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Feminist scholar visits CSU to discuss disability, reproductive justice

A+full+audience+listens+to+Alison+Kafer+speak+at+a+lecture+about+reproductive+ableism+in+the+Lory+Student+Center+April+18.+I+want+us+to+think+about+how+we+need+to+make+disability+valued+%28and%29+make+disabled+people+feel+valued%2C+Kafer+said.+Recognize+their+lives+%E2%80%94+our+lives+%E2%80%94+as+having+futures+so+that+abortion+is+no+longer+seen+as+a+necessity.+...+That+will+make+it+impossible%2C+or+at+least+much+more+difficult%2C+for+anti-abortion+movements+to+weaponize+or+co-opt+language+of+eugenics+to+do+their+work.
Collegian | Cait Mckinzie
A full audience listens to Alison Kafer speak at a lecture about reproductive ableism in the Lory Student Center April 18. “I want us to think about how we need to make disability valued (and) make disabled people feel valued,” Kafer said. “Recognize their lives — our lives — as having futures so that abortion is no longer seen as a necessity. … That will make it impossible, or at least much more difficult, for anti-abortion movements to weaponize or co-opt language of eugenics to do their work.”

Disability justice and reproductive justice may seem like separate issues, but they are greatly entwined with one another as illustrated by feminist scholar and author Alison Kafer. Kafer visited Colorado State University Thursday, April 18, to give a talk titled “On Reproductive Ableism: Disability and Reproductive Justice.”

The event was organized by the department of ethnic studies with help from Assistant Professor Jenne Schmidt and Department Chair Sushmita Chatterjee.

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Kafer is currently a professor and director of LGBTQIA+ studies at The University of Texas at Austin, the author of “Feminist, Queer, Crip and has had her work published in various journals and anthologies. 

Kafer’s discussion began with defining key topics and terms, including reproductive justice. 

“One of the things I’ve noticed is that people with disabilities are rarely mentioned as one of the groups most affected by abortion restrictions. There’s a separation that’ll happen here. What I want us to be thinking about is how disabled people are not only affected disproportionately by these (abortion) bans but also affected differently by these bans.”Alison Kafer, The University of Texas at Austin LGBTQIA+ studies director

“Reproductive justice originated among the work of Black feminists, … and it’s described as having three main principles,” Kafer said. “So all people have the right to have children, to not have children and to parent the children they have in safe and sustainable communities.”

After an overview of their talking points, Kafer moved into why she is discussing these topics and their importance in communities of disability, those who may become pregnant and the intersections of those groups. 

“One of the things I’ve noticed is that people with disabilities are rarely mentioned as one of the groups most affected by abortion restrictions,” Kafer said. “There’s a separation that’ll happen here. What I want us to be thinking about is how disabled people are not only affected disproportionately by these (abortion) bans but also affected differently by these bans.” 

Currently, Kafer is based in Texas, and she provided insight and examples on the current issues relating to reproductive justice faced by people with disabilities in Texas. One aspect Kafer touched on was how there are people with disabilities who need assistance and support networks in their everyday lives just to survive.

“(People with disabilities) are particularly harmed by abortion policies that restrict assistance,” Kafer said when discussing Texas Senate Bill 8, commonly known at the Texas Heartbeat Act.

SB 8, as outlined by the Texas State Law Library, “allows civil lawsuits against a physician who provides or induces such an abortion.”

Kafer’s discussion outlined the impact of people with disabilities being unable to ask for help in situations of pregnancy when they may need help and how that is made impossible under SB 8.

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Another point of Kafer’s was the rhetoric that surrounds disability, particularly in relation to parenthood and reproductive justice. An example of this was how, in discussion of potential health complications with pregnancy, ableism can be used to further abortion-rights arguments and how that can be a “slippery slope,” Kafer said. 

“In the article, one of the examples of a health impact on women in their 30s is the possibility of a child with Down syndrome,” Kafer said. “Having a disabled child is not the same thing as harming or killing a pregnant person who doesn’t get abortion care.”

The talk ended with Kafer discussing resources available to individuals with disabilities and those who have been working to improve disability justice. 

“There have been disability organizations who, for a long time, have been speaking out (about disability and reproduction),” Kafer said. “The (Autistic) Self Advocacy Network, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the American Association of People with Disabilities — they have all released statements … saying, ‘We would never think of using limits on someone’s bodily autonomy to protect our rights.'” 

Kafer’s parting words were a call to action for the audience and those in attendance. 

“Support your local abortion fund, support national abortion funds (and) vote,” Kafer said. “Colorado is a different political landscape (from Texas) but only as long as all of you keep voting.” 

Reach Aubree Miller at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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