Private Practice: Parenting, Sexuality, and Intellectual Disability

Mar 04, 2011
Tagged with:

Private Practice did it again. Another week gone by, another new episode, and another hot disability topic brought to the table. A really hot one this time.

So what was the topic? Nothing other than sexuality and parental rights for people with intellectual disabilities, with a few other undertones thrown in. The story went something like this: a teenage girl with Down Syndrome was caught by her mother being sexually active with her male friend who also had an intellectual disability. The mom brought the girl into the doctor’s office for a check-up and the doctor discovered that she was pregnant. The rest of the story was the mom and doctors deciding how to handle the situation. So many questions came up… Should they tell the girl that she is pregnant? Should the girl have the option to keep the baby? Does keeping the baby mean that the girl’s mom will have to do all of the raising of the child? Do they tell the boy? What sort of rights does the boy have? Do they simply abort the baby without ever telling the baby’s parents? And then there were the bigger under-riding questions… What makes someone fit to be a parent? Who gets to make decisions about life and death? If an individual will need support in raising a baby, do they have the right to choose to have a baby?

My heart wants to say that there are easy answers to these questions. But the reality is that there are no easy answers…that the second you think you answer one question, a handful of other questions come up. But there are right and wrong ways of handling and processing through the situation.

Once again, I did not like the way that the show handled the issue – because in my opinion they took a fairly one-sided approach. Instead of raising all of the questions and then seeking out answers to them all, the show took a fairly firm stance…that stance being that the mother of the girl (grandmother of the baby) should have ultimate say in what happens. I’m going to refrain from stating my opinion about the ultimate decision at this point, because I don’t think there is an easy answer – and I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer…but I do know there are other options out there….that regardless of the decision, the process should involve every effort possible to respect the rights, feelings, and decisions of all the key players….and in a show that reaches as many people as Private Practice, those options and processes should be fairly and equally represented.

Here are some interesting resources on the topics covered in this episode:

Author: Carolyn