We are very sorry to hear of the death of Dr. Adrienne Asch, the Edward and Robin Milstein Professor of Bioethics at Yeshiva University and professor of epidemiology and population health and family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Adrienne Asch’s Ph.D. was in Social Psychology, and those of us in Philosophy who relied on her excellent work in reproductive choice and disability studies further appreciate the extent to which her B.A. in Philosophy from Swarthmore in 1969 seemed to influence her ethical and critical thinking throughout her career.
At Feminist Philosophers it is customary to mention one’s connection to a particular work of a philosopher for which one writes a notice of death. I am not an expert, so I will content myself with noting that just today, I referred my students of utilitarian thinking to Adrienne Asch’s arguments in “Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion: a challenge to practice and policy:”
Professionals should reexamine negative assumptions about the quality of life with prenatally detectable impairments and should reform clinical practice and public policy to improve informed decision making and genuine reproductive choice. Current data on children and families affected by disabilities indicate that disability does not preclude a satisfying life. Many problems attributed to the existence of a disability actually stem from inadequate social arrangements that public health professionals should work to change. This article assumes a pro-choice perspective but suggests that unreflective uses of prenatal testing could diminish, rather than expand, women’s choices. This critique challenges the view of disability that lies behind the social endorsement of such testing and the conviction that women will or should end their pregnancies if they discover that the fetus has a disabling trait.