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    Plough Quarterly No. 30: Made Perfect

    Ability and Disability / Winter 2022

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    About This Issue

    The ancient Greek ideal linked physical wholeness to moral wholeness – the virtuous citizen was “beautiful and good.” It’s an ideal that has all too often turned deadly, casting those who do not measure up as less than human. In the pre-Christian era, infants with disabilities were left on the rocks; in modern times, they have been targeted by eugenics.

    Much has changed, thanks to the tenacious advocacy of the disability rights movement. Yesteryear’s hellish institutions have given way to customized educational programs and assisted living centers. Public spaces have been reconfigured to improve access. Therapies and medical technology have advanced rapidly in sophistication and effectiveness. Protections for people with disabilities have been enshrined in many countries’ antidiscrimination laws.

    But these victories, impressive as they are, mask other realities that collide awkwardly with society’s avowals of equality. Why are parents choosing to abort a baby likely to have a disability? Why does Belgian law allow for euthanasia in cases of disability, even absent a terminal diagnosis or physical pain? Why, when ventilators were in short supply during the first Covid wave, did some states list disability as a reason to deny care?