Love and Other Disabilities

When I was a kid, a strange woman would visit our house. Short, with stubbily cut hair, she would almost never turn to you, not responding even if you called her name. She dressed flagrantly, in patchwork clothing that she had sewn herself, and spent the entirety of her visits in a maelstrom of cleaning. Whipping the record player with a rag, banging colored pencils into a souvenir plastic cup, she appeared as some hybrid of the Tasmanian devil and a hobo clown. Yet she did appear, every month, and at the end of her appearances, I would hug her, tell her I loved her, and give her two kisses: one on each cheek. A strange woman, a strange ritual—even stranger because, as I knew, this strange woman was my mom.

Yesterday, a British judge, Nathalie Lieven, ruled that an intellectually disabled woman should be forced to have an abortion against her will. The woman—who remains unnamed, ostensibly out of respect for her privacy—wants to have the child, but, because of her disability, she is presumed incompetent to make this decision. Attending medical doctors have judged that her giving birth and eventually having the child removed from her custody would be extremely traumatic because of her intellectual disabilities. Based on this assessment, the judge has ruled that it is in the woman's "best interests" that the pregnancy be terminated. I beg to differ, and do so based on some experience. For I am an intellectually disabled woman's son.

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