So Sarah Palin's viewpoints about abstinence only education, about teaching creationism in schools, her ideas about the environment, her anti-choice rhetoric, should be attacked. The weaknesses should be present (and are present) in Sarah Palin's own arguments. We can point out the flaws in abstinence only education through studies and statistics; we should be doing that anyway, and often. We can argue that creationism isn't simply a divergent view of how the planet and life got started but a religious one; and how if we grant that creationism should be taught in classrooms as an alternative theory, than every other religion's creationist tale should also be taught because Christianity doesn't get to corner the market on religious rights. We should argue that, and we should argue against the dismissive phrase that evolution is "just" a theory, because most things we accept as scientific truths are theories. It is part of the language of science. We should argue against creationism based on the fact that it is no more or less true than the Iroquois' creation myths. But we shouldn't use her family as a battering ram against her. But the truth is, it shouldn't go the other way either, with conservatives using her family in order to score some ideological point.
A lot of reports I've seen have talked about Trig, her child with Down Syndrome, as a kind of political checkmate. "Sarah Palin is so pro-life, she carried her child to term even knowing that he had Down Syndrome" seems to be the overwhelming viewpoint. And first and foremost, that is an incredibly ableist mindset, the idea that Sarah Palin and her family is so noble and self-sacrificing for "burdening" themselves with a special needs child; that a pro-choicer would have obviously made a different choice. Phyllis Schlafly made that exact argument, that a Democrat would have chosen to abort. The truth is, special needs children come with their own joys and challenges. The truth is, I know many liberal-minded people who have special needs children. The truth is, using Trig as a political point in the choice wars, no matter who is doing it, is quite frankly appalling. He should not be some kind of political football. He is a baby, and he is one who is loved and whose mother (hopefully) carried him to term because she loved and wanted him no matter what; a mother who didn't carry him to term because she felt morally obligated to once she learned of his condition but because she wanted to without that even being a consideration. Because looking at Trig like a political point maker devalues special needs people and children in society.
That isn't to say that people don't abort children if and when they learn that the child is disabled in some way. I'm not even saying that they are wrong to; I think there are numerous situations where it is completely understandable, in terms of knowing that as a parent you do not have the resources to care for this child in the way he or she will need you to; that you do not have the money to support them; that you have other children who have needs that will not be met if you have this child. It must be a terrible situation to find oneself in, to be carrying a child you wanted -maybe desperately- but cannot, for whatever the reason, carry to term. It must be a terrible feeling to not have the privilege Sarah Palin does in even being able to have five children and care for them all adequately. But for those who abort a special needs baby because that child isn't one who will be perfectly healthy and of average intelligence, I think the decision is a bit foolhardy. Because humans are fragile creatures. Helen Keller was a perfectly healthy baby. I worked with a woman whose daughter was involved in a horrible car accident, and who suffered some brain damage because of that. She was married at the time of the crash. She's not any more, and she now cannot live alone. She was a healthy baby. 90% of fetuses who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. And one of the reasons is because we look at people with special needs with a certain type of prejudice. We call their families angels for having them; we call them angels too. We look at them with pity; we look at them with contempt. We look at ourselves and thank our lucky stars that we have healthy children with no developmental problems. And until that changes, until we stop devaluing them and seeing them as "less", then we will continue to see praise like the kind given to Sarah Palin for being so pro-life as to keep her son, a son she may have kept anyway -because she loves him.