Thursday, September 18, 2008
Sarah Palin's Choice
There has been quite a furor in a small part of the blogosphere over the past two days.
The furor erupted over an article at The Rule of Reason in which Nick Provenzo condemned Sarah Palin's choice to "knowingly give birth to a child with Down's Syndrome." The meat of Provenzo's argument was that, given the publicity celebrating the morality of Palin's choice, it was necessary to state that it is moral for a woman to choose abortion in such circumstances.
However, the fury that was expressed in many of the comments to Provenzo's argument added more heat than light to the issue at hand.
It seems that many of the self-described pro-life commenters have no problem threatening the lives of those who support a woman's right to make her own decisions about her health and family.
I have made no secret of my views on the morality of abortion. I do respect a woman's right to make all decisions regarding her health and the welfare of her family without government interference. I also recognize that for most women, the decision to have an abortion is one that is of the gravest moral and personal importance. I wrote about my personal ideals and my religious views on the matter in my Blogging for Choice entry, here.
That said, I do think that in his article Nick Provenzo came very close to stating that a woman carrying a Down's pregnancy is morally obligated to have an abortion. He begins by saying:
"Like many, I am troubled by Alaska governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's decision to knowingly give birth to a child disabled with Down Syndrome."
This sounds like the problem for Provenzo is that Palin made a different choice than he would have made. She chose to go ahead with the pregnancy, rather than have an abortion. It would be easy to respond that Provenzo does not support a woman's moral right to make her own choice, unless that choice agrees with Provenzo's; that is, women really do not have the right to make a choice at all. Many of the comments did indeed make that response. Indeed, my first reaction was that Provenzo was arguing that a woman has a moral duty to have an abortion in such a case, but when I re-read his second sentence, I saw that this is not what he was saying. Rather, he makes this argument:
". . . it is crucial to reaffirm the morality of aborting a fetus with Down Syndrome (or by extension, any unborn fetus)--a freedom that anti-abortion advocates seek to deny."
I take this statement to mean that choosing for an abortion is moral. And I agree with that. However, Provenzo did not actually say that choosing against abortion is also a moral decision in this post, and so I put in a comment to discuss it among other exceptions I took to his post. I think my comment got lost among the hateful comments, because Provenzo did not clarify his position, which left him open to the charge that a woman has a right to choose as long as her choice is the one that Provenzo thinks is right.
Today, Provenzo did clarify his position in another post at the Rule of Reason. He said:
". . .a woman has the unqualified moral right to abort a fetus she carries inside her in accordance with her own judgment" (Emphasis added). It is clear then, that although Provenzo might personally disagree with Sarah Palin's choice, he does recognize her right to make it.
And that is the crux of the matter. Sarah Palin did make a choice. There are those who celebrate it for their own reasons, and there are those who condemn it for other reasons. But she made a choice in accordance with her own judgment, giving consideration to her means and ability to raise such a child and her desire to take on that responsibility.
I take exception to those who would see to it that other women have no such choice--those who would force a woman to carry a pregnancy that is, in her own judgment, detrimental to her own life and that of her family. And I also take exception to the many pundits and commentators who profess to be in favor of women making their own choices, but who condemn Sarah Palin for doing just that. Ultimately, the decision to have an abortion or not in these cases is of the gravest moral importance. A woman must consider her own life and circumstances, as well as the impact on her husband, and on any existing children in the family. She must also consider her religious affiliation and her moral convictions. None of these considerations is trivial.
Now, I do have a bone to pick with Nick Provenzo. It is his statement that a woman who knowingly chooses to give birth to a child with disabilities is a worshiper of disability. (His actual words are "the worship of retardation.") This hyperbole goes too far. Sarah Palin's decision to carry her child was a private matter. She has not discussed it in detail, nor should she be required to do so. Provenzo does not know how long Palin deliberated on this matter, nor does he know the reasoning that she used. He may guess based on her religious affiliation and public statements, but that guess could be woefully far from the mark.
An Aside: People often make ridiculous assertions about my stances on issues based on my religion. Actually, it is more that these guesses are based on their ignorance of my religion. I had one extremely ignorant supporter of "objective government" who was convinced that since I am a Jew, I must be a creationist. That one clearly knows nothing about Judaism: even the most orthodox of Jews are not biblical literalists or fundamentalists.
There are many reasons that a woman might bear and raise a child with disabilities: a sense of responsibility is one; love of the child is another. It was clear to me that, whatever other reasons Sarah Palin had for carrying Trig to term, the most powerful was love. As I watched her speech a few weeks ago, I saw her looking again and again at her child. At one point she smiled that mother's smile and mouthed "my baby."
Finally, to those of you who made a disgrace of the art of rhetoric with your name-calling and threats, I would like to close with this quote from my January 22, 2008 blog entry:
"There are those among us who would like to think that they have a particular entitlement to determine the extent of liberty allowed the rest of us. They would like to tell you and me who we can marry, how many children we ought to have, what health care decisions we must make, and what world-view we must hold. Whether they are on the left or on the right, they are tyrants. Whether they seek to rule us in small matters or large, in personal decisions or public policy, we have the obligation as free men and women to resist them."
You are the tyrants!
And finally, I do not ask anyone else to practice my religion, or to abide by its laws and customs. I recognize that others have the right to practice their own religion in peace. But I expect that those of other religions respect my right to practice mine as well. American patriotism begins with respect for the right of each individual to self-determination in all matters, including those of moral choice.