Here’s something — one of many things — that bothers me about the Sarah Palin coverage. (Maybe I’ll get to the others in the near future; not sure.)
Right here, the NY Times says it — and they’re right, and far from the only ones who are noting it:
Ms. Palin is known to conservatives for opting not to have an abortion after learning that the child she was carrying, her youngest, had Down syndrome. “It is almost impossible to exaggerate how important that is to the conservative faith community,” Mr. Reed said.
You know, it’s the anti-choicers who use “it’s not a choice, it’s a child” as a rallying cry to force women to give birth. And yet here I am, as pro-choice as can be, really fucking annoyed that conservative assholes are portraying this very real, actual child as a political choice rather than the human being that he is.
You know what we often say about how conservatives care a whole lot about fetuses but very little about actual children? Well here’s your example. It’s almost as though they think that Palin became pregnant and gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome simply to please them. And the thing is that if they really believe their rhetoric, the answer was obvious, so obvious in fact that Palin didn’t really have a “choice” to make. Only now, because it’s convenient, they want to acknowledge that the decision of whether or not to abort after getting news that your child will be born with a disability is a difficult one, simply so that they can point and say “but look at her, she searched her soul and then did the right thing — so should all women!” They don’t want women to have a choice, but then want to praise this particular woman for the choice that she did make.
And it’s wrong.
People who call themselves “pro-life” make difficult decisions every day to abort fetuses that have fatal abnormalities or are likely to be born with disabilities. And people who are pro-choice every day make the decision to continue pregnancies that many other people would deem too difficult. Pro-choice people, in addition to forced-birth proponents like Palin, give birth to babies with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. And there is no contradiction here. They, too, made a choice. There is nothing wrong with having a child with a disability. And I don’t care what reproductive choices a woman makes so long as she makes them freely; I am simply thrilled that she has the opportunity and freedom to do what is right for her own life. That also goes for Palin.
This child should not be a political pawn. And while I hope and will assume until proven otherwise that Palin herself will not go this route, the media and her supporters almost certainly will. To portray Palin as this wonderful pro-life martyr is both misogynistic and ableist. Having a child is only a humble sacrifice for a woman in a sexist world where women are expected to have no lives outside of their children, and are considered wrong if they do. And painting her child as a sacrifice specifically because of his disability treats him as a less worthy and valuable human being.
Palin’s son was a choice but now that he is born he is also a child. To conservatives, he seems to only be the former, because without the choice there is no symbol. The ironic thing is that in a world where Palin did not have a choice (one that I find hard to truly imagine for a woman of such means), there would be nothing here to celebrate. In that world, Palin’s child could still (wrongly) be used as a symbol of righteousness for the anti-choice cause, but Palin could not. The only reason they can use Palin to represent why women should not have rights, is because women currently have rights.