Monday, January 19, 2015

Faux-Information: Indiana and the Collapse of the Pro-Information Coalition

Last week I wrote about a new bill in Indiana that forbids disability-selection and sex-selection abortion. The latter almost never happens. The former happens all too often. The combination is an attempt to do two things: 1) split the pro-choice and disability rights movement and 2) gain support for abortion restrictions by nominally pro-choice individuals who nevertheless feel uncomfortable with these kinds of selective abortions. In the linked piece, I talk about the bill and the intersectional approach that we need in response.

I also discussed a bill that did pass last session in Louisana. It's nominally pro-information, but as I've posted about before (here's my blog post, a guest post that I hosted, another good essay), it distorts a movement based on coalition building and makes it just another tool of the anti-choicers. Instead of presenting all the information, the whole point of pro-information as a concept, it makes it illegal for doctors to present termination as a "neutral or acceptable" option. If this continues, the pro-information coalition will dissolve.

What I didn't know is that another Indiana legislator has proposed a bill with the same language as in Louisana (a lot of this legislative language gets written by interest groups and disseminated, so it's not a surprise they copy each other.).

HB 1093 in Indiana "Requires the state department of health to collect certain information to be disseminated by health facilities and health care providers to parents who receive prenatal or postnatal test results for Down syndrome or any other disability."

That's pretty typical and I am in favor of accurate information. I know far too many people who were told simply false information by the medical providers after getting a pre-natal diagnosis, or, more commonly, were simply not told relevant details about the changing nature of life with Down syndrome. We should all be in favor of accurate information.

HB 1093 though follows the LA bill in inserting this clause:
"The information does not engage in discrimination based on disability or genetic variation by explicitly or implicitly representing pregnancy termination as a neutral or acceptable option when a prenatal test indicates a probability or diagnosis that the unborn child has Down syndrome or any other disability."
Several thoughts.

This could mean the end of the pro-information coalition. In my RHRC essay I stated that pro-choice disability rights advocates like myself must agree that disability-selection abortion should be legal AND agree that talking about eugenic principles at play in such abortions can be discussed without undermining choice.

With right-wing legislators using pro-information as a way to further restrict access to reproductive choice, I don't know that I can make that second statement in good faith. I don't know that I can advocate for pro-information bills anymore.

In general, conservative legislatures pass anti-choice bills while simultaneously removing social supports for poor families. Even when the bills explicitly deal with disability-selection abortions, as in the two Indiana bills, they are not disability rights legislation. They are attempts to divide and conquer.

Hopefully, disability advocates, many of them in fact not as pro-choice as I am, will work to defeat or amend the bill in Indiana. Otherwise, I can't be a part of the pro-information coalition and will start strongly advocating for others to reject the model as well. Because even if some states pass neutral bills and others pass these faux-information laws, the former feed the latter, and we'll have to stop the whole project.

The state has no right to tell doctors to lie or conceal information from expectant mothers.

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