Monday, April 20, 2009

Palin's Choice

Last week Sarah Palin admitted at a Right to Life that she momentarily considered having an abortion when she discovered her son, Trig, would likely be born with developmental problems, that ultimately became Down's syndrome:
Then when my amniocentesis results came back, showing what they called abnormalities. Oh, dear God, I knew, I had instantly an understanding for that fleeting moment why someone would believe it could seem possible to change those circumstances. Just make it all go away and get some normalcy back in life. Just take care of it. Because at the time only my doctor knew the results, Todd didn't even know. No one would know. But I would know.
Today, Ruth Marcus astutely points out that Plain's admission is one of a support of the right to choose:

I respect Palin's decision not to "make it all go away." She describes her doubts about whether she had the fortitude and patience to cope with a child with Down syndrome, and, with the force of a mother's fierce love, the special blessing that Trig has brought to her life. She speaks as someone who is confident that she made the correct choice.

For her. In fact, the overwhelming majority of couples choose to terminate pregnancies when prenatal testing shows severe abnormalities. In cases of Down syndrome, the abortion rate is as high as 90 percent.

For the crowd listening to her at last week's dinner, Palin's disclosure served the comfortable role of moral reinforcement: She wavered in her faith, was tempted to sin, regained her strength and emerged better for it.

As for those us less certain that we know, or are equipped to instruct others, when life begins and when it is permissible to terminate a pregnancy, Palin's speech offered a different lesson: Abortion is a personal issue and a personal choice. The government has no business taking that difficult decision away from those who must live with the consequences.

On one level, Plain's "choice" and the language she uses at a banquet supporting the work of those that want to outlaw abortion altogether is a testament to how ingrained the option of terminating a pregnancy is in our culture. Even those that are "pro-life" encounter circumstances that make them consider terminating the pregnancy.

But Palin was lucky. She was in a position of power. She wasn't in an abusive relationship. She had health care and a supportive family. She had means of transportation to a hospital or clinic. Even if she had chosen to have an abortion, her obstacles to the choice were fairly minor. Although ultimately I agree with Marcus and highly respect her decision to do so since raising a child with such a disability is by no means easy, the message at the end of Marcus' column seems to be "thank goodness we still have the right to choose."

For many women today, who aren't in Palin's position of power and privelidge, the choice may not be so easy. In fact, it might not be a choice at all.

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