Content warnings: amniocentesis, pregnancy, abortion, ableism, eugenics.
The Autism Research Centre (ARC), based at University of Cambridge, is running Spectrum 10K – a eugenics project which claims they want to “help the well-being” of Autistic people and our families. The Boycott Spectrum 10K team has spoken about the many issues of this project in various places: Aucademy , Emergent Divergence , The Autistic Advocate.
Having denied that they are involved in eugenics, the ARC have proposed an amniocentesis focus group. These focus groups will discuss the ‘pros and cons’ of being able to recognise an Autistic person in the womb, through assumed associated hormone levels.
Amniocentesis is offered to most pregnant people across Western society. It is a test which takes a sample of the amniotic fluid to check for Down Syndrome and other Neurodivergences of the unborn child. Parents can then make plans for support needs their unborn child may have, or they may decide to terminate the pregnancy.
Amniocentesis has proven effective in the slow eradication of Disabled individuals including people with Spina Bifida. Disabled communities are slowly being erased by amniocentesis.
I do not blame individuals for making the choices they do. I blame the system which scares pregnant people about the potential outcomes for their children based on nothing but outdated views and stereotypes.
Talking of outdated, the ARC amniocentesis work is based off Simon Baren-Cohen’s Extreme Male Brain theory (here is more on the EMB theory and why it is inaccurate and problematic).
These potential focus groups and study will feed into views about the perceived usefulness of Disabled people. Are we worth saving? Looking after? Loving?
Perhaps even more worrying is how close this work would parallel studies on the so called ‘biological’ elements of being transgender. These studies are investigating the extent to which hormone levels in the womb could ‘predict’ the likelihood of a child being transgender.
Such studies could be used for early gender affirming support, but a quick look at the “gender critical” discourse which suggests that transgender adults are groomers and mentally defective, would suggest not.
What these studies will likely do is much more insidious, especially when you look at the significant overlap between being Autistic and gender divergent identities (for more info Gender Creativity and the Spectrum).
If these focus groups and accompanying study come to fruition Autistic people, trans people, and those of us who have a foot in each camp, are in very real danger.
Add these findings to the database of 10,000 Autistic DNA samples and medical histories collected in the S10K study, and another 10,000 or so in other similar studies undertaken in Canada and across Europe, the fear becomes all the more real.
This information will be used for the eradication of Autistic people, especially those of us with complex support needs and those of us who are gender divergent. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow but with every bit of information they take from us it is coming closer.