Friday, August 29, 2008

Gov. Palin's youngest child

As you all have found out by now, Sarah Palin, Sen. McCain's new running mate, chose to carry her youngest son to term. To raise him, even.

I guess I don't see what's so shocking or unusual about that.

But the tone (at least as I read it) of this Time magazine piece indicates that I should give Gov. Palin a big pat-on-the-back for doing that:

She's a committed Christian who's pro-life in practice as well as in theory; she recently gave birth to a son that she knew would have Down Syndrome.

Something bothered me about that sentence, and I think I know what it is:

Embedded in that sentence is the notion that we as a society now believe that the best option--the default option, even--for a woman pregnant with a child who will have Down Syndrome is to abort the child. The author is congratulating Palin for taking the unusual step of not aborting a handicapped child.

I poked around and found this pretty stunning article from the National Down Syndrome Society. It cites a Georgetown University study which states that, when explaining a positive result for a prenatal Down Syndrome test, "nearly 25% of physicians admit to emphasizing negative information or actively urging parents to terminate their pregnancies." Further, another study finds that "mothers who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are often given an inaccurate, incomplete, and sometimes offensive description of Down syndrome from their medical providers."

I'm going to vote for Obama in part because I believe that repealing Roe vs. Wade isn't a good idea.

But the fact that Gov. Palin is actually being praised for having her own child just because the child will be disabled is jaw-droppingly depressing. It demonstrates how little value we give the disabled. In fact, it shows that we believe it would be better if they were never born.

I don't see how anyone, pro-choice or otherwise, can say this is a good thing.


Anonymous said...

Esp considering Down Syndrome is actually fairly common and fairly manageable. It's not like she gave birth to a child who was likely to die in two years or something. If I had Down Syndrome, or had a child with Down Syndrome, I'd be really insulted.

It can be a real hardship if you don't have a lot of money, but I am guessing as governor she has plenty of that.

Paula said...

I think they're just pointing out that she's not a hypocrite, that having had the choice to make, she chose not to have an abortion. Is that congratulatory, or just an observation?

OMG, am I defending anything about a Republican candidate just now? Perhaps I am unwell.

TeacherRefPoet said...

The depressing fact is that it is assumed that aborting disabled kids is the best thing now.

When my big sister goes to Special Olympics events with her son (who is autistic and mentally retarded), she notes that there are a good deal of adults with Down Syndrome, but very, very few kids.

Doctors are counseling mothers to practice eugenics. It seems to me that pro-choicers who believe in "safe, legal, and rare" might step up to consider whether tackling this issue (in concert, of course, with sex ed and birth control) might be one way to reduce the number of abortions. Too many pro-choicers focus on the first two adjectives but are sadly silent on the "rare" part.

In the process, we also can emphasize that the disabled, are, in fact, worthwhile human beings.

Incidentally, I wasn't attacking Palin at all. I was attacking the mindset that finds it notable that someone would choose not to abort a disabled child.

Jack Bog said...

When our daughters were in vitro (several years apart), there were tests -- due to our circumstances, more than the average number of tests -- to see how each of them was doing. Our OB wanted to be sure that we knew what we might be up against if anything was out of the ordinary. But he told us in no uncertain terms that the reason for all the tests was to alert us if our parenthood would be more difficult than we might have expected -- not to talk about abortion.

Thank God, we had no problems. And thank God for that doctor, who was truly wonderful.

TeacherRefPoet said...

Jack Bog--

We're in a similar boat right now. We're old enough that it's offically recommended that we get some pre-natal tests. Our OB, however, didn't do anything other than laid out the positives and negatives of said tests.

We're declining to be tested for any birth defects (including Down syndrome). I suppose it would be nice to know there was a disabled child in my future, but we're having and loving this baby no matter what.

Add onto that incontrovertible fact the too-high incidence of false positives and false negatives from the testing, and also the small-but-not-zero chance of said testing inducing a miscarriage, and there's no point to us doing it.

Like yours, our doctor is wonderful--there should be more like both of them. I'm not a fan of the doctors that the NDSS references in the study.

Alison said...

We went ahead and had the AFP test (one of the earlier tests to determine if you might maybe possibly be carrying a child with a defect), largely to avoid an early argument with my OB (I wanted to save that for when I told him he wouldn't be delivering the child). I regretted it immediately. All it did was stress me out while we waited for results, even when I knew it was notorious for false positives, and all the while we knew that we weren't going to do a single thing different, regardless of the results.