Chasing The Empty Ambulance

NB. Any anti-choice, hateful comments will be deleted, so don’t bother trying.

Since I have been unable to find work as an attorney due to a variety of reasons, most of them monetary, I have been working as a blogger for a company that provides content to law firms. It’s good work, for a good boss. The law is what I love (well, next to macaroni and cheese), and what I’ve devoted my life to, and since I consider myself a writer by inclination, it suits me fine. I generally have no complaints.

Today, though.

Today, I was working on a work order for a client, and saw a post requested about wrongful birth (TW: triggering language).

For those of you who don’t know, a wrongful birth cause of action is not available in all states, only a handful, and it is only available in civil court. Essentially, it’s a medical malpractice case, but the “harm” that the plaintiffs are seeking compensation for is the birth of a disabled child.

Surely I don’t have to go into why I find these lawsuits unbelievably distasteful, but I will anyway. Because I can.

It’s greedy, isn’t it?

It’s presumptuous.

It’s blind, it’s patronizing and it’s deeply frightening to me as a neuroatypical person.

When you decide to have children, you are in for the long haul. At least, you should be.

You don’t get to specify that you want a child to order. You can’t get a blonde girl child who likes horses, Barbies and the color pink solely because you hope for one. You can’t reshape a child in your own image, if there’s something you don’t like. If you get a gay child, or a transgender child, you don’t get to say no and try to return them. But apparently, under the law, it’s totally okay to be angry and tell the entire world that your disabled child wasn’t good enough for you to want to keep.

It made me really upset, I don’t mind saying. The law is meant to be the moral arbiter of society. It’s meant to be the only thing that keeps us from being animals. But it’s not. It hasn’t been for a long time. If ever.

You want an example? Remember the case from last October where a white woman sued a sperm bank because she gave birth to a mixed race baby? (TW: racism, classism) That woman sued under a theory of wrongful birth. Because having a mixed race child was so humiliating, so polarizing, and so shameful that she wanted compensation for the birth of a beautiful baby girl. And said so in court records that are available to the public, that are discussed on the internet.

Imagine that, as a child of someone’s.

Imagine googling yourself one day and finding articles about how your mother didn’t want you to be born.

Think about that for a minute.

Image description: A white ambulance with a red stripe, seen from the back right at an angle. The word

Image description: A white ambulance with a red stripe, seen from the back right at an angle. The word “ambulance” is written in blue capitals on its side.

I am in no way saying that you should always be joyful for a child’s birth. If you are too broke to support a baby, if you’ve been assaulted, if it simply isn’t right for you at the time, that’s understandable. I am pro-choice.** But being so upset because a child is disabled, that you loudly and publicly state that you have been wronged by G-d (or science, or whatever deity you choose) where one day that child could find it, like an irate customer leaving a poor review?

That’s cruel. Dehumanizing and cruel. And no, you will not convince me otherwise. Because, you see, the people who file wrongful birth suits on the basis of disability? They don’t see the disabled as people.

How do I know that?

How else can you rationalize holding up someone’s life as a compensable harm, that can be made right with reparations and public assurances that you were wronged by having to put up with this child, this burden on your resources and your sanity?

My profession does things for society that need to be done. The good among us defend those who deserve it; they see people rewarded who have been wronged, and we agitate toward a better future. But today and every day, it has failed me, as a disabled person and as a human being. The law should stand up for those who need its protection – not monetize their existence as a prop to claim money and pity. There should be no effort expended on ambulance chasing, no time wasted on trying to milk the medical model of disability for all it can give. Because it costs self-respect, and it costs human dignity.

Maybe that’s where all the lawyer jokes come from.

** – Some people ask me how I can be pro-choice and yet support the right of disabled people to live unmolested and eugenics-free. It’s simple to me. If you decide to have an abortion because it is impractical for you to raise a child, or you simply don’t think you’d be a very good mother, that is entirely your right. If you want a child but decide to abort one because you learn that it will be disabled, that’s offensive and ableist. The two viewpoints are simply not mutually exclusive.

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