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About Disability & Human Biotechnology

Disability rights advocates have been among the earliest and most vocal critics of emerging genetic and reproductive technologies. Many people with disabilities are acutely aware that technologies enabling the selection of “good” genes and “normal” traits can devalue disabled people’s bodies and ultimately their lives.

This concern is informed by past and ongoing discrimination against people with disabilities that often includes brutal practices. For example, twentieth-century eugenicis­ts in the United States and some European countries sponsored programs that sterilized tens of thousands of disabled people. The Nazi genocide began with doctors and nurses exterminating over 100,000 disabled people in German medical facilities; tens of thousands more perished in concentration camps.

This historical context gives pause to disability rights advocates concerned about existing selection technologies that are increasingly being used to prevent the birth of children with particular traits, as well as future technologies that could be used to modify children’s genes.

Womb transplants given UK go-aheadBBCSeptember 30th, 2015In 2016, 10 women will be chosen for an NHS-approved clinical trial to receive surgery to transplant a donated uterus, monitor organ acceptance for 1 year, and then initiate up to two IVF pregnancies before removing the transplant.
Why Some Parents Choose to Have a Deaf Babyby Rich WordsworthMotherboardSeptember 29th, 2015Genetic deafness is one of many conditions that can be screened for using PGD. That’s led to a surprising phenomenon: deaf parents using PGD not to avoid deafness, but to deliberately select for it.
Can 23andMe have it all?by Kelly ServickScienceSeptember 25th, 2015Amid 30 recent deals with biotech and pharma companies, 23andMe hired Genentech retiree Richard Scheller who plans to hire 25 scientists in the next year to begin drug development based off the direct-to-consumer genomic database.
What If Tinder Showed Your IQ?by Dalton ConleyNautilusSeptember 24th, 2015In a future society where human genetic engineering is pervasive, humans are like a mono-culture staple crop, and screening embryos for desirable traits is a trade-off governed more by politics than health concerns.
Ohio Abortion Bill Stokes Old Tensions between Disability and Abortion Rights Advocatesby Emma ManiereBiopolitical TimesSeptember 24th, 2015A round-up of recent articles and commentaries about Ohio’s HB 135, which would ban abortions sought due to fetal diagnoses of Down syndrome.
Forgotten Stories of the Eugenic Age #4, Part 1: The Short Life and Eugenic Death of Baby John Bollingerby Natalie OveyssiBiopolitical TimesSeptember 24th, 2015In 1915, Dr. Harry Haiselden refused to operate to save the life of John Bollinger, a baby with disabilities, whom he believed would be a burden on society.
The hidden risks for 'three-person' babiesby Garry HamiltonNature NewsSeptember 23rd, 2015"There's a definite possibility you'd see things like disrupted fertility function, various forms of metabolic syndromes and changes in things that relate to metabolism in general."
Is It Time To Re-Think Autism?by Joe ShuteThe Telegraph September 23rd, 2015The author of a new book argues for the need to recognise the vital role that autism has played in shaping human history.
Down Syndrome Blood Test Sparks Abortion Debateby Amy Dockser MarcusWall Street JournalSeptember 21st, 2015Advocates worry that more accurate prenatal tests will lead more people to end pregnancies without understanding how life with Down syndrome has dramatically changed.
Disability and the Politics of Abortion by Judith LevineSeven Days [Vermont]September 9th, 2015We must not use technology to cull fetuses that might have differently abled bodies. We cannot allow abortion law to rescue them at the cost of their mothers' freedom.
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