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Lucky to Be Alive: Zika Coverage, Ableism, and the Terror of Disabled Bodies

I am pro-choice. I am not talking about choice. I am talking about how it feels as a disabled person to witness panic about disabled bodies coming into this world.
02/05/2016 03:49pm ET | Updated February 5, 2017
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Content warning: ableism, suicide, sexual abuse

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Last night, a stranger said, "Go kill yourself."

Does he know I am four times more likely to do that because of my epilepsy? That my bipolar and PTSD and history of sexual abuse tick up my risk sky high?

Does he know I have already tried?

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In my newsfeed, headline after headline about Zika and abortion. Sentences like this one: "Zika could easily entrap American women in areas with standing water that breeds mosquitoes, closed clinics, no access to the later abortions a microcephaly diagnosis might require."

Require.

I have a neural tube birth defect, called Chiari Malformation. My cerebellum is falling through the foramen magnum. I have a too-small skull and a "screwed up," epileptic brain. What do able people think should have been required for me?

Able people pretend, Of course we don't mean you!

But they do. They do.

Before able people know I am epileptic: You are so selfish for not wanting a child!

After able people know I am epileptic: You are so selfless for sparing a child a disability!

It wasn't that long ago that I could have been locked up and sterilized. In my lifetime, even.

Able people did that. Able people still do that, not with laws but with shame. Instead of locking me up, they tell me it's so, so good that I don't want to reproduce.

Which, when you think about it, is a lot like saying I should never have been born. They want me erased from the genetic record. They want me contained, like a virus.

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I am pro-choice.

I am not talking about choice.

I am talking about how it feels as a disabled person to witness panic about disabled bodies coming into this world.

I am not talking about the nightmare Catch-22 of being forbidden access to birth control and abortion and being told not to get pregnant.

I am talking about how it feels as a disabled person to witness panic about disabled bodies coming into this world.

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You say: But we don't mean all disabled babies! Zika is different!

Let me repeat:

Before able people know I am epileptic: You are so selfish for not wanting a child!

After able people know I am epileptic: You are so selfless for sparing a child a disability!

It's not just Zika.

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Ever since I got my walking cane, able people call it a weapon. They joke that I can use it to beat people up. They joke that I should get one with a concealed sword.

I started joking about it, too, even though I don't think I could beat up anyone with my cane. I need the cane. I fall without the cane.

Still, something in that image of my cane as an open-carry weapon speaks to me. I like the idea of my mobility device as a weapon. I like it because I know, deep down, my basic existence is under attack every second of every day. I am lucky to be alive. I am lucky able people let me be born at all.

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If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.