Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin: Pro-Choice for Me, Not for Thee

By now, everyone in America has heard that McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. I haven't heard anyone call the pick "bizarre" yet, but someone on NPR did call it "bafflingly irresponsible."

Thousands of blog-hours will go into dissecting Palin's record and McCain's decision to put her one recurring melanoma away from the Oval Office, so I will stick to a single topic here: Palin's anti-choice stance.

If you know one thing about Sarah Palin, you know that she is staunchly anti-choice. You're also way ahead of most Americans (including me), who never heard of her before this morning.

I am equally staunchly pro-choice, by which I mean that I not only support a woman's right to have an abortion, but also her fundamental right to make the most important decisions about her body and her family without the interference of government. That means that I support a woman's right to be childless or to have 18 children. I support her right to give birth to high order multiples, or to selectively reduce. I support her right to abort a pregnancy for any reason and I support her right to maintain a pregnancy even if she knows it will kill her. I support her right to have a non-medicated home birth or an anesthetized, scheduled c-section. That is the essence of pro-choice: realizing that the decisions that women make about their bodies and their families are so endlessly complex that they can only be made by the women themselves. Of course, most women turn to spouses, parents, friends, and dieties for help in their decision making process, which is fine by me. But I don't think that any woman's reproductive choices should be restricted by the ham-fisted decrees of government.

Sarah Palin disagrees. She believes that the government should step into intimate family decisions and ban all abortions, including those that are medically necessary. I don't know her stance on birth control, but you can bet I'll be looking for more information.

The thing is, Sarah Palin has made choices about her family that I might not have made for mine. I respect her right to do so. She does not return the favor.

I would not choose to have a baby in my forties because I watched my own mother, an indomitable advocate for infants, struggle mightily to recover from her own fifth pregnancy at age 40. My sister was born hale and hearty, but my mother did not bounce back to full health for six months after her birth. My younger brothers and I remember that as the Christmas when I led the baking of the Christmas cookies and 10-year-old Ben took on the wrapping. We laugh about it now — about the dough on the ceiling from the out-of-control mixer and the impenetrable layers of tape entombing our gifts — but the truth is that, while the younger kids were oblivious, we older kids were scared. I would not choose to have a baby in my forties because I know what it's like to be 12 years old and be afraid that if your mom doesn't come around, you might end up taking on a lot of responsibility very early.

This is not to say that women should not have babies in their forties. It is to say that neither I, nor the government, nor anyone else should be able to choose what's best for someone else's family. Clearly, Sarah Palin and I differ on some key parenting issues.

And here is where the pro-choice bit comes in: I wouldn't make the same choices for myself or my family, but I respect Sarah Palin's right to do so. I don't have the right to tell her how many kids she can have and when and she doesn't have the right to dictate to me.

I am proud to live in a country where women can have five kids or no kids or twenty kids. I'm proud of being pro-choice and supporting a woman's right to work at home or work outside the home or combine the two in any combination, and I will continue to support causes such as paid family leave, fair pay, and better childcare that make that choice a reality. I'm even proud of Sarah Palin — even though I think she's batshit insane, I respect her for fighting for what she believes in and sticking by her principles.

Sarah Palin is pro-choice when she is the one making choices for her own family. She does not respect me enough to allow that I am also capable of making good choices for my family.

**Also, I should say for the record that I can't wrap my head around Biden's decision to serve in the senate when he had two grieving, injured children. If it had been me, I don't think I would have done what he did. But I certainly think he had the right to make the choice he did.

***N.B. I wrote this post before Gov. Palin's daughter's pregnancy became such big news. I just wanted to say that I agree wholeheartedly with the Palin family's statement asking that everyone respect the family's privacy. I only ask that my privacy be respected as well.


Brad Hart said...

Yeah, this is a strange pick. I was expecting Romney.

Sabertooth Screaming Lemur said...

Yes. This. Thank you.
(Also, I have a word for women like this. I call them Phyllises, as in Phyllis Schlafly. "*I* can do it, but you can't.")

CL said...

Thank you, Caitlin. I couldn't have said it better!