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Palin's Down syndrome child and the right to abortion

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By [email protected] (Nicholas Provenzo) from The Rule of Reason,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Like many, I am troubled by the implications of Alaska governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's decision to knowingly give birth to a child disabled with Down syndrome. Given that Palin's decision is being celebrated in some quarters, it is crucial to reaffirm the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome (or by extension, any unborn fetus)—a freedom that anti-abortion advocates seek to deny.

A parent has a moral obligation to provide for his or her children until these children are equipped to provide for themselves. Because a person afflicted with Down syndrome is only capable of being marginally productive (if at all) and requires constant care and supervision, unless a parent enjoys the wealth to provide for the lifetime of assistance that their child will require, they are essentially stranding the cost of their child's life upon others.

So while anti-abortion commentators such as Michael Franc of the National Review sees Down syndrome's victims as "ambassadors of God" who "offer us the opportunity to rise to that greatest of all challenges," for many, that opportunity for challenge is little more than a lifetime of endless burden. In this light, it is completely legitimate for a woman to look at the circumstances of her life and decide that having a child with Down syndrome (or any child for that matter) is not an obligation that she can accept. After all, the choice to have a child is a profoundly selfish choice; that is, a choice that is an expression of the parent's personal desire to create new life.

And most parents seek to create healthy life; in the case of the unborn fetuses shown to have severe developmental disabilities, one study reports that over 90% of these fetuses are aborted prior to birth. But if you notice, the anti-abortion zealots try to attach a dirty little slur to these abortions, labeling them a form of eugenics. For example, in 2005, as he condemned those who opposed federal legislation that would have attempted to dissuade women carrying fetuses diagnosed with severe disabilities from having abortions, conservative pundit George Will wrote:

If it is not unobjectionable, let's identify the objectors, who probably favor the pernicious quest -- today's "respectable" eugenics -- for a disability-free society.

So in the anti-abortion advocate's eyes, a parent's desire to raise healthy children by squelching unhealthy fetuses while the are still in the womb is little more than a pernicious quest, but it is not considered a pernicious quest to knowingly bring severely disabled children into this world. On the contrary, such a choice is held out as an great example of upstanding morality. For example, consider this recent press release from a conservative anti-abortion advocacy group which celebrated Plain's birth announcement:

The Palin family is a wonderful example of a family who made the right choice to embrace their child and his future. Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), commends Governor Palin, saying, "She is even more beautiful inside than out. Her proud and warm announcement of the birth of their special child revealed the depth of love and faith of this extraordinary woman. May God give America more women and statesmen like her.

"Special needs children can bring out the best in people. They draw out compassion, patience, a joy for the simple things in life in people around them," says Wright. "In some ways, we need special needs people more than they need us."

That is, we need the mentally retarded to teach us how to better sacrifice our lives and divest ourselves of our self-interested ways more than they need us to care for them. At Noodlefood, Diana Hsieh condemns such a stand as "the worship of retardation." Given that Palin had complete foreknowledge of her child's severe disability yet nevertheless chose to have it, it is hard not to see her choice as anything less.395132963

http://ObjectivismOnline.com/archives/004058.html

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In case anyone here is interested, someone on a christian forum commented about this post, pointing members to the source at Rule of Reason, running up 100 comments!

I don't understand the motivation for Provenzo's argument, if not simply to shock everyone. He could have simply stuck with a woman's right to choice and defended the definition of "human being" as a rational being, and attacked anyone who said it was moral by saying instead that it is at best amoral. It's not living at the service of another (which is immoral), because that other individual is not a rational mind. A kid with Down Syndrome is not rational, so it's like choosing whether or not to buy a puppy - an amoral decision.

Edited by brian0918

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I don't understand the motivation for Provenzo's argument, if not simply to shock everyone. He could have simply stuck with a woman's right to choice and defended the definition of "human being" as a rational being, and attacked anyone who said it was moral by saying instead that it is at best amoral. It's not living at the service of another (which is immoral), because that other individual is not a rational mind. A kid with Down Syndrome is not rational, so it's like choosing whether or not to buy a puppy - an amoral decision.

That's not true. A kid with Down Syndrome can be rational, even though they may not be as cognitively sharp as a kid without Down Syndrome. For cryin' out loud, it's Down Syndrome, not missing half your cerebrum or something. My little sister has autism. She can (and certainly does) behave irrationally sometimes, she can think irrationally, but there is nothing inherently about her that prevents her from being rational. The only thing stopping her is mental discipline, the same thing that stops most everyone else. Some disabilities can be very severe, but I think it is a grave mistake to assume disabled automatically equals lacking the capacity to be rational.

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I don't understand the motivation for Provenzo's argument, if not simply to shock everyone.
When I skimmed some comments before reading the post, I wondered about that too. However, having read then post, I think his comments were very measured. His focus is on the reasons rather than the decision. He attacks the immoral reasons given by the Christians.

Getting a puppy can be moral or immoral, depending on various facts about one's life. So, in that sense, it is not amoral. Much more so when it comes to a child. There are people who have children -- healthy children -- for some really bad reasons. If we knew these reasons, we could judge their choice as being immoral, even though the choice to have a child is usually moral (i.e. in the case of most people). So, with Palin, if we think we know her reasons, we can judge those reasons.

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The furor about this post has got the author an appearance as a call-in guest on a radio talk show.

I'm slated to appear as a call-in guest on the Dori Monson Show on NewsTalk 710 KIRO Seattle at 5:05PM/2:05PM ET/PT today to discuss the furor over my comments defending a woman's right to abortion. This discussion will be available online, details here. As I understand it, there will be an opportunity for call-ins.

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In what sense is that outside the domain of possible moral judgment?

Well it's not necessarily something to complain about. Where's his article complaining about all the first-dogs and first-cats that presidents have had over the years?

Maybe in retrospect, after it becomes obvious that the child is a huge burden with little benefit, then you could say it's immoral to hang onto the person, but can you really say that before-hand? There are different degrees of retardation, and you can't really know the degree until they're further developed.

Edited by brian0918

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Well it's not necessarily something to complain about. Where's his article complaining about all the first-dogs and first-cats that presidents have had over the years?
I think you're confused about the nature of morality and moral evaluation. All volitional acts are deserving of moral evaluation. The fear of moral evaluation is the hallmarks of the modern cult of moral greyness and the mistaken idea that morality is impossible and/or hopelessly relative. I can't judge the exact depths of Palin's immorality w.r.t. to not aborting the deformed fetus and her decision to advocate, and work to make a matter of law, the utterly immoral shirking of personal responsibility involved in giving birth to a handicapped child, but there is no question that she deserved moral condemnation over this point alone. So it is not in any sense "outside the domain of possible moral judgment", rather, is is dead-bang in the center of a very important moral question where her position is clearly on the wrong side.
Maybe in retrospect, after it becomes obvious that the child is a huge burden with little benefit, then you could say it's immoral to hang onto the person, but can you really say that before-hand?
Yes, you can. You have three choices: evasion (which is immoral), imposing your burden on others, or abortion. We are speaking of the actual context of this case, where people are not unaware of what Down's Syndrome is, and where one (she, in particular) knows that the fetus will become a Down's Syndrome baby. You do not have to "try out" murder to know that it is immoral; you do not have to "try out" a handicapped child either. You simply have to engage in the fundamental immorality of the modern era, evasion.
There are different degrees of retardation, and you can't really know the degree until they're further developed.
That's immaterial in this case, since Down's syndrome is (was in this case) diagnosed prenatally.

BTW owing a dog or a cat is not immoral. Who told you it was?

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[Nick's essay is being unjustly criticized and misrepresented all over the blogosphere. I've left the following comment defending him on multiple sites. -- PSH]

==========

First, Nick Provenzo has responded to the many misrepresentations of his views in a followup post at:

http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2008/09/f...to-abortion.htm

Second, I'm going to speak up to support Nick Provenzo's *moral* defense of the 90% of women who have learned that their fetus has DS and who eventually chose to abort.

If a woman takes a serious look at the consequences for her life of having an abortion vs. raising that child, and she decides that an abortion would best foster her happiness in the full context of her life, then that is her legal right. And more importantly, she would also be making the *morally* right choice for herself.

Of course, if a woman chooses to have the DS child, that is her right and I genuinely hope that things work out as well as possible for the child and the family.

But to uphold the 10% women who choose to have the DS child as automatically morally superior to the 90% who choose to abort is wrong.

Those women who have made the difficult decision to abort do not deserve to be tarred with the label "murderer" for choosing their own happiness. And anyone who would attempt to saddle those women with an unearned guilt should be ashamed of themselves.

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...

Of course, if a woman chooses to have the DS child, that is her right and I genuinely hope that things work out as well as possible for the child and the family.

But to uphold the 10% women who choose to have the DS child as automatically morally superior to the 90% who choose to abort is wrong.

Those women who have made the difficult decision to abort do not deserve to be tarred with the label "murderer" for choosing their own happiness. And anyone who would attempt to saddle those women with an unearned guilt should be ashamed of themselves.

Absolutely right!

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BTW owing a dog or a cat is not immoral. Who told you it was?

I was talking about what I thought was the source of Provenzo's condemnation: becoming a "slave" to another rational being. Severely handicapped people lack rationality and thus this argument doesn't apply, just as it wouldn't apply to cats and dogs.

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I was talking about what I thought was the source of Provenzo's condemnation: becoming a "slave" to another rational being. Severely handicapped people lack rationality and thus this argument doesn't apply, just as it wouldn't apply to cats and dogs.
I don't see where the "slave to rational being" thing is coming from -- you can help me, I bet. His argument is basically the "my body, my right" argument that we all know combined with the correct observation that the anti-choice crowd wants you to sacrifice yourself quite insanely, frankly, plus, and this is a point that I think makes Palin's decision (qua role model, if not necessarily her situation) particularly perverse, is the demand to sacrifice others by imposing your problems on them because others need to experience the joy of paying the the maintenance of a mentally retarded adult.

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Mr. Provenzo's post has now got him on another talk show, this time one with a considerable audience:

I am slated to be a guest on the nationally syndicated Laura Ingraham Show 1at 10:30 AM Monday morning to defend a woman's moral right to have an abortion. Ingraham's show is tied as the fifth highest-rated radio talk show in America. I have been told that my segment will be run approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Ingraham is a staunch opponent of abortion and I expect my appearance to be a hard-fought battle of ideas.

To find a station carrying the broadcast in your area, visit here. 2

To call the show, dial 1-800-876-4123.

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Laura's going to come out swinging. She is a Catholic and staunchly pro-life. Good luck to Nick. I'll be listening on the delayed broadcast Monday night.

Second, I'm going to speak up to support Nick Provenzo's *moral* defense of the 90% of women who have learned that their fetus has DS and who eventually chose to abort.

If a woman takes a serious look at the consequences for her life of having an abortion vs. raising that child, and she decides that an abortion would best foster her happiness in the full context of her life, then that is her legal right. And more importantly, she would also be making the *morally* right choice for herself.

Of course, if a woman chooses to have the DS child, that is her right and I genuinely hope that things work out as well as possible for the child and the family.

But to uphold the 10% women who choose to have the DS child as automatically morally superior to the 90% who choose to abort is wrong.

This is a great tack to take!

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By [email protected] (Nicholas Provenzo) from The Rule of Reason,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Here is an audio stream of my appearance.

Here is a downloadable MP3.

For allowing me the modest opportunity to present my arguments to her listeners, I give Laura Ingraham her due. But for mischaracterizing my position into a straw man, for constantly interrupting me as I attempted to explain my reasoning, for allowing her staff to turn off my mike in our debate (implying that I sat in silent awe while she pontificated), I give Laura Ingraham nothing but my utter contempt. I judge Laura Ingraham to be an intellectual weakling whose main stunt is to bring in a guest on her show for the sole purpose of abusing them in order to aggrandize herself and her followers.

To add to her outrage, Ingraham had the audacity to talk about "elites" such as me dominating our country. I never clerked for a US Supreme Court Justice like she did. I never wrote speeches for a presidential administration like she did. I joined the Marine Corps to help pay for college and when that money ran out (little as it was), I did things like wash windows to get by. Laura Ingraham shouldn't lecture me about how I'm some sort of out of touch elitist who doesn't understand the problems of real life. I'm well aware of these problems because I've lived through many of them myself.

I've been a guest on countless radio talk shows and I anticipated a rhetorical slug-fest with someone who disagrees with my every view, yet what I received as guest on the Laura Ingraham Show exceeded even my worst expectations. At root, Laura Ingraham is a discredit to civil discourse in this country. She should be nothing but ashamed and appalled for her obnoxious conduct while I was a guest on her show.400071107

http://ObjectivismOnline.com/archives/004090.html

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Nick Provenzo, my hat off to you. Fantastic.

Just because that bitch decides to play unfair does not mean that you didn't do a good job.

As for Ingraham being an intellectual coward, I can think of some other words, but none that would be fitting for a formal blog.

Keep up the good work. :huh:

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Nick Provenzo, my hat off to you. Fantastic.

Just because that bitch decides to play unfair does not mean that you didn't do a good job.

As for Ingraham being an intellectual coward, I can think of some other words, but none that would be fitting for a formal blog.

Keep up the good work. :huh:

I'm disappointed to say that Ms. Ingraham is an alumna of my college. Her idiocy is legendary at my institution. Definitely not one of our shining stars...

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I agree that you did an excellent job getting your bottom line across concisely and poignantly, despite Ingraham's obnoxious interruptions and overtalking. The moment she said "put a sock in it, you're annoying" it became obvious she's an utter hack and completely unprofessional.

Edited by Lazariun

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I had heard of her, but never listened to her. I was shocked by how unprofessional and ill-prepared she was. I heard her refer to Rand as Anne Rind. She was emotional, irrational and quite simply, just lost it.

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"I know you never said that you advocate this, but suppose you did, what would you then say?" was the bottom line of every single word she said.

I found clip that riotously funny.

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