Forced Sterilization and The Right to Parent

Cara recently began writing for Feministe (congrats, Cara) and one of her first posts was a story linked by FRIDA about a disabled woman, known as KEJ in the courtroom, who went to court to fight forced sterilization her legal guardian wanted for her. The 3 panel judges ruled that there was not enough reason for her to be sterilized.

Disability rights advocates and medical ethicists praised a precendent-setting ruling Friday by the Illinois Appellate Court denying a bid to sterilize a mentally disabled women against her will.

The woman, identified only as K.E.J. in court records, isn’t capable of raising a child on her own, but her guardian failed to prove that sterilization would be in her best interests, a three-judge panel in Chicago ruled.

Rather than celebrating this victory—and a disabled person’s right to bodily autonomy [control] is very much a victory in this ableist society we live in— the comment section quickly turned to the right of a child not to have a disabled parent or more importantly, who would be paying and raising for this kid.

Here are some sample comments:

“…Who exactly IS supposed to raise a child born to a woman who is truly incapable of doing so on her own? I realize that abuses have been and may still be rampant, and many disabilities do not affect a person’s ability to parent, but honestly, if this woman gets pregnant, who’s on the hook for raising that child? The aunt, who is already caring for KEJ?” Comment 4, by Ruth

Who in the world is going to raise that child? Our tax dollars? Relatives dragooned into service through state power or shame? What if the disability is congenital and the child needs as much or more care than the parent? I agree with your basic point, that forced sterilization is something to be avoided. But people who are emotionally, or physically, or financially incapable of providing a decent quality of life for their children shouldn’t reproduce.” Comment 8, by felagund

“I am going back and forth on this, personally. When I first read it, I thought, “Well, she sounds like a perfect candidate for sterilization”. While I am not her doctor and don’t know her personally, I could certainly understand why someone who can’t take care of themself is not going to be a great parent. The article didn’t provide much information on her actual condition, but if she is mentally limited in some way- possible in this case- and unable to live by herself, it would seem almost cruel to the aunt who has already taken on a person who will apparently never be able to move out. It is also likely that KEJ cannot financially support herself, so in the event that her aunt dies, who will care for her and her offspring? And while this is not the case for KEJ specifically, certainly there are some people whose problems are going to be passed to their offspring, making the caretaker work even harder.” Comment 13 by Jenlovesponies

“…I do think it would be unfair to push that child on someone else (the mother’s parents or private caretakers). It’s unfair to the others, and it’s unfair to the child. It’s like giving a puppy to your friend, but your friend doesn’t have the time/patience/love/etc. to take care of it and pushes it off on her roommate, who grudgingly obliges because her roommate doesn’t want the puppy to be unhappy and starve to death. That’s not how children should be brought up!” Comment 14 by danakitty

A friend who lives in Chicago and has been following this case since 2005 told me privately that KEJ has her own house and a good sum of money. Though I have no evidence of this to blog about (it cannot be confirmed until court opinions come out), it is important to note how much the anger at KEJ for wanting children is based on her assumed class. What would the conversation look like if it was a rich disabled person who wanted to have children? Totally different, I’m sure. People wouldn’t hate KEJ and her wishes to be a mother would be understood and perhaps even appreciated.

Many commenters on the Feministe thread have rightfully pointed out how close the argument that disabled women should not be mothers is to the long history of policies and policing based on the idea that poor women should not be mothers. By talking about who will raise or pay for the child we are already talking about class— class and disability, like race, are very much tied together. I believe there are certain aspects of disability (poverty, housing, employment) that can somewhat be canceled out by class and white privilege (look at Christopher Reeve) but recognizing this does not give people the right to determine who are “good” parents and “bad” parents. Though the discussion is on disability, it is very much about criminalizing a perceived poor woman for wanting to have children.

It’s also interesting to think about this idea we have of childrearing [raising kids] and how much that is based on society’s heteronormative [expecting everyone to be straight/heterosexual] ideal of a perfect family: a father who goes to work, a mother who stays home to take care of the children, two kids, a dog, etc. Is this really reality? What happened to the idea that it takes a village to raise a child? Grandparents, babysitters, neighbors, teachers, siblings all play a part in every child’s life so why does it suddenly become irresponsible for a disabled parent to share responsibilities with other people when roles for everyday people are already being shared?

This whole arguement is also based on the idea that the disabled person will just pop a kid out and not plan for it (does this sound familiar? Anything like the racism behind the “welfare queen” stereotype?). This is completely inaccurate. Disabled people, from my experience, are naturally planners. We have to be. Every part of our life (at least for people with physical disabilities like mine) is planned… where I go, how I get there (is there is accessible transportation?), who will go with me (which PA can work?), when will I go (what times are PAs available?) are ALL planned ahead of time. Even the times I PISS or shower is planned.

Perhaps the kid’s childhood will be different than the “norm” or the idea of the norm but disabled people have so much to give (and not just in the tokenized volunteer at a day care way, btw). Is childrearing really just about who gives the kid a bath or is it about teaching values and preparing younger kids for life? Disabled people have so much to teach.. and not in that inspirational if-I-can-do-it-you-can-do-it way.

The ableism in these threads always scare me. Partially because it’s on feminist blogs, partially because the internet allows people to say what they really feel. KEJ’s case is a victory but I’m still left to question whether we’re making any progress.


For more information on disabled parenting: (blog run by a disabled mother parenting disabled kids) (parent resource site)



Filed under disability, intersections, reproductive justice, Uncategorized

40 responses to “Forced Sterilization and The Right to Parent

  1. I’m frustrated. I don’t know what else to say.

    It’s amusing in that totally morbid way to watch people twist around trying to come up with a justification for why THIS WOMAN is undeserving of her basic human rights (much less actual societal recognition as a full person). Is it because she wasn’t disabled from birth? Because it’s a mental, and not physical, illness? Because of her assumed class? (A mistake I also made, by the way. I presume class wouldn’t be so tied up in disability if state disability payments weren’t so fucking pathetic.) Because of the severity (which we don’t even know)?

    What other reasons can we come up with to say that well in THIS situation well then, THEN it’s OK.

    But not for me! No sir! It’s not OK if it would affect me.

    It’s forehead-slap-inducing. Gahhh.

  2. mhm i appreciated everything you had to say over there. i don’t know that i could participate in a dialogue about my right to parent or not be sterilized, y’know? and it is very much about US, though they (they being general society) want to take confort in the fact that they’re looking at each situation individually

  3. Deoridhe

    Thanks for sharing your point of view. Even above and beyond people’s desires to determine how invasive the government should be into our bodies (sound familiar?) I’m shocked by how freely people are putting out what K.E.J “should” do, as if she herself and those around and supporting her aren’t in a better place to determine that than a bunch of bloggers working off of initials and a newspaper article – and as if we, as strangers – have any right to determine the life choices of another person.

    It reminds me a lot of how people feel free to tell people of other economic, social, and racial groups what they “should” do in order to achive things, which more often than not reveals the bone-deep ignorance of the speaker and how little they care about the person they want to “help”.

  4. Aaminah

    This is really irritating. Ok, I’m being polite. It’s pissing me off, to be more honest.

    If nothing else, does this woman not have the right to make the choice for herself? Even if she thought she might not want kids, part of the issue (and argument she may have) is in being TOLD what should be done.

    And as if sterilization is the only option she has for controlling when she gets pregnant.

    And really… I see an asumption that there won’t be a father around to help out with the child raising and expenses? What, does everyone think she’s just gonna get knocked up the first chance she gets and the guy will disappear? So what, now she isn’t deserving of and capable of maintaining a relationship, apparently, on top of everything else? Do I sense some “who could love a woman like that” going on???

  5. What other reasons can we come up with to say that well in THIS situation well then, THEN it’s OK.

    But not for me! No sir! It’s not OK if it would affect me.

    Precisely. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the “I’m not for forced sterilization but..” peeps have chosen to let their privilege (and, I would contend, ablist squick) blind them to the basic principle of bodily autonomy that is so obviously at stake here.

  6. most people have no concept of anyone being able to love a pwd. it was emotionally crippling for me as a young adult just beginning a relationship, and not trusting him when he said he loved me, because after all, nobody can love a burden.

  7. You are absolutely right, cripchick. I hope I didn’t sound ignorant as I was commenting. It absolutely drives me mad when people say people with disabilities automatically aren’t fit parents. I’m not entirely sure if she has the capacity to consent to sex, honestly, but if she does, I see no reason why she shouldn’t have a child, even if she couldn’t raise it completely on her own – other people, specifically the father, could help out.

    Even if she can’t consent to sex, people still have no right to screw with her body like that.

  8. EXCELLENT points — thank you. Having seen previous threads on the subject of disability, I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised by the comments, but I am shocked that they started from the fourth comment and were so fucking prevalent. I’m disappointed and frankly dumbfounded.

    Then again, I honestly can’t say that a year ago I wouldn’t have been on their side. I don’t know for sure that I would have been, but I definitely can’t rule it out. Your blog (and others) have radically changed my thoughts on disabled rights, or maybe just got me to think about it in an intelligent way at all. Thanks for that. I just wish that more people were willing to listen.

  9. aah! I just realized I sounded awful. I didn’t really read the whole article – she would like children, and seems pretty able to consent.

    Sorry for my stupidity. 😦

  10. I just hate reading disability discussions on feminist blogs. Feminism gets trampled underfoot in the rush to patronizingly discuss what rights people with disability should be allowed to have.

    If feminists take a stance on reproductive freedom that indicates only some people should have it, then feminism’s failed on a critical point.

    Thank you for pointing to the feministe thread, Cripchick. I had a few words to say there. I’m really tired of this.

  11. thank you all for posting here and to the thread on feministe. when i have longer time i’ll come back and respond to each of you but just wanted to share links and another comment.

    matttbastard’s post called Misplaced Empathy:

    and something Lisa said over there that struck me as brilliant:

    “And lets be fair; tax dollars pay for a lot of kids. WIC programs, medical care, foster care, children’s protective services, public schooling. These aren’t always perfect, but they are available to able-bodied parents who need them for their children. Why does the
    possibility of a woman with a disability needing assistance provoke such resistance? Why is anyone proposing that a woman with a disability should not have access to services that are already in place just because she has a disability? That the tax dollars to pay
    for her child are somehow unconscionable, but the tax dollars that already pay for millions of children are not?

    Is it time for disability 101 again? What does it take to accept the radical notion that people with disabilities are human?”

  12. Amandaw–I think you hit at a key issue in the first comment–brain injuries are so vastly misunderstood and feared. A brain injury may or may not result in cognitive impairment; it may or may not result in physical impairment; it may or may not result in sensory impairment; and even if it DOES result in cognitive AND physical AND sensory impairments, those can all vary widely.

    Most people know someone with a brain injury and don’t even realize it. The “worst-case scenario” most folks imagine when they hear “brain injury” (or, more likely, the old term, “brain damage”) isn’t the only possible outcome.

    And it SHOULD go without saying (but apparently doesn’t, thus the need for Disability 101 again and again and again) that there’s a wide range of adults –men and women– that have legal guardians and need supports for daily living, but are still completely capable of deciding whether or not they should have a major surgery, or become a parent. And THIS woman has decided that she doesn’t want THIS surgery. Period.

  13. This is a subject close to my heart since my oldest sister is disabled and has two children. She is a fantastic mother and does require quite a bit of help. But….what mothers don’t need some kind of help? My sister is an amazing mom. Who are we to decide what a person can and can’t do?

    My sister was told she would never walk, talk, read, get a degree, marry, have children and the list goes on. She has done all of it and more. She has done it better than most “NT” people I know.

  14. Yeah, I really want to know why able-bodied parents are able to receive all kinds of assistance, but parents with disabilities can only be parents if they’re capable of providing everything their children need.

    And frak that noise. Lots of able-bodied parents who completely suck at parenting don’t have to jump through any hoops to have kids. It’s only when you start removing privilege that suddenly the right to have children is questioned.

    And all of the arguments in that thread (the form, if not the exact words) have been used against mothers of color, and used against them to justify sterilizing them against their will. It’s eugenics.

  15. Rob

    Crip Chick,

    What should be done when someone wants the village to raise his or her children, but the other villagers don’t want to?

    Does a man or woman who won’t or can’t support his or her children have as many as he or she wants? Do the people who are to raise the children get any say?

  16. hey, don’t forget about Through the Looking Glass – – a national center on parenting as a PWD, and a spin-off from the original Berkeley CIL.

    and, my friend Carrie Ann Lucas runs a program at the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition for parents with disabilities. In case anyone is in CO …

    can’t talk about the Feministe thread. too frustrating. I hate it when so-called “anti-oppression” movements are so utterly clueless on forms of oppression they don’t share. grr.

  17. Tlönista

    The comments at Feministe make me full of argh. And regarding this,

    Many commenters on the Feministe thread have rightfully pointed out how close the argument that disabled women should not be mothers is to the long history of policies and policing based on the idea that poor women should not be mothers.

    That observation won’t get you much since many people are eager to say that poor women should not be allowed to have children, either. How is it that if a woman’s disabled (never mind how disabled, exactly) or eligible for government benefits (never mind how impoverished she is), ethical objections to, y’know, forced sterilization become moot, and the commenter automatically knows better than the woman herself whether she can cope with a kid?

    Some commenter was all faux-worried about whether the woman knew to take folic acid supplements. I’ll bet they’re just as outraged about the possibility that well-off, able-bodied women might not take enough folic acid either.

    Phew. Thanks cripchick.

  18. Anna Aniston

    I think in general, we should be building community that actually lets people raise kids without placing all the financial, emotional, moral and physical burden onto one or two people.

    I think that the vehemence against KEJ seems to also betray a fear of breaking the nuclear family mold… what if other people were “forced” to care for the child! Oh no! Imagine having a caring family, or caring friends (love that unwanted puppy analogy).

  19. Aaminah

    I tried to read some of the comments at Feministe. Couldn’t do it. Too much.

    I am really confused as to why anyone would think that they should speak against this woman with as little information as has been given about her case. There are so many assumptions being made by the commentors at Feministe… they are obviously projecting all their own fears and stereotypes and ableist thinking, because we haven’t enough info about KEJ’s specific situation to be saying anything really.

    All the “what if’s” in the world don’t mean much because they may or may not even apply to KEJ as an individual.

    I’m also really confused about the whole idea that KEJ needs birth control at all. The implication is that she is promiscuous and everyone is just trying to protect her. Maybe she is, but PROBABLY she isn’t. Families have a way of getting all icky-ed out at the idea of their “disabled” member wanting to have sex. But sex is normal and natural for all of us. Wanting a loving and intimate relationship is normal, and I really believe it is a basic human right, as necessary as food. But what happens is the first time the person expresses any interest in a relationship (usually long before it even gets to the sexual point), the family spazzes out and decides they have to make sure she’s on bc. Why? It is not really for her protection, not really for her own needs. It is an entirely selfish choice made by family that doesn’t want to have to “deal” with her sexuality. Why not just TALK to her about sexuality, like you would with anyone else? Why not DISCUSS the potential issues around unprotected sex (and not just in relation to pregnancy, but STD’s and broken hearts as well)? Why not let her have the information she needs to make decisions, and then trust her to do so, and realize that she will live with the consequences (pos&neg) of her choices? I mean, chances are that KEJ isn’t saying she wants to get pregnant now. She’s saying she doesn’t want to be sterilized now because she’d like to have kids someday. So why be in such a rush to crush her options right now? Well, it’s just selfish concerns and not viewing her as a full human – it is nothing better or more noble than that. It’s frankly crass.

  20. Rob says: “Does a man or woman who won’t or can’t support his or her children have as many as he or she wants? Do the people who are to raise the children get any say?”

    There’s a big difference between having “a say” and forced sterilization. Or are you supporting a policy of forced sterilization surgeries for everyone who “won’t or can’t” support a child (by whatever measure you’re using)?

  21. My (born physically disabled) mother said to me when I was about 10, “You know, they think you shouldn’t be here, kiddo!”–and I never forgot that. She always got right to the point. She made sure I always remembered that: some people would not have allowed people like her to breed, and I would not be alive, period. Bottom line.

    And there they are, all over the FEMINISTE thread.

    Who the fuck do these people THINK THEY ARE?

    What with the Pope’s visit and all, been thinking about the Inquisition and other Very Bad Stuff my Church has been responsible for… and I’ve been thinking. You know, these people on the FEMINISTE thread woulda failed the Faith, Hope and Charity questionnaire and Dominicans wouldve wasted no time in tying them to the rack. And they would undoubtedly complain about that, right? Proof that the Church is a boogeyman, booo!

    Yet, they use these same oppressive, authoritarian values–if the disabled woman fails the questionnaire (and OMG! Can’t use a STOVE!) then they feel perfectly justified in sterilizing her.

    They don’t even see the parallel. They know not what they do. One surely leads to the other; they would criticize one, yet unabashedly and proudly engage in the other.

    Physicians, heal thyselves…

    (((tears hair out)))

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  23. Kai

    Terrific post, Ms. Crip Chick. I didn’t wander down to the comment thread at Feministe, having had my fill of those for the time being; but I think I get the picture, based on your observations and subsequent thoughts. It’s just disturbing how non-disabled folks feel qualified to loudly appoint themselves arbiters and judges of a disabled person’s living parameters and life decisions, even as complete strangers with minimal contextual information about the situation being discussed.

    Perhaps the kid’s childhood will be different than the “norm” or the idea of the norm but disabled people have so much to give (and not just in the tokenized volunteer at a day care way, btw). Is childrearing really just about who gives the kid a bath or is it about teaching values and preparing younger kids for life? Disabled people have so much to teach.. and not in that inspirational if-I-can-do-it-you-can-do-it way.

    Ya know, I’ve been thinking along these lines lately, because it seems like most of the mass media stories I see about disabled persons are either of the inspirational or pitiable variety, and the story usually seems to be more about the disability than the person, if that makes sense. I mean, obviously a person’s disability is gonna be a part of who they are and how they live, but what about the person’s whole rich diverse inner and outer world of ideas and observations and contributions and creativity and humor and love and beauty and wisdom…yeah, that stuff, our shared humanity, our lives together, as seen through our unique individual perspectives and diverse experiential backgrounds. That’s kinda what I wanna hear about and contemplate and learn from. That’s how we build understanding. That’s how we grow.


  24. Thank you for this post, cripchick! I had read Cara’s post and was happy about the news she reported, but I had missed all the bigotry in the comments since Feministe’s comments are blocked on my work computer. I, too, am very disheartened by the way many people (feminists included) think and talk about disability issues. They just haven’t made the right connections yet (conections that reading your blog has helped me to make in my own head) between sexist oppression and oppression based on disabilities.

    We need to have more discussions about disability in feminist communities so that people can have the “a-ha”/lightbulb moments they need in order to really get it.

  25. Rob

    What do you think an appropriate ‘say’ for the people who would actually have raise a child consists of?

    I do not support forced sterlization, but rights without responsibilities tend to be unstable.

  26. Aaminah

    Rob, the very problem with such an argument is the belief that the person you are talking about would be irresponsible. You’re correct, every “right” comes with “responsibilities”. But who are you or any of us to say whether she is taking proper responsibility? Why is the assumption that she can’t or won’t be responsible? Or that there isn’t anyone else who would and should be responsible to help her (the father, for example)?

  27. Rob

    I assume that KEJ can not provide care for a child that’s above the standard for neglect because she herself requires caretakers.

    Once there is a child, social services usually decides whether the parents are providing proper care. ISo it does seem that society has criteria for what adequate care is. IIRC, parents who have lost their children to state custody have to show that they will be better parents in the future. I don’t know their criteria. So society does decide who is a good enough parent, but generally only after a child has been abused or neglected.

    For KEJ, as she doesn’t have a child, I don’t know what the hypothetical father would do. It seems as irresponsible for a woman to say “the father will take care of it” as for a man to say “the mom’ll raise the kid, I don’t have any responsibilties.”

    The other person that’s probably the most likely to help is the aunt. Since the aunt is the one who wanted KEJ sterilized, I think it safe to conclude that the aunt does not want to help raise KEJ’s child.

  28. “I assume that KEJ can not provide care for a child that’s above the standard for neglect because she herself requires caretakers.”

    We don’t know why she has a legal guardian. There are a lot of possible reasons that wouldn’t much impact the day-to-day work of parenting.

    We’ve made a world that denies employment to people with cognitive disabilities (based on prejudice rather than actual unsuitablity for work), that denies them the same education and social opportunities as their peers (again, based on prejudice rather than their actual aptitudes or interests), and then we say “but she doesn’t earn any money, she doesn’t have a network of friends, nor enough education, she can’t do this and that,” etc. That’s blaming the victim, no less than racism or sexism. And asking her to pay for our shortcomings by enduring a forced surgery is hideous.

  29. I assume that KEJ can not provide care for a child that’s above the standard for neglect because she herself requires caretakers.

    That’s a pretty big assumption.

    I live with a family member who is also a “caretaker.” But it’s not a relationship where I’m always taking and she’s always giving. It’s fluid. So, while I have someone to drive me places, she has someone to help with yardwork. It also means that we do a lot of things together that most people who live alone would do…alone. (We go grocery shopping together, for instance).

    A disabled person can have a spouse that supports them, and some kinds of support might be different than most people need. But the disabled person also supports their spouse. And both of them can raise a child together. (Which has happened, unlike KEJ’s hypothetical child that so many people are concerned about).

    And what Penny said.

  30. thank you all for responding and bringing up great great points. my life is on hold right now until i get some major things done but i will be back tomorrow to respond to everyone.

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  32. Aaminah

    “It seems as irresponsible for a woman to say ‘the father will take care of it’ as for a man to say ‘the mom’ll raise the kid, I don’t have any responsibilties.’”

    And just where, Rob, did I suggest any such thing? Is the word “help” such a difficult concept? Does not the father of this hypothetical child have a responsibilty to HELP KEJ in caring for the child, as I originally suggested?

    And why oh why is everyone assuming the aunt would be required to do anything in relation to the child? Why is the assumption that KEJ doesn’t have ANY other support systems? The aunt CHOSE to be KEJ’s caregiver and guardian. If she doesn’t want to do it anymore, she can stop doing it and allow KEJ to find someone else. But as long as the aunt chooses to be in that position there are some realities she is just going to have to deal with. Like that KEJ is a human and wants to live as normal a life as possible.

    And again, the information we are given is so extremely limited that I don’t understand why people would fall to the “default” assumptions that they do. Which is why so many commentors here have the sense to mention that there are alot of different scenarios possible in KEJ’s life. Why, Rob, do you refuse to acknowledge that you don’t know enough about her (or anyone else’s) situation to be judging so harshly?

  33. Excellent discussion about the real issues the disability rights movement is positioned to redress; namely privilege and its ability to define otherness and exclusion.

    The most beautiful parent I know has “caretakers.” The son she is raising understands boundaries and respect. The son she is raising recognizes that no one survives alone; we all rely on support and community. The son she is raising understands that the only limitations we experience are those we allow others to impose upon us.

  34. Hello to all

    This is my first time posting on this blog. Let me tell you crip chick that I am so angry at the thought that people really think they can control people in this manner. I know there are limits that govt has to place to keep order but this is just wack. These folks who think that disabled people ‘should’ be made to do this or to do that really need to start looking at the amounts of abandoned children in daycares by parents (who aren’t disabled) who DON’T have to work. Why bring in children to the world if you can’t take care of them yourself? A lot of children in daycare are there for selfish reasons on behalf of their parents. Is this now a should for them too? Should they be forced into sterilization so that these kids aren’t dumped left and right into the hands of strangers? Yeah they’ll say that they pay for daycare out of their own pocket, but this is bs. You still aren’t providing proper care for your children when it actually IS in your ability to. (Now, for those who may not read this properly, note that I mention people who DON’T have to work and still decide to dump their kids in these places)

    Come on now people. I seriously wonder where our common sense has gone these days. Let us get our priorities straight. The real issues are being missed while these stupid debates take place.

  35. I have to avoid threads like that, because they just make me incredibly angry. Life is complicated. Really complicated. Sure, there might be some hypothetical situation in which forced sterilization might be the best choice (I don’t know, a person whose particular compulsion is getting pregnant, but who does not want to parent any resulting children, or something equally bizarre), but that isn’t this situation, and it certainly isn’t common enough to be something to draw a bright line around.

    Not to mention the fact that needing care doesn’t at all mean that one is incapable of giving it. My grandmother had three strokes before she died… she had diabetes and hepatitis C, and she was in a wheelchair for most of the end of her life … but she still took care of me when I came over. Just because she couldn’t move half of her body after the last one didn’t mean she wasn’t perfectly able to watch children. It never even occurred to me to think of her as disabled until… actually yesterday, heh. She’s been dead for 11 years now, and I didn’t think of her as disabled until I read that stupid thread.

    I think in general, we should be building community that actually lets people raise kids without placing all the financial, emotional, moral and physical burden onto one or two people.

    I’ve been thinking this for the longest time. Why on earth do we insist that people have to do it by themselves? I grew up with a mom, a dad, two sets of grandparents, and a huge extended ‘family’ at church (my parents are both only children, so no biological aunts and uncles), teachers, older friends, counselors … they all helped raise me.

    I mean, if we want to get into specifics… my high school counselor flew all the way to Portland (from LA) just to go to my college graduation. She is an integral part of my life and a friend of the family. I’ve got older friends from around the blogosphere who’ve helped me tremendously; Mack is like an extra dad to me, for instance. I had an older blogfriend who was kind of a big brother… he’s the one I told when I lost my virginity. There are ladies at church I still call “Mommy” when I see them, and who certainly weren’t afraid to discipline me like their own children.

    I know I’ve been privileged… blessed… with a particularly rich network of family and friends. The thing is, it works. Even if my parents hadn’t been there, that network still would have sustained me. I know people at church who adopted each other’s children when things got rough.

    So why, when there are all these other possibilities out there, are we so preoccupied with this idea that the parents are the only figures in a child’s life? Why do we think it’s wrong to have alternate support systems? There’s nothing tragic about needing help. There’s nothing wrong or irresponsible or weird about it. Life is complicated, messy, and beautiful, and it’s not one-size-fits-all.

  36. 2 words: eugenics, terrifying

  37. I got to the Feministe post via Drakyn’s mention of it. I read all of the comments up to the point where I saw your trackback Miss Crip Chick. I am FURIOUS! I’m going to take a breather and then come back and write about this. Aargh!!

  38. Pingback: Think Girl » Court denies bid to sterilize mentally disabled woman

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