Friday, April 22, 2011

What a Coincidence

I just wrote a post about people's attitudes toward vaccination --- particularly the extent to which people worry about vaccines causing autism, and whether that worry leads them to skip recommended shots --- and now I see that Sarah was also moved to write something vaccine-related.

From her Tumblr*:

Pro-vaccine advocacy is not the same as advocating for the rights of autistic people or being anti-ableism. Pro-vaccine advocacy can sometimes repeat the same pernicious, ableist myths about autistic people which are so embedded in the anti-vaccine movement.
She's absolutely 100% right; where the anti-vaccine activists' rhetoric implies that it's better for one's child --- and other people's children, for that matter --- to contract potentially life-threatening, vaccine-preventable diseases than to be autistic, the pro-vaccine camp usually responds with "Nobody wants to have an autistic child, autism is a terrible tragedy and we should hurry up and find a cure, but ..."

It's a conciliatory tactic, meant to convey empathy for the clearly-distraught parents who blame vaccines for their children's disability. And that's good, as far as it goes; everyone deserves to be treated respectfully, and to have their feelings acknowledged and respected when they're debating emotionally-charged subjects.

A discourse that rests on the premise that autistic people should not exist isn't one that respects autistic people. It also implies that there are no autistic people participating in, or watching, the debate, and that's just not true. We're here, we have a personal stake in these issues; we deserve to be equal participants in the public discourse around autism.

*I can link to the post itself, but currently if I do that you're not able to read it --- other text overlaps with it. This is one of the many reasons Tumblr fails to appeal to me.


Leah Jane said...

Hear, hear! I remember writing a very angry letter to the editor of the Skeptical Inquirer because of a piece they did on chelation, which started off with, "Autism is, of course, a tragedy no parent ever wants to face..."
Fortunately, it is getting better. I think enough skeptics are open-minded enough to listen to autistic people when they call them out on this attitude.

codeman38 said...

What browser are you using, out of curiosity? The individual posts on Sarah's Tumblr look fine to me in Firefox and Chrome.

Lindsay said...

@codeman38 - Internet Explorer.

That might be what my problem is, if they look fine to you.