that I am a customer and she is not ME. This is infringing on my bodily autonomy, as it presumes that she knows what food I should eat, when even my doctors know that I have a better grasp on diet than they do.

Our autonomy is pushed aside when law makers decide a single day in a wheelchair is what qualifies them to work on disability issues, when disability advocates have spent years of their lives telling them that doors are too narrow, curbs are dangerous, and that the general public still has no idea about THEIR own rights. Our Autonomy is tied in with the laws that protect our rights. In the USA this is the ADA, and a sign of the lack of autonomy shows in the utter ignorance that the average person has in regards to these laws. Some countries still lack accessibility laws.

The fight for autonomy should not be one fraught with rifts between those who want to parent and those who find parenting something that is optional at best. The fight for autonomy requires an autonomous presentation, with the reminder that we all have the right to choose. I choose to not mother. I choose to not marry. I choose to respect those that do. What is the choice that you make with your own bodily autonomy?  When we are winning the fight for Autonomy the civil rights struggle for the ADA will be taught in schools so that both able bodied and disabled children are aware of this. Children won’t  be segregated based on physical abilities but instead integration will occur so that children who need more help or are smarter are given better classes instead of the attempt at dumbing down a person because they use a wheelchair. Our battle for Autonomy will be something we are winning when every country has accessibility laws. Our battle for autonomy will be something that we are winning when anywhere there is a side walk the curb cut is safe, anywhere there is a home there is universal design, and when articles like this are considered out dated.

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2 Comments

  1. Wow, I can’t believe that people would say that to you! I mean, I can, because I know how awful people can be about things like the reproductive status of a woman, but disability advocates SHOULD be the last people you would think to get that from.

    As for this: “I do not believe I can raise a child without help, I do not believe that I can emotionally OR physically handle the strain of children, and frankly I don’t see admitting my personal limits as a bad thing,” I have known a lot of women who felt the same way. Some were disabled, some weren’t, and some I didn’t know if they were or not. But they made that choice for themselves with the full knowledge of what it meant. You are not alone.

  2. God, Kat. I wanna start a fight. I know it doesn’t help, but I want to burn things down and hurt people and be the opressor instead of the opressed.

    Why is treating all human beings as if they were human beings so damn hard for everyone?


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