Thursday, July 24, 2008
Nat Hentoff, as MOJ readers probably know, is a very interesting commentator. How many civil-libertarian, atheist, pro-life columnists are out there these days, after all? Anyway, here is a piece he did on Sarah Palin, the governor of my original home state of Alaska. A bit:
Last December, this mother of four children, Mrs. Palin, four months' pregnant, found she was going to have a child with Down syndrome — a condition characterized by moderate-to-severe mental retardation. A school friend of one of my sons had Down syndrome; I have also known functioning adults with the extra chromosomes of that syndrome.
However, as a longtime reporter on disability rights, I have discovered that many fetuses so diagnosed have been aborted by parents who have been advised by their doctors to end the pregnancies because of the future "imperfect quality of life" of such children.
Mrs. Palin's first reaction to the diagnosis was to research the facts about the condition, since, as she said, "I've never had problems with my other pregnancies." As a result, she and her husband, Todd, never had any doubt they would have the child.
"We've both been very vocal about being pro-life," she told the Associated Press. "We understand that every innocent life has wonderful potential." In an age when DNA and other genetic-selection tests increasingly determine who is "fit" to join us human beings, we are witnessing the debate between sanctity of life vs. quality of life being more often decided in favor of death. This is a result welcomed by internationally-influential bioethicist Peter Singer. He is now a celebrated Princeton University professor, who, in July 1983, wrote in Pediatrics, the official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: "If we compare a severely defective human infant with a nonhuman animal, a dog or pig, for example, we will often find the nonhuman to have superior capacities, both actual and potential, for rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and anything else that can plausibly be considered morally significant." And there are bioethicists who point to the continuing costs of rearing a "defective infant."
By inspirational contrast, Mrs. Palin, says of her new son, Trig: "I'm looking at him right now, and I see perfection. Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?"