GOP candidate Susan Atanus sparks outrage in the autism community

download (3)In Britain this week we’ve had political parties blaming gay marriage for the recent floods, and over in America, Susan Atanus, GPO Republican party speaking to the media about how autism, dementia and a host of other ailments are caused by the ‘wrath of God”.

In an interview with the Chicago Herald she commented that she

“Believes that autism and forms of dementia are punishments sent by God because of the growing support for marriage equality in the country and the prevalence of abortion.” She goes on to state that “I am a conservative Republican and I believe in God first. God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions. Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

Since this outburst, the Republican party have withdrawn their backing. They said:

“Her candidacy is neither supported nor endorsed by the leaders of our party, and she should withdraw from the race immediately,” state party chair Jack Dorgan said in the statement, with Chicago chair Adam Robinson adding that “Atanus is not in any way affiliated with any of our efforts in the Chicago GOP, nor have we ever supported, endorsed, or assisted her in any way at any time.”

A number of autism advocates and campaigners have taken to Social media to get their voice heard on the matter. Linda Mastroianni, who has a son with autism and is founder of Speaking Autism, has written this open letter to Ms Atanus on her Huffington Post blog page :

Ms. Atanus,

Your words are a harsh reminder that ignorance and prejudice are still among us. One would think that in this day and age such views and comments, especially coming from a political candidate such as yourself, would be non-existent.

Well let me tell you this, my autistic son wasn’t born because God was pissed off at America. My son was born because he was meant to be born, just as he is. My son was born so that I could learn how to be a better human being. He was born so he could teach me how to communicate without words. He was born so that I could learn how to listen with my heart and see things through touch. He was born so that he could shine love, happiness, joy and fun into not only my life, but everyone around him. He was born so that I could learn how not to be judgmental of others. He was born so I could learn more about patience and acceptance of what I can’t control. He was born so that I could teach others to see the beauty in life.

You are so mistaken when you say that autistic people are born out of God’s wrath. What is born out of God’s wrath is people like you with hateful views about the struggles, rights and dignity of other human beings.

You are a dangerous example of what we should never allow into politics because your views are not shared by the community you are hoping to represent.

Tweeter and upvoter @RTanen commented:

I have been autistic since my birth, which was before the legalization of gay marriage in the USA.

I shudder at the thought that people think my only role could possibly be making things worse for other people to punish them. Seriously, autism is not a disaster, a plague, or an epidemic.

Many people are looking into prenatal tests for autism, specifically to prevent the continued existence of autistic people via abortion of autistic fetuses and embryos. This means that autism may soon be a cause of some abortions, not the other way around. (Side note: If anyone has any ideas how I can reconcile supporting reproductive choice and being against neurology-selective abortions, please let me know.)

See Linda Mastroianni opinion piece exclusively on Autism Daily Newscast here.