◆Arienne Asch, Bioethicist and Pioneer in Disability Studies, Dies at 67
By MARGALIT FOX
The New York Times, November 23, 2013
Adrienne Asch, an internationally known bioethicist who opposed the use of prenatal testing and abortion to select children free of disabilities, a stance informed partly by her own experience of blindness, died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 67.
At her death, Adrienne Asch was the director of the Center for Ethics and the Edward and Robin Milstein professor of bioethics at Yeshiva University in Manhattan.
The cause was cancer, said Randi Stein, a longtime friend.
At her death, Professor Asch was the director of the Center for Ethics and the Edward and Robin Milstein professor of bioethics at Yeshiva University in Manhattan. She also held professorships in epidemiology and population health and in family and social medicine at Yeshiva’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“She certainly was one of the pioneers in disability studies,” Eva Feder Kittay, a distinguished professor of philosophy at Stony Brook University and a scholarly colleague of Professor Asch’s, said in an interview. “She was a very strong voice, always bringing in the disability perspective, trying to change the view of disability as some tragedy that happens to someone, rather than just another feature and fact about human existence.”
Professor Asch, who was trained as a philosopher, social worker, social psychologist and clinical psychotherapist, produced scholarship that stood at the nexus of bioethics, disability studies, reproductive rights and feminist theory.
She maintained that the lives of disabled women should be as much a feminist concern as those of able-bodied ones. Disabled women, she argued, had long been doubly marginalized: first because of their sex, and again because they failed to conform to a collective physical ideal ? an ideal to which at least some able-bodied feminists subscribed.
Professor Asch’s scholarship centered in particular on issues of reproduction and the family. In an age of fast-moving reproductive technologies, she found that those concerns dovetailed increasingly with issues of disability rights.
She became widely known for opposing prenatal testing as a means of detecting disabilities, and abortion as a means of selecting babies without them.
Professor Asch supported a woman’s right to abortion. (She was a past board member of the organization now known as Naral Pro-Choice America.) But in her lectures, writings and television and radio appearances, she argued against its use to pre-empt the birth of disabled children. She argued likewise for prenatal testing.
For her, supporting abortion in general while opposing it in particular circumstances posed little ideological conflict. The crux of the matter, she argued, lay in the difference between a woman who seeks an abortion because she does not want to be pregnant and one who seeks an abortion because she does not want a disabled child.
In the first case, Professor Kittay explained, “you’re not seeking to abort ‘this particular child.’ ” In the second, she said, “when you’re seeking to abort because of disability, it’s not ‘any potential child,’ it’s this child, with these particular characteristics.”
Adrienne Valerie Asch was born in New York City on Sept. 17, 1946. A premature baby, she lost her vision to retinopathy in her first weeks.
When she was a girl, her family moved to New Jersey, then one of the few states that let blind children attend school with their sighted peers. She attended public schools in Ramsey, in Bergen County.
On graduating from Swarthmore College with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1969, she found employers unwilling to hire her ? an experience, her associates said, that made her keenly aware of disability as a civil rights issue.
After receiving a master’s degree in social work from Columbia in 1973, she spent much of the ’70s and ’80s working for the New York State Division of Human Rights, where she investigated employment discrimination cases, including those involving disability.
Trained as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in the 1980s, she maintained a private psychotherapy practice throughout that decade. In 1992, she received a Ph.D. in social psychology from Columbia.
Before joining the Yeshiva faculty, Professor Asch taught at the Boston University School of Social Work and at Wellesley College, where she was a professor of women’s studies and the Henry R. Luce Professor in biology, ethics and the politics of human reproduction.
Her publications include two volumes of which she was a co-editor: “Women With Disabilities: Essays in Psychology, Culture, and Politics” (1988, with Michelle Fine) and “Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights” (2000, with Erik Parens).
A resident of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Professor Asch is survived by a brother, Carl, and a sister, Susan Campbell.
In an article in The American Journal of Public Health in 1999, Professor Asch laid out her philosophy in no uncertain terms.
“If public health espouses goals of social justice and equality for people with disabilities ? as it has worked to improve the status of women, gays and lesbians, and members of racial and ethnic minorities ? it should reconsider whether it wishes to continue the technology of prenatal diagnosis,” she wrote.
She added: “My moral opposition to prenatal testing and selective abortion flows from the conviction that life with disability is worthwhile and the belief that a just society must appreciate and nurture the lives of all people, whatever the endowments they receive in the natural lottery.”
◆Talk on Disability Studies in the United States
◆Asch, Adrienne & Fine, Michelle.（1988） Moving disability beyond "stigma", New York: Plenum.
◆Fine, Michelle & Asch, Adrienne. （1988） Women with disabilities: essays in psychology, culture, and politics, Philadelphia: Temple University Press. （"Introduction: Beyond pedestals. pp. 1-37. Reprinted as "Beyond pedestals": Revisiting the lives of women with disabilities". In M. Fine, Disruptive voices: The possibilities of feminist research (pp. 139-171). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992.）
◆Parens, Erik & Asch, Adrienne. （2000） Prenatal testing and disability rights, Washington, D.C : Georgetown University Press. （"Why I haven’t changed my mind about prenatal diagnosis: Reflections and refinements". pp. 234-258).
◆Alper, J., Ard, C., Asch, A., Beckwith, J., Conrad, P.,& Geller, L. N., (Eds.) （2002） The double-edged helix: social implications of genetics in a diverse society, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. （"Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion: a challenge to practice and policy".）
◆Asch, A. （2006） Appearance-altering surgery, children's sense of self, and parental love, In Parens, Erik (ed.) Surgically shaping children: technology, ethics, and the pursuit of normality, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
◆Asch, A. （2006） Two cheers for conscience exceptions, In Kaebnick, Gregory E. (ed.) Putting children in charge: a broader view of competence, Garrison, NY: Hastings Center.
◆Asch, A & Wasserman, D. （2005） Where is the sin in synecdoche, In Wasserman, David, Wachbroit, Robert Samuel & Bickenbach, Jerome Edmund. (eds.) Quality of life and human difference: genetic testing, health care, and disability, Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press.
◆Asch, A., Gostin, L. O., & Johnson, D. M. (2003). Respecting persons with disabilities and preventing disability: Is there a conflict?. In S. S. Herr, L. O. Gostin, and H. H. Koh (Eds.), Different but equal: the rights of people with intellectual disabilities (pp. 319-346). New York: Oxford University Press.
◆Asch, A. & McCarthy, H. (2003). Infusing disability issues into the psychology curriculum. In P. Bronstein & K. Quina (Eds.), Teaching gender and multicultural awareness (2nd ed.) (pp. 253-269). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
◆Asch, A. (2002). Disability and reproductive rights. In J. A. Baer (Ed.), Historical and muliticultural encyclopedia of female reproductive rights in the United States (pp. 64-67). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
◆Asch, A., Perkins, T. S., Fine, M., & Rousso, H. (2001). Disabilities and women: Deconstructing myths and reconstructing realities. In J. Worell (Ed.), Encyclopedia of women and gender (pp. 345-354). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
◆Asch, A., Rousso, H., & Jefferies, T. (2001). Beyond pedestals: The lives of girls and women with disabilities. In H. Rousso & M. L. Wehmeyer (Eds.), Double jeopardy: Addressing gender equity in special education (pp. 13-48). Albany: SUNY Press.
◆Asch, A. (2001). Disability, bioethics, and human rights. In G. L. Albrecht, K. D. Seelman, & M. Bury (Eds.), Handbook of disability studies (pp. 297-325). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
◆Asch, A. & Scotch, R. (2001). Disability politics. In J. Krieger (Ed.), The Oxford companion to politics of the world (2nd ed.) (pp. 223-225). New York: Oxford University Press.
◆Parens, E., Asch, A., & Powell, C. (2000). Reproduction, ethics, prenatal testing, and the disability rights critique. In T. H. Murray & M. J. Mehlman (Eds.) Encyclopedia of ethical, legal, and policy issues in biotechnology (pp. 957-969). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
◆Asch, A., Gartner, A., & Lipsky, D. K. (2000). Vision impairment, the environment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In B. Silverstone, M. A. Lang, B. P. Rosenthal, & E. E. Faye (Eds.), The lighthouse handbook on vision impairment and vision rehabilitation (pp. 569-574). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
◆Asch, A. & Fine, M. (1997). Nurturance, sexuality and women with disabilities: The example of women and literature. In L. J. Davis (Ed.), The disability studies reader (pp. 241-259). New York, NY:Routledge.
◆Asch, A. (1996). Genetics and employment: More disability discrimination. In T. H. Murray, M. Rothstein & R. Murray (Eds.), The Human Genome Project and the future of health care (pp. 158-172). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Excerpted in GeneWatch, 11(5-6), 1999.
◆Asch, A. & Geller, G. (1996). Feminism, bioethics and genetics. In S. M. Wolf (Ed.), Feminism and bioethics: Beyond reproduction (pp. 318-350). New York: Oxford University Press.
◆Asch, A. (1995). Some thoughts for practicing bioethics: Extending the feminist critique. In M. Grodin (Ed.), Meta medical ethics: The philosophical foundations of bioethics (pp. 149-155). Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
◆Asch, A. (1995). Disability I: Attitudes and sociological perspectives. In W. T. Reich (Ed.), Encyclopedia of bioethics (pp. 602-608). New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.
◆Asch, A. & Mudrick, N. (1995). Disability. In R. L. Edwards (Ed.), Encyclopedia of social work (pp. 752-761). Washington, DC: NASW Press.
◆Asch, A. (1995). Visual impairment and blindness. In R. L. Edwards (Ed.), Encyclopedia of social work (pp. 2461-2468). Washington, DC: NASW Press.
◆Asch, A. & Abelson, P. (1993). Serving workers through managed mental health care: The social work role. In P. Kurzman & S. Akabas (Eds.), Work and well being: The occupational social work advantage (pp. 123-137). Silver Spring, MD: NASW Press.
◆Asch, A. (1993). Abused or neglected clients--or abusive or neglectful service systems? In R. A. Kane & A. L. Caplan (Eds.), Ethical conflicts in the management of home care (pp. 113-121). New York: Springer Publishing Company.
◆Asch, A. (1993). Free to be a bigot. In R. A. Kane & A. L. Caplan (Eds.), Ethical conflicts in the management of home care (pp. 223- 231). New York: Springer Publishing Company.
◆Asch, A. & Watson, S. (1992). Legislation affecting disability management practices. In S. H. Akabas, L. B. Gates & D. Galvin (Eds.), Disability management (pp. 22-64). Washington, DC: AMACON Publishers.
◆Asch, A. (1990). The meeting of disability and bioethics: A beginning rapprochement. In B. S. Duncan & D. Woods (Eds.), Ethical issues in disability and rehabilitation: An international perspective (pp. 85-89). New York: World Rehabilitation Fund, World Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation International.
◆Asch, A. (1990). Surrogacy and the family: Social and value considerations. In D. Bartels, R. Priester, D. Vawter, & A. Caplan (Eds.), Beyond Baby M: Ethical issues in new reproductive techniques (pp. 243-259). Clifton, NJ: Humana Press.
◆Asch, Adrienne & Fine, Michelle.（1990） Shared dreams: a left perspective on disability rights and reproductive rights, In Fried, Marlene Gerber (ed.) From abortion to reproductive freedom: transforming a movement, Boston, MA: South End Press.
◆Asch, A. (1989). Has the law made a difference? What some disabled students have to say. In D. K. Lipsky & A. Gartner (Eds.), Beyond separate education: Quality education for all (pp. 181-205). Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes Publishers.
◆Ferguson, P. & Asch, A. (1989). Lessons from life: Personal and parental perspectives on school, childhood, and disability. In D. Biklen, D. Ferguson, & A. Ford (Eds.), Eighty-eighth yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part II: Schooling and disability (pp. 108-140). Chicago, IL: National Society for the Study of Education.
◆Asch, A. (1989). Reproductive technology and disability. In S. Cohen & N. Taub (Eds.), Reproductive laws for the 1990s (pp. 69-124). Clifton, NJ: Humana Press.
◆Asch, A. (1988). Disability: Its place in the psychology curriculum. In P. Bronstein & K. Quina (Eds.), Teaching a psychology of people: Resources for gender and sociocultural awareness (pp. 156-167). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
◆Asch, A. (1988). Commentary on the case of Todd. In J. Hass, A. Caplan, & D. Callahan (Eds.), Case studies in ethics and medical rehabilitation (pp. 17-19). Briarcliff Manor, NY: The Hastings Center.
◆Asch, A. (1986). Will populism empower disabled people? In H. Boyte & R. Riessman (Eds.), The new populism: The politics of empowerment (pp. 213-228). Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Reprinted as: Will populism empower the disabled? Social Policy, 16(3), 12-18, 1986.
◆Asch, A. (1985). Understanding and working with disability rights groups. In H. McCarthy (Ed), Complete guide to employing persons with disabilities (pp. 170-184). Albertson, NY: Human Resources Center.
■Journal Articles & Book Reviews
◆Asch, A.（2005） "Big tent bioethics: toward an inclusive and reasonable bioethics." Hastings Center Report, Nov/Dec2005, 35 (6)
◆Asch, A. "Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion: a challenge to practice and policy." American Journal of Public Health, Nov99, 89 (11)
◆Asch, A.（2005） "Recognizing death while affirming life: can end of life reform uphold a disabled person's interest in continued life?" Hastings Center Report, Nov/Dec2005 Supplement, 35
◆Asch, A.（2006） "Two cheers for conscience exceptions." Hastings Center Report, Nov/Dec2006, 36 (6)
◆Parens, E. & Asch, A (2003). Disability rights critique of prenatal genetic testing: Reflections and recommendations. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 9(1), 40-47.
◆Asch, A. （2003） "Disability Equality and Prenatal Testing: Contradictory of Compatible?" Florida State University Law Review, 2003. （http://geneticsandsociety.org/downloads/asch.pdf）
◆Asch, A. (2003) Disability and genetics: A disability rights perspective. In D.N. Cooper et al. (Eds.), Nature Encylopedia of the Human Genome (vol. 2) (pp. 5-9). London: Nature Publishing Group.
◆Asch, A. (2003). Disability equality and prenatal testing: Contradictory or compatible?, Florida State University Law Review, 30(2), 315-342.
◆Asch, A. (2001). Critical race theory, feminism, and disability: Reflections on social justice and personal identity. The Ohio State University Law Review, 62(89), 391-423. Reprinted in Smith, Bonnie G. & Hutchison, Beth (eds.) （2004） Gendering disability, New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
◆Asch, A. (1999). Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion: A challenge to practice and policy. American Journal of Public Health, 89(11), 1649-1657. Excerpted in GeneWatch, 14(2), 5-7 & 14, 2001. Reprinted in Alper, J., Ard, C., Asch, A., Beckwith, J., Conrad, P., & Geller, L. N., (Eds), The double-edged helix: Social implications of genetics in a diverse society (pp. 123-150). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. Excerpted in Steinbock, B., Arras, J. D., & London, A. J., (Eds), Ethical issues in modern medicine (6th ed.) (pp 523-533). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
◆Parens, E. & Asch, A. (1999). The disability rights critique of prenatal genetic testing: Reflections and recommendations. The Hastings Center Report, 29(5) Supplement, S1-S22. Reprinted in E. Parens & A. Asch (Eds.), Prenatal testing and disability rights (pp. 3-43). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000.
◆Asch, A. (1998). Distracted by disability. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 7(1), 77-87.
◆Asch, A. (1997). Women with disabilities: What do we know? What must we learn? Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 8(1,2), 239-242.
◆Mudrick, N. & Asch, A. (1996). Investigation and enforcement of a disability discrimination statute: Complaints of employment discrimination filed in New York state. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 7(2), 21-41.
◆Asch, A. (1995). Parenthood and embodiment: Reflections on biology, intentionality, and autonomy. Graven Images, A Journal of Culture, Law, and the Sacred, 2, 229-236.
◆Fine, M. & Asch, A. (1988). Disability beyond stigma: Social interaction, discrimination, and activism. Journal of Social Issues, 44(1), 3-21. Reprinted in M. Nagler (Ed.), Perspectives on disability (1rst ed.), (pp. 61-74); (2nd ed.), (pp. 49-62). Palo Alto, CA: Health Markets Research, 1990, 1993. Reprinted in N. R. Goldberger & J. B. Veroff (Eds.), The Culture and Psychology Reader (pp. 536-558). New York: New York University Press, 1995.
◆Asch, A., as contributing member of The Hastings Center Project on Ethics and the Care of the imperiled Newborn (1987). Imperiled newborns [Special Issue]. Hastings Center Report,17(6), 5-32.
◆Asch, A., & Rousso, H. (1985). Therapists with disabilities: Theoretical and clinical issues. Psychiatry, 48(1), 1-12.
◆Asch, A. (1984). Personal reflections. American Psychologist, 39(5), 551-552.
◆Asch, A. (1984). The experience of disability: A challenge for psychology. American Psychologist, 39(5), 529-536.
◆Asch, A. & Sacks, L. (1983). Lives without, lives within: Autobiographies of blind women and men. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 77(6), 242-247.
◆Fine, M. & Asch, A. (1981). Disabled women: Sexism without the pedestal. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 8(2), 233-248. Reprinted in M. Deegan & N. Brooks (Eds.), Women and disability: The Double Handicap (pp. 6-22). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1985.
◆Meet the Speaker - Adrienne Asch - http://www.wellesley.edu/PublicAffairs/Profile/af/aasch.html
◆Interview with Adrienne Asch by Kathleen Comfort -http://www.mnip-net.org/ddlead.nsf/d0124d90f77b83c9852569a7005c7c68/6ad5b5828ce945bc85256be6005ec2bc!OpenDocument