Apart from opinions about whether or not she should have thrown her hat into the Republican presidential-primary ring, I firmly believe that Sarah Palin has been a gift to American culture. People criticize her (and then some) and the prominence of her family, but I’m grateful we’ve met Trig Palin.
I’m grateful that his mother helped shatter the mainstream media myth that a woman in politics surrender femininity.
Most importantly, though, before her, I’m not sure how many of us realized that upwards of 90 percent of children expected to be born with Down Syndrome are aborted.
I first wrote about Sarah Palin in July of 2008, when I noticed the beautiful notes people from all over the country were leaving on the relatively little-know governor’s website, welcoming her son into the world.
People like Joe from Waterbury, Conn., who wrote:
Dear Governor Palin and family, I just read a story in the newspaper about the birth of your new son. My daughter, Martha, was born 28 years ago with Down syndrome. She has done very well. There is no need to be overly nervous. Things will work out for you and your family. Down syndrome is probably the most studied aspect of special education. The idea that Down syndrome children bring joy is really true. Make sure he is included with everything that the rest of your kids do. I respect the choice that you and your husband have made. I know from experience that you will be pleasantly rewarded and surprised (in the good sense) by the choice you have made.
This will be of no surprise to anyone reading this who is blessed to know someone with Down Syndrome or other challenges (just ask primary contender Rick Santorum and his family).
In her post-campaign book Going Rogue, Palin wrote about “the number of special-needs kids and adults” who would show up on the McCain-Palin campaign trail, inspired by Trig’s presence in her life and the campaign.
About a rally in Pensacola, Fla., she wrote:
Up in the stands, I spotted a group of 15 kids with Down syndrome wearing shirts that said, WE LOVE TRIG! and TRIG IN THE WHITE HOUSE. I thought, Wow! How great that these precious people have someone associated with a national campaign that they can identify with. . . .
Down syndrome comes in a range of severities. Some people with Down can live self-sufficient lives. Others may be totally dependent. They spend their lives knowing they are different from other people. So it blessed me in ways I can’t even describe to be able to help bring them from the fringe into the bright spotlight that most often seems reserved only for the privileged.
It was after meeting all these amazing people that Todd and I proudly displayed the bumper sticker a very cool group from Arizona sent us, which read, My kid has more chromosomes than your kid!
Together, the pro-woman, pro-life sisterhood is telling the young women of America that they are capable of handling an unintended pregnancy and still pursue a career and an education. Strangely, many feminists seem to want to tell these young women that they’re not capable, that you can’t give your child life and still pursue your dreams. Their message is: “Women, you are not strong enough or smart enough to do both. You are not capable.”
The new feminism is telling women they are capable and strong. And if keeping a child isn’t possible, adroption is a beautiful choice. It’s about empowering women to make real choices, not forcing them to accept false ones. It’s about compassion and letting these scared women know that there will be some help there for them to raise their children in those less-than-ideal circumstances.
I want to help other women who are in the same situation. Women who may be thinking that these are less-than-ideal circumstances to have a child, and maybe I can just make this go away and we’ll pretend it never happened. I want to tell them that if you give life a chance, your life truly will change for the better. Todd and I know that Trig will teach is more than we’ll ever be able to teach him. He gives us such awesome perspective on what really matters.
You don’t need to agree with me about Sarah Palin’s impact to agree that we need to do more as Catholics, as neighbors, as Americans, to make sure that we are fully welcoming to our disabled brothers and sisters, from the moment of conception and diagnosis through all the days of their lives. In our parishes, our apartment buildings, wherever it is we encounter — or make sure we encounter — our brothers and sisters with special needs.