Saturday, June 28, 2008

An Appreciation of the Social Impact of Harriet McBryde Johnson


From the Wall Street Journal Online ...

  • "The peculiar drama of my life has placed me in a world that by and large thinks it would be better if people like me did not exist," she wrote. "My fight has been for accommodation, the world to me and me to the world." Yet, despite the lip service we pay to "accommodation" (and the genuine good that comes from legislation such as the Americans With Disabilities Act), we now find ourselves in a disturbing situation: As our scientific powers to eliminate disability grow, our acceptance of disability wanes.
  • A Harvard medical student who surveyed 1,000 women who were pregnant with Down Syndrome babies reported that many were urged by their doctors to terminate their pregnancies; one woman's physician told her that her child would "never be able to read, write or count change." This at a time when new developments in medicine have nearly doubled the average life span of people who have the condition to 49 from 25 years. As a culture, we have made what Amy Laura Hall of Duke University Divinity School calls a "democratic calculus of worth" regarding Down Syndrome. And that calculus has resulted in a society hostile to people who refuse to make the culturally acceptable choice of ridding themselves of a disabled child before she is born.


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