From "Juno" to Juneau

the Sarah Palin soap opera

illustrating the need for reproductive choice

If one were a fiction writer constructing a story that illustrated why reproductive choice, access to contraception and abortion, remains crucial for all women, one just could not do better than the real life soap opera of Sarah Palin and family.
I write this just a few hours before the Veep Debate, in which I fully expect Palin to cover herself and her party in embarrassment again on a wide variety of issues, of which reproductive choice is only one.

From "Juno" to Juneau

the Sarah Palin soap opera

illustrating the need for reproductive choice

by Pam Green, © 10/02/08

If one were a fiction writer constructing a story that illustrated why reproductive choice, access to contraception and abortion, remains crucial for all women, one just could not do better than the real life soap opera of Sarah Palin and family.


Forty-something and pregnant with Downs

Most women in the position of being over 40 years old with one or more children already would want the CHOICE to use contraception to prevent another pregnancy. A few might opt for abstinence instead, but if so their husbands would not be happy campers about this choice.

Most women in the position of finding themselves pregnant at an age where there is a high risk of bearing a fetus with Down's Syndrome (trisomy 21) or other serious and incurable congenital defect would want the CHOICE to use amniocentsis to find out if they are carrying such a disaster and , if so, would want the CHOICE of whether or not to abort a seriously defective fetus. Most women would understand that a Downs child has a difficult future ahead of him. Such a child will need a great deal of time and effort from the parents, will need special education from the school system, and will need a lot of care and financial support from society for the second half of his life after the birth parents have passed on. (In fact, many such children wind up in society's care long before the parents are dead, because the parents give up and institutionalize them.)

Sarah Palin , finding herself in this situation, had a CHOICE as to what to do. It was her CHOICE , probably with some input from her husband, but legally it was HER CHOICE. and no one could over-ride that CHOICE. It may have been a stupid and irresponsible choice, but she had the legal and moral right to make it. But she has stated loudly and clearly on many occasions that she would deny that CHOICE to other women. She would make that choice for them and FORCE them to carry a defective fetus to term.

Need I add that if society has the right to force a woman pregnant with a seriously defective fetus to carry that fetus to term, for whatever reason, society would likewise have the right to force a woman pregnant with a seriously defective fetus to abort , perhaps for the reason that such children are a tremendous financial burden for society.


Seventeen , single , and accidentally pregnant

Most teenagers want to have the CHOICE to have honnest and accurate knowledge of sexuality and contraception. Ideally they would get such knowledge from their parents, but too many parents are too embarrassed to discuss these matters honestly, since that might mean honnest discussion of their own past and youthful errors. Additionally, some are too uninformed to provide the medically accurate knowledge of the alternatives available. Worst of all, too many are heavy handed and / or hypocritical when discussing these subjects, seeking to impose their own views and "do as I say, not do as I did" standards on their dependant teen children. So most teens would appreciate having the CHOICE to learn about such matters from a knowledgeable and compassionate teacher at school. Failing that, others will play Internet Roulette , seeing knowledge on the Internet, where reliable knowledge sits side by side with the wildest and most inaccurate hogwash.

Most teens at some point (sooner or later) in their lives will make the CHOICE to engage in some kind of romantic and/or erotic relationship with another human being, quite possibly one of opposite sex who is not sterilized. ( There is no way of preventing them from doing so short of Shakespeare's suggestion in Measure for Measure that we "geld and spay all the youth of the city".) This kind of relationship sooner or later tends to lead to activities that carry a risk of causing pregnancy. The smarter and more self-respecting teens would want the CHOICE to use reliable contraception to minimize the risk of pregnancy. Many would want the CHOICE to use condoms to minimize the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS.

Most teen women who do become unwillingly pregnant, whether by consensual sex with or without efforts at contraception or by incest or by rape, want a CHOICE of terminating that pregnancy. They may choose to do otherwise, but they want the CHOICE to be theirs, not their parents and not society's. And given a choice and full information about the likely consequences of each of the alternatives, a lot of teens will make a choice that does serve their best interests. The smart ones know that a shotgun wedding is not a very good answer : such unions seldom last and that after the divorce or desertion the sire of their little bundle of joylessness is not likely to provide much in the way of financial support. They know that keeping the unwanted child and rearing it on their own is a financially grim future for both. They should know that dropping out of school or having to forgo college in order to be a Mommy is a decision that dooms them to permanent financial underclass. They should know that Welfare is so stingy as to be totally inadequate. They should know that giving the child up for adoption is an abdication of their own responsibilty for the child's welfare. The motion picture "Juno" may make this choice seem like jolly good fun, but anyone who has made that particular choice could recite the many pitfalls, including having the given up child show up on one's doorstep years later or learning years later that the adoptive parents were child abusers.

Yes, of course a smart teen would seek advice. If parents have been wise and good communicators in the past, if parents have earned some respect from their teen by their past behavior and communications, then it's likely that the teen will first turn to the parents for advice. Advice, not coercion. Advice, not a heaping helping of blame and humiliation. (Note to parents : the girl already knows she has made a mistake.) But even if parents are trusted advisors, she might seek additional advice from other trusted sources. If parents are not trusted advisors, she will seek advice from other sources which may or may not be good ones, or she will choose on basis of previous information or mis-information.


But Sarah Palin has said openly and often that if one of her daughters were to be pregnant, she Sarah Palin would "choose life", ie that she would make the choice for her daughter. She has said that even if her daughter were pregnant by rape or incest, she would make her daughter's choice for her to "choose life". No mention of raising the grandchild herself of course. (Indeed in public she seems to be doing little to raise her own recent Downs baby, whom she has saddled upon her pregnant 17 year old daughter to hold, possibly to disguise daughter's bulging belly ?)

We don't know of course what CHOICE Bristol Palin would have made had she been allowed to make it free of parental influence, pressure, or coercion. That there would have been some parental influence is inevitable : it's a rare 17 year old who is willing and able to leave the parental roof and support in order to implement a choice that is highly disapproved by the parents. Whether there was actual coercion is not something anyone outside the family is likely to be able to find out or to prove. Likewise for the decision of the little accident's sire to promise marriage. Given Sarah's well advertised expertise with various firearms, it's not unreasonable to wonder if this is going to be a "shotgun wedding" in the litteral sense. Meanwhile the prospective groom has dropped out of school, thus limiting his future prospects almost as much as rearing an accidental baby will foreclose Bristol's prospects for a self-determined life.

Sarah Palin has made it perfectly clear that she would like to impose her own choice , "choose life" , on everyone's daughter. Never mind that someone else and that someone's pregnant daughter may be unequivocally pro-choice and that they both consider abortion to be the more reasonable and even more moral choice. No, it's Sarah Palin's principles that should rule everyone's lives.


Surely these two cases, that of the mid-life woman carrying a seriously defective fetus and that of the immature and not yet high school graduated teen pregant by accident to an equally immature and educationally incomplete male, are enough to illustrate why every woman should retain the right of reproductive CHOICE.


I trust we will all be watching tonight's Veep debate for futher news of how Sarah Palin and her anti-choice running mate plan to control your future, your children's future, and everyone's future.


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 10/02/08 revised 10/02/08
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