There’s Never a Good Scapegoat
After last week’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, CO., Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of the Rocky Mountains health center where the tragedy occurred, made a statement in regards to the recent events. While, overall, her statement was supportive of women’s rights and for ending a culture of ‘hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers,’ she continued in an interview by taking it one step too far.
On ABC’s This Week, Vicki Cowart stated in response to the hateful language and negative environment around the work that Planned Parenthood does, “I can’t believe that this isn’t contributing to some folks—mentally unwell or not—thinking that it’s okay to target Planned Parenthood.”
With so much of the discussion around gun control in this country also including mental health and those with non-apparent disabilities, I’m positive that I am not the only one that assumed that she was talking about this group when she mentioned those that were “mentally unwell.” This type of scapegoating was completely unnecessary and, sadly, has become too much a part of the rhetoric around gun control. It seems odd to me that someone who is protecting women’s rights to this extent, doesn’t also understand that placing an entire group of people in a box, is also not helpful. Blaming disability in a discussion of a tragic event is no different than blaming religion or immigration status. All are highly stigmatized groups that can be used as a scapegoat for gun violence.
As I point out in my previous blog, Problematic Poster Child, there is absolutely no evidence that shows that those that have a non-apparent disability will have violent tendencies. While popular culture want us to believe differently, recent studies of violence shows us a very different story. The American Psychological Association (APA) stated that the “most consistent and powerful predictor of future violence is a history of violent behavior,” but that having an invisible disability, such as what the Planned Parenthood CEO referred to, is not an indicator of violence at all.
However, what her statement does indicate is black and white evidence of the stigma and discrimination that exists for people with non-apparent disabilities. Sometimes it is thought that it is only conservatives that can perpetuate stigmas against marginalized groups, but this is clearly not the case. We all need to be careful and thoughtful with how we frame these important policy issues. While I stand with Planned Parenthood, I will not stand for the scapegoating of the disability community.
Leah Smith is a writer, communications professional and disability advocate. Leah holds a Bachelor’s in Public Relations and a Masters in Public Administration and Policy. She has focused her career on creating access and equality for all. Leah currently resides in Philadelphia with her partner and two dogs.
Contact: Leah Smith