Describing herself as a "hard-core pro-lifer," Palin said the birth of a son with Down syndrome was "this opportunity for me to really be walking the walk and not just talking the talk. There's purpose in this also and for a greater good to be met there."
This isn't meant as criticism of Palin's decision, as that's a personal thing and I don't really care what her decision was any more than I'd want her to care about my decisions. But I've never really felt comfortable when people who have made the decision Palin made talk about it solely in terms of this being a personal challenge for themselves. As if this was merely a question of the parent accepting God's challenge of raising a child with disabilities, or whether they'd wimp out and have an abortion.
And I don't know, but that's always struck me as being entirely selfish. I mean, I've heard this kind of thing before, and there's always this underlying self-congratulatory air about the whole thing. Like we're supposed to think they're such great people for accepting this challenge, and that the only implications involved them. Particularly when they frame it in terms of them selflessly showing their devotion to their faith, which is entirely what Palin means with her "walk the walk" line.
It's as if she saw this as being a test of her faith, and rather than making this decision as a parent, she made it as a pro-life Christian. And perhaps she didn't mean it that way, but that's how she framed it and how I often see it framed by people in similar situations. As if their decision was made to prove their love of God.
Worse than Death
Because I don't know about you, but I personally don't think I'd like to have Down's Syndrome. Perhaps that's just me, but I don't think I'd like that at all. I found life growing up to be hard enough as it was and really don't think I could have taken any extra challenges. And this isn't to suggest at all that anyone with Down's Syndrome is miserable or should be killed or anything like that. It's just that, well, I just think there are bigger implications here than the inconvenience and heroics of the parents. There is a child to think about, too.
And much of this is due to my grand agnosticism. Because I think it's entirely possible that our souls are something outside of their existence here on earth. So perhaps the decision to have a child with Down's Syndrome has denied that soul the ability to be born as someone else. Or perhaps aborted children go directly to Heaven, which certainly would be preferable to them coming here to earth. And I can think of an infinite number of different possibilities whereby having a child with Down's Syndrome isn't the best thing for the child.
And yet we never seem to hear a side of this where perhaps the child might not want to be born this way. And we get that from all pro-lifers, where it's always assumed that life is better. But I just can't agree to that. There's a lot of bad shit in the world, with kids being born into horrible situations that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy (for the record, I have no enemies). And so some kid is born into a drug house where she's beaten, abused, and treated like a slave by hateful parents who were treated the same when they were children; and I'm supposed to think this is a good thing?
Sorry, but I just can't do it. I've seen enough of this world to know that there are some things worse than death; and I say that as someone who doesn't believe in an afterlife. And I'll never be so egotistical that I'll imagine that I can make these decisions to know that life is always better than whatever the alternative is. For all we know, God wants some fetuses to be aborted; and no number of bible interpretations can convince me otherwise. Some things are simply outside our realm of understanding.
And trust me when I say that I'm trying to be delicate here, as I really don't want any of this to be taken as a suggestion that I think Palin or any other parent who made this kind of decision made the wrong one. Again, that's their personal decision. But for myself, if I were in that situation, I believe that I could not do it. It has nothing to do with my selfishness at having to care for a child with disabilities. It has to do with how cruel this world is and me not wanting to subject one of my children to it in that sort of situation.
Similarly, I don't think I could ever give a child up for adoption. In fact, my greatest fear since I became a parent is that something would happen to me and I'd be unable to raise my children. That's honestly the only thing that frightens me. I've never feared death, but now I fear that I wouldn't be able to raise my children the way I think they should be raised. And so the idea that I'd bring my child into this world with even fewer advantages would trouble me enough that I don't think I could do it to them.
Again, that's not to say that anyone else should think as I do. Merely that I don't like when this is framed in terms of the heroic decision the parent made, as if it's the only selfless one possible. And when these stories are told merely as a means of showcasing the parent's devotion towards their faith is even more troubling. This isn't about them or their faith. It's about the child. I'm hoping that they are fully aware of that, but wish they'd stop presenting it as if that's the only consideration. This isn't a challenge from God. It's a child. I just hope everyone remembers that.