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Genetic Modification and Parallels to disability in general

ericafenton's picture

I really feel as though the discourse about genetic modification is an extension of a more popular conversation in health care: what constitutes a "disorder" and who has access to treatments? The same equity issues that we as a society can't agree upon in health care are the same questions coming up in discussions about genetic modification. I think that understanding the similarities between these conversations can help us take an ethical stance on genetic modification.

First of all, the definitions of health and disability are socially constructed based on what type of body the society was made to serve. Nobody can be disabled if there are no expectations of how the body is meant to be, just like nobody can be genetically abnormal if that "normal" genetic sequence is not identified. In other words, some conditions we consider "disability" would not be such in another context. The same issue applies to genetic abnormalities, where technology and science seek to change disabled people into nondisabled people, to change their bodies to resemble the ones the society had been built for. We need to reconstruct our ableist society into one that promotes access and inclusion (and care and love and so much more), not change the genetic material of babies. Not only is that literally insane and out of a distopia, there are plenty of non-genetic disabilities that still need societal change to occur. What does accepting genetic modifications mean in terms of leaving people behind in the justice movement?