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Persons with Disabilities as Parents: What is the Problem?

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Background 

This paper discusses the recent debate on parenting by people with intellectual disabilities in the Netherlands. By and large this debate has been dominated by disastrous examples of child abuse and neglect in families where one or both parents have a disability. Feeding on horror stories the media have construed the issue as one of moral and legal constraint: should people with disabilities be allowed to have children? In view of this construal, many professionals in the field have rejected the debate as irrelevant. In their view the issue is about support, not about constraint. Aim 

The national organization for self-advocacy in The Netherlands has claimed the right to parenting based on the principle of equal citizenship. This paper aims at (1) reconstructing and (2) evaluating the positions taken in the Dutch debate since its incipience in 2002, particularly with regard to this principle. Method 

A philosophical reconstruction of how the moral principle of equal citizenship structured the Dutch debate on parenting by people with intellectual disabilities, in particular with regard to the nation of ‘good enough parenting’. Conclusion 

The analysis shows how the principle of equal citizenship guided research in The Netherlands and how it is crucial in criticizing negative responses that depend on stereotyping of people with intellectual disabilities as parents. It indicates how in at least two instances, these responses can be shown to constitute a case of discrimination against these people.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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