Should Trig Palin have never been born?

OK, before I start my post, I have to rant for a second. I spent 1/2 an hour typing out my OP, and just as I was finishing, my foot hit the on/off switch on my power strip. Computer, off. Post, gone. WHAAAHHHHH!

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I’ve been so interested to hear the varied reaction to the fact that Sarah Palin went through with a pregancy, knowing that the fetus had Down Syndrome. Of course, I fully understand and acknowledge that everyone has the right to continue or not continue such a pregnancy, and I’m not interested in debating the legality of it. I’m more interested in what people think is the moral obligation of a woman in this situation.

The reason I am thinking about this is because of a couple of blog pieces I read, reacting to this piece that Michael G. Franc wrote for the National Review Online. In it, Franc makes the case that Downs and other handicapped people have their own contributions to society, which may not be intellectual, but which are inherently just as valuable. It’s definitely an appeal to emotion, but Franc comes by that emotion honestly, as he had a much-loved brother with Down Syndrome.

I then came across this blog piece by Nicholas Provenzo, which makes the argument that knowingly allowing a handicapped person to be born is a selfish and perhaps even immoral act, based on the fact that the child will be a burden to their family, and more importantly, to society. That blogger in turn references this piece, in which Diana Hsieh goes so far as to say that an attitude like Franc’s amounts to “worship” of the handicapped. That is to say that the claim that handicapped people have special attributes that the rest of us can benefit from devalues human reason and intellectuality, and is therefore morally corrupt.

Of course, many of those who participate in GD know that I am pro-life, morally if not necessarily politically. I just want to make that clear, however, in the interest of allowing for my personal bias on this issue.

I have to take issue first with Provenzo’s statement at the end of his piece, claiming that Palin’s decision to give birth to Trig is an example of this “worship of retardation.” I don’t think there is evidence of this at all. The only thing I think we can assume that Palin thought about this baby was that he is just as good as anyone else. To say that she thinks that he is better than any one else is a leap, as far as I can see.

I personally think it’s wrong to claim that the life of a Downs person is more valuable, but I also think it’s wrong to claim that it is less so. Perhaps I have some bias that stems from my own personal knowledge of Downs people who lead productive and seemingly happy lives. I don’t buy into the “burden to society” argument. We are all potential burdens on society, and many people who are pefectly normal are guilty of that.

So, what does everyone think? Is going through with such a pregnancy a moral problem (or even “stupid,” as I read from one poster here)? Or is it a moral imperative to have the child and raise it to have as good a life as one can expect under the circumstances? Or, does it completely depend on the individual situation?

I don’t think that carrying a child to term, and delivering it, when you know it’s going to be imperfect is a problem at all. Now, I’m not saying that women who know their fetuses have DS shouldn’t have the right to an abortion, but I don’t think they have an obligation to get one, either.

For one thing, the testing can tell you if your baby has DS, but not how severe it’s going to be. Many people with DS go on to lead productive lives. Others have really severe cases and are not much more than vegetables. But you don’t know until the baby arrives.

For another thing, if you say the mother has some sort of social obligation to abort a Down’s baby, where does that stop? What if you can tell your child is going to be blind? Deaf? A dwarf? Where does it end? How “perfect” is good enough?

I don’t think anyone but the parents can make that decision, nor should they feel obligated to let anyone else make that decision for them.

Just my two cents, of course.

Oh, one other thing. I was 38 when my youngest was born (she’s 8 now), and the doc wanted me to have an amnio because at my age, the chance of having a Down’s baby was one in two hundred. I told him no. For one thing, I preferred to think of it as a one-hundred-ninety-nine chance my baby would not have Down’s. For another thing, I wouldn’t have terminated the pregnancy even if the test had come back positive. I don’t blame women who do, but freedom of choice should work both ways.

Having a child, any child, is ultimately a selfish act. Valuing that life on cost vs benefit to society discounts most of the value of any human life, the pleasure it enjoys and gives to others, its inherent dignity … things intrinsically difficult to quantify.

If you were talking about a child who would suffer and cause suffering, then maybe the argument can be made. That is generally not the fate of most kids with Down Syndrome. Few parents of Downs kids regret that their children were born.

A set of parents-to-be with that knowledge ahead of time (and in reality, ultimately, the woman) have to make the decision about what sort of selfish choice they want to make. I endorse their having that right to decide but I’d vote for enjoying these children and adults with Down syndrome in our mutual world.

I can’t imagine anyone saying that a DS child should or must be aborted. That’s an entirely personal choice.

In the case of a terribly painful or irreparable condition, probably the child should be aborted, since nothing but anguish lies ahead for it. It is unfair to the child to put it through it, and, coldly and bluntly, it is unfair to fellow citizens to pay the monetary cost of its medical treatments (which we will, either via tax dollars or insurance dollars) until its inevitable death.

But nothing about DS falls into this category. If the parents and family wish to have the baby, they certainly should.

I have to assume that the bloggers who are opposed to women carrying and delivering Down Syndrome babies are “Pro Choice,” otherwise they wouldn’t be advocating aborting any babies, let alone handicapped ones. That being the case, I find their opinion on what other women choose to do with their bodies and their babies, hypocritical and outrageous. It’s none of their business.

It’s purely case-by-case for me. If you bring a child into the world, I expect you to have the mental and physical resources (including and especially time) to care for the child in a realistic and humane way. The more disabled the child, the more resources we’re talking about and the better I expect the plan to be.

It’s the same attitude I have when people get married. You can’t live on love. That’s a line you hear when two unemployed slackers get married, and it’s even more important when we’re talking about a child. Babies can’t survive on love.

I saw an offhand comment a few weeks ago that Down children use an average of $100,000 of federal money in care per year. I don’t expect families to be able to cough up that amount of money. What I do expect is that families will acknowledge that it’s an expensive proposition to have children at all, let alone children who require extra care and services. And I expect parents to make responsible decisions.

The life of a Down child can be a good one. It can also be wretched. We have to, as individuals, take the responsibility for determining which it is we are offering a child and act accordingly.

If it’s wrong for Palin, why would it be any less wrong for any other DS/handicapped baby born?

From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, I would say if Palin wins the Vice Presidency and Trig was responsible for any emotionally casted votes in favor of Palin, then having a handicapped child was a net positive for Palin. Even if Trig somehow contributed to McCain’s thinking process in choosing Palin, that counts as political value.

So, in certain specialized situations, there is definitely a tangible positive value for birthing a Downs Syndrome child.

For most other folks, not so much.

I find it interesting that Ted Kennedy teamed up with some Senate Republicans to beef up counseling requirements for doctors who have to give a prenatal Downs diagnosis. This effort was made in 2005 - it didn’t go anywhere, but showed where some people’s hearts were.

I don’t think anybody will accuse Kennedy of being insufficiently pro-choice. Nor will his or his family’s concern for the retarded be questioned. Good on him for knowing just how to balance the two.

While I do not agree with Kennedy on the abortion question, ultimately, I am skeptical at this point at the feasibility of addressing that through legislation alone. So I can endorse wholeheartedly Kennedy’s approach, even knowing we may argue about other things down the line.

This is a question that can only be asked legitimately of Sarah Palin and her husband, and we know what their answer would be.

Ed: referring to her particular Down’s syndrome baby, of course. Other people’s babies are their own problem.

To be brutally honest, this attitude seems to me to be a bit silly. Because, off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything that someone with Down Syndrome could contribute that could not be contributed better by someone without any handicaps.

Full disclosure: I have a near relation with DS. He graduated from high school (sort of), and holds a minimum-wage job. He lives in a sort of group home. You could certainly say that he is just as happy as a person without handicaps, but I don’t think you can plausibly argue that he is as valuable to society (in measurable terms) as any one else. It has taken a great deal of special effort to get him even as far as he has come, and ISTM that applying the same level of attention to a normal person would have produced a rather greater return on investment, to put it that way.

Taken to its ultimate, this means eugenics - the sterilization of the unfit and so forth, or even gas chambers. Don’t know if I would take it that far, particularly as regards the role of the state in all this.


All children are a burden to the family. Up to adulthood, they use up more resources than they provide. But then they become adults and do the same for their children, and that’s how the species propagates itself. The difficulty being that people with DS continue to consume more than their “fair share” into adulthood, and therefore by the heartless logic of natural selection, they are at a disadvantage in raising viable offspring.

Okay, we are no longer hunter-gatherers. And our society has so much wealth that we will survive regardless of whether or not we drown defectives at birth. Thus we leave this decision up to the parents. That’s what it means to be pro-choice.

Seems to me that the bloggers you mention need to understand something. If there is a good enough reason to tell someone they should have an abortion, then there can be a good enough reason to tell them they shouldn’t.


Her pregnancy, her choice.

In an ideal world, society would dedicate enough resources where we wouldn’t even need to worry about how we will support this person for the rest of their lives and be able to dedicate enough resources to make sure the quality of life for all disabled persons was high. I’m not sure we’ve reached that ideal world yet. I’d like to see us reach THAT ideal world before we get to the ideal world where there isn’t a need for abortions.

Just for the purpose of clarity, the two bloggers are not Democrats or liberals, but sigh Objectivists. And the particular type called Randroids who ask themselves daily WWAD? (or WWJCD?) and reply to themselves “Be as heartlessly bad-ass as possible”.

Now, I like Ayn’s writings. She makes a compelling case for natural rights, individual liberty, and the morality of capitalism, and weaves fantastic yarns, but there comes a point when ruthless rationalism, as Whittaker Chambers noted, sometimes leads to the gas chamber. (You can imagine the fury in Obj circles when a conservative blogger responded to these articles by saying “WC was right.”)

To echo most of the others in this thread, it comes down to a matter of choice. I think this sums up my attitude on this perfectly:

I get pretty riled up by the ‘thou shalt not abort!’ crowd for exactly the same reason. It’s none of your business if you are outside looking in…it’s up to the woman having (or not) the baby and perhaps the father. That’s it. The converse is also true…it’s not up to someone looking from the outside in to decide that a baby SHOULD be aborted…again, that’s up to the parents and comes down to THEIR choice.

I would never have thought pro-choice folks (I assume they are anyway) would make such stupid claims and I guess I chalk it up to distaste for Palin and resentment that she is holding this up as triumph of the pro-life philosophy. It’s nothing of the kind…in fact, I would think it undermines their position as it came down to HER choice in the end…


I don’t understand why it is so hard for people to achieve a level of separation between a person, and their disability in these type of exchanges. A person’s value is equal to any other person’s value, regardless of disability. However, a defect is a defect. Downs, blindness, deafness, albinism, etc, are all debilitating conditions that no one in their right mind would WISH upon anyone. Acting as if people afflicted with these conditions are special, or of some intangible greater value due to their “unique perspective” is crapola of the purest grade. Ideally, we would all be born with physically healthy bodies. There is nothing wrong with that. Bringing Down’s children into the world when it is preventable is ethically wrong in my eyes.

Who is the JC, because I’m assuming we’re not talking Jesus Christ here?

But since it is not preventable, why worry about the ethics at all?

In the case of my wife and I, we opted for no amnio as well for our kids, as the chance the child would have a defect was far smaller than the chance that the amnio would cause a problem with the pregnancy. We opted for non-invasive monitoring (ultrasound) and rolled the dice.

I don’t understand why people would have an issue with this choice - it is a perfectly rational one. And while it is easy to shrug it off now - our kids are fine and healthy, we did get some small criticism from people who didn’t understand that amnio was just a medical test that could be refused - nothing more.

Yup, Trig Palin should have been born. The only person who could make this decision made the decision to deliver him to the World. It’s her CHOICE, and he’s now her responsibility. Had she been told that he would come out with a hole in his face and all of his limbs missing, I’d still say, that it is her body, her choice to make.

I’m firmly Pro-Choice and Pro-Life.

Trig Palin being here on Earth adds to Earth in ways we cannot measure. In the same manner as does an Earth Worm, Beyoncé Knowles, Usain Bolt or Stephen Hawking.

What is life? Really, who can say?

What about a more severe case, like a Tay-Sachs child who is destined to die before age 5 and suffer excruciating pain during his or her brief existence? Is it ever okay to bring scorn upon someone for not having an abortion? I would say yes. While it may be ethically wrong to force a woman to have/not have a child, it’s not ethically wrong to criticize their decision.

I’m indifferent either way. I think that people who would have a problem with it (who I think are an extreme minority) need to crawl out of their own judgemental asses, but I also think that there’s something a little crass about Palin trying to exploit her decision for political brownie points. Neither choice is any more or less “moral” than the other. Both choices are ultimately self-serving. To me, the question is of no more ethical significance than deciding whether you want sour cream on your baked potato.