Well, damn. Here’s a curveball: Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. With most politicians’ children I’d say “big deal, it’s none of our business,” but Sarah Palin is so damn sure that my uterus is her business, so this one, my friends, is open for discussion.

First, a caveat: it’s probably really shitty to be pregnant at 17. I can only imagine that, being still a child and all, you must be damn scared for your future. Forget college applications and SATs, you have chosen Door Number Three! Congratulations, you’ve won: a baby! And at least eighteen years of massive responsibility!

Now, I imagine it’s also really shitty to be told by your VP Candidate mom that you have to marry the boy who got you pregnant, even though he’s also still a kid and is probably more interested in his Nintendo Wii than the ins and outs of effective parenting, never mind interested in creating that lifelong romance you’ve probably dreamed of while watching all those Disney movies growing up. But, whatever, shit happens, and I feel really sorry for a young girl who is not only going through the trauma of an unexpected pregnancy but also the much scarier trauma of having 300 million people talking about what’s in her uterus. Oh, and dealing with the whole “mother running for Vice President” thing.

Now, here’s my problem with how this delightful little fetus has been discussed by the McCain/Palin team. The McCain campaign has been careful to say that Bristol Palin made the decision “on her own” to continue with her pregnancy. But as Ann at Feministing correctly points out:

While it’s obvious why they made this statement to assure the public that Bristol was not coerced into keeping the baby (after all, she does have a parent who is a staunch opponent of the right to choose and is currently on the Republican presidential ticket), as my significant other pointed out, there’s some serious hypocrisy at play here. I mean, John McCain and Sarah Palin don’t believe women have a right to choose. It’s absolutely absurd for the campaign to emphasize the fact that Bristol “made this decision,” and then push for policies that take away that choice.

Ann is right on the money. It’s hypocrisy to suggest that this 17-year-old girl made the right choice when the whole idea of choice is so beyond any Republican position right now. Other women should be denied any choice as to whether they continue with their pregnancies, but Bristol Palin should be congratulated for exercising the choice that would be denied her if her mother was elected? That’s fucked up.

I’m glad that Ann also brought up Cara’s great post from last week on the discussions surrounding Sarah Palin’s “choice” not to abort her son, Trig, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. Here’s another case where Palin was congratulated for choosing to continue with the pregnancy, even though under a McCain/Palin administration, she would deny all of us that same choice. As Cara said,

You know what we often say about how conservatives care a whole lot about fetuses but very little about actual children? Well here’s your example. It’s almost as though they think that Palin became pregnant and gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome simply to please them. And the thing is that if they really believe their rhetoric, the answer was obvious, so obvious in fact that Palin didn’t really have a “choice” to make. Only now, because it’s convenient, they want to acknowledge that the decision of whether or not to abort after getting news that your child will be born with a disability is a difficult one, simply so that they can point and say “but look at her, she searched her soul and then did the right thing — so should all women!” They don’t want women to have a choice, but then want to praise this particular woman for the choice that she did make.

Cara and Ann make great points. As a pro-choice woman, I believe that my uterus is mine and mine alone, and I am grateful to be living in a country (not the U.S.) that upholds my right to decide what is best for me and mine. At least in this country I am judged to be intelligent enough to make these decisions for myself, without needing a Sarah Palin telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s hypocrisy, then, for the Republicans to be congratulating these two women on their choices not to terminate their pregnancies when Palin doesn’t believe she or her daughter should have that choice in the first place.

And let me agree with another point Cara raised; while Palin’s “choice” to have a baby with Down’s Syndrome has been congratulated by the right-wing for being an example of her pro-life family values, this is not a choice that only “pro-life” women make! It is ridiculous to suggest that all pro-choice women would all immediately choose abortion if faced with the same amnio results. Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion; it means pro-choice. It means supporting safe and accessible reproductive health care for women, whatever your politics. Many pro-choice women choose to continue with pregnancies even when faced with abnormalities like Down’s. The point is, they have the freedom to make that choice according to what works for them. I don’t know why Sarah Palin should be held up as a great pro-life role model for having a baby with Down’s Syndrome when there are a hell of a lot of pro-choice women who do the same, and when she wouldn’t have a choice anyway if she got her own way. Under a McCain/Palin administration, all women would be forced to continue with all pregnancies.

Isn’t that a frightening thought?

I find it very creepy that Palin is against abortion even in the case of rape or incest. In response to being asked what she would do if a man raped her daughter, she answered, “I would choose life.” Drew Westen at The Huffington Post puts it like this:

Palin apparently even believes in forcing teenage incest survivors and rape victims to bear their rapists’ babies…the position she and others on the right have articulated gives every rapist the right to pick the mother of his child. That position is tantamount to a Rapist’s Bill of Rights, which privileges the rights of rapists and child molesters over the rights of their victims. Those are McCain-Palin’s “family values,” and they are not mainstream American values.

Thank you, Drew Westen, for pointing out how sick Palin’s values really are, and for once again bringing the point home: pro-lifers hate women. Sarah Palin hates women. Sarah Palin hates me.

Welcome to your Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, America. This could be your future.

*Update: Check out Rebecca Traister’s great piece in Salon on this same topic.

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