Remembering Marsha Saxton

Biopolitical Times
a headshot of Marsha Saxton

The Center for Genetics and Society mourns the loss of colleague Marsha Saxton, who died December 1, 2021. Marsha was a founding scholar of disability studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and beloved by her students (see the Daily Californian obituary). She worked at the World Institute on Disability for more than 20 years as Director of Research (see their remembrance of Marsha). And she published numerous books, articles, and essays on a range of disability rights issues. 

In writing and speaking on bioethics issues, Marsha provided an important feminist and disability rights perspective. She argued for the need to support women’s rights to abortion while illuminating that a decision to terminate a pregnancy where the fetus may be born with a disability is influenced by negative societal attitudes toward people with disabilities and misconceptions about what it’s like to live with a disability. 

Marsha’s interests overlapped with CGS’s, and she made many important contributions to the concerns we shared. In 2017, for example, she spoke about the views and experiences of people with disabilities in relation to genetic and reproductive technologies at “Reproductive Technology: How Far Do We Go?,” the annual Gustavus Adolphus College Nobel Conference

I knew Marsha as a brilliant thinker who helped me understand the impact of disability oppression on all of our lives and our ability to value every human being. She presented a complex picture where reproductive and disability justice do not need to be pitted against each other, but where we can support the reproductive rights of women and pregnant people while challenging a eugenic framework and future.

A memorial service will be held May 14 at 2 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kensington, CA.