Bonnie Steinbock and Adrienne Asch both hold pro-choice views on the question of abortion. Though Steinbock and Asch both hold pro-choice views, they take different positions on the further question of when it is morally good or wise for a woman to seek pre-natal testing and exercise her right the choose by opting for a selective abortion.
Asch’s view is that regardless of any disability, a woman should choose whether to keep her baby on the basis of whether or not she desires to be a mother, or feels she is ready to be one. She believes opting for a selective abortion due to a possible or certain disability in the child is wrong. Asch believes this because it suggests that a human bearing a disability or condition would not have the ability to have a fulfilling and satisfactory life. She suggests that aborting a fetus on the basis that it will, or has a high chance of having a disability is equal to aborting a fetus because it is not the sex you desire. Abortion due to the sex of a soon-to-be child is frowned upon by society as a whole, and Asch believes abortion because of a disability in the child should, too, be frowned upon. Steinbock’s view differs on this point, though she too is a pro-choice advocate.
Steinbock counters Asch’s argument by pointing out that avoiding the burden of motherhood, the reason Asch believes some abortions are permissible, is comparable, if not identical, to the reasoning for aborting a child with a high likelihood of having a disability. Steinbock believes that the rationale for aborting any child and aborting one with a disability is the same; it is done in order to avoid burdens in the future. She believes that aborting fetuses with, or high likelihood of, spina bifida, Down syndrome, or cystic fibrosis, is justified. Though this may seem rather selfish to some, Steinbock’s reasoning is concrete and well supported.
The disabilities Steinbock points out greatly impact the victim’s life, whether it is due to repeated hospitalizations or operations, shortened life span, paralysis, or sever pain. Steinbock supports the right of a mother to choose to abort such a fetus, as they would not wish such a life on their child. Asch does not agree with this idea, however. Asch believes the difference between aborting a child before knowledge of it’s health status and after knowing is it “intended not to prevent the disability of illness of a born or future human being, but to prevent the birth of a human being who will have one of these undesired characteristics” (Asch 679). Thus solidifying Asch’s support of the pro-choice view that a mother has the right to choose to abort a baby if she is not ready to be a mother, but not if it is because she does not desire the specific child she is bearing.
Another rationale Asch points out as supporting prenatal testing and possible selective abortions is the stance that prevention of disabled childbirths will be cost effective for the healthcare system. Asch contests this claim first by addressing its dangerous disposition, as it is almost elitist in nature. She then goes on to explain how most disabilities occur after birth, and a majority of disabilities cannot be detected prenatally regardless of this fact. Asch suggests it is morally reprehensible to believe that a person with a disability cannot have a worthwhile and fulfilling life.
This is a point in which Steinbock and Ash agree on. Both writers, though they hold different views in some ways, agree that disabled children and adults alike are able to have fulfilling lives. Asch is especially avid about this topic, but both believe that people with disabilities do not merely take from others, but contribute. They provide their own personality, characteristics, and talent.
A second point in which Asch and Steinbock agree upon is that family life changes with the addition of a disabled child. Though their opinions on this fact are different, both agree that in most cases, a mother takes on the obligation of primary care of the disabled child. In many circumstances, mothers stay home and care for their children, often sacrificing their career. However, Asch argues that this could, and usually is a very satisfying and rewarding companionship.
A third point that both philosophers agree on is the fact that society is very discriminatory toward disabled peoples. Asch argues that people without disabilities view those with them as ill. However, those who actually have the disability view themselves as healthy, and see their disability as “givens in their lives—the equipment with which they meet the world” (Asch, 678). Steinbock agrees with Asch in that disabled peoples do not find their lives to be worthless, and do not wish they were dead or never born. Both writers agree that society has a degree of culpability when it comes to disabled people, that the general public could do more to support and welcome the disabled in.
A fourth point Steinbock and Asch agree on is in very severe cases, abortions are tolerable. Both agree that if a future child will have a disease or illness that will bring quick degeneration, early death, and intolerable pain, a mother is justified in aborting such a child as this life would assumably not be enjoyable.
Though Adrienne Asch and Bonnie Steinbock both hold pro-choice views on the topic of abortion, when examined more closely, their views differ on many topics. Asch believes abortion due to a possible or certain disability is not tolerable, whereas Steinbock believes it to be acceptable. Both agree, however, that a mother should have the right to choose to have an abortion if it is what they truly want.