Saturday, January 13, 2007
A Tale of Two Ashleys
My Ashley and the Ashley in Seattle are both young girls around the same age. Both have smiles that light up a room. Both have gorgeous eyes and thick dark hair. Both have significant disabilities. That is pretty much where the similarities end.
Ashley in Seattle had decisions made for her that will forever alter the course of her life. She had no say in whether or not she wanted her uterus removed, her breast buds and milk glands removed and massive doses of hormones injected into her. She had no say as to whether she wanted to remain a child for the rest of her life or wanted to grow and mature like every other young girl. As her siblings grow, she will forever remain a young child. She will watch her parents grow old and will perhaps wonder why everyone around her changes but she does not. All of these decisions were made for her by her parents, parents who decided these things were in her best interest.
I read about the reasons for their decision – she will never be bothered by menstrual cramps; her breasts will not grow so large as to be uncomfortable for her; her mature body will not invite abuse at the hands of a caregiver; she will be easier to handle, move and bathe because she will remain the size of a child. But I don’t understand these reasons.
Menstrual cramps can be controlled by medication, warm compresses or birth control medication. Overly large and uncomfortable breasts can be reduced surgically. Abuse can be prevented by the presence of a loving, vigilant caregiver. And, entire industries exist to provide specialized equipment for the disabled. Assistance is available through Federal, state, and private insurance and disability programs. Her parents may have had to fight, maybe even litigate to get that assistance, but it can happen. I know – I’ve done it for my Ashley in a state ranked 47th in services to people with disabilities.
Is calling her a ‘pillow angel’ her family’s way of making their decision appear to be divinely guided? Was brutality the easy way to solve the issues? An even easier way would have been to let another family deal with the issues – a family that believes in the dignity of each and every life. I would have gladly raised Seattle Ashley and helped her become the beautiful, mature woman I believe she was meant to be. I would have maintained close contact with her birth family so that they didn’t feel like they were giving up on her. I would have solved each and every one of the issues they said were the reasons for surgically altering her. I would have loved her for the person she is and is meant to become. I still would.
I am very, very angry over what has happened to Seattle Ashley. I don’t understand why child protective services played no role in this tableau. I don’t understand the doctors who went along with this extreme decision. I don’t know what to do but I know I want to do something. What I want to do most though is to look in Seattle Ashley’s eyes and tell her how very, very sorry I am.