I would guess that many of us who are pro-choice (loathe the tired “choice-life” terminology) were nonetheless moved by Sarah Palin’s heartfelt and principled decision not to abort her Down syndrome child, revealed to the world yesterday during her initial campaign appearance. It reminded me of something about which I have been ruminating for some time: The preeminent social issues – gay marriage and abortion – are quite separate. Lumping them together, as is often done by the media and by ideologues on both sides, is insulting to our intelligence.
For me, same-sex marriage is by far the simpler issue. I am one hundred percent for it on moral, civil rights and scientific grounds. (Sexual orientation is not elective.) And I am surprised so many of my fellow citizens would want to deny others a chance to experience a life of recognized love and commitment, something I have found, through hard experience, to be easily the most fulfilling and socially useful way to live. It would seem almost, dare I say it, unchristian.
Abortion is another matter entirely. I have had a personal experience in recent weeks. I became the grandfather of twin girls brought to our family by my son Raphael and his partner Phillip. These beautiful girls were conceived in vitro and carried by a birth mother. They emerged healthy and thriving. Staring at them brings tears to my eyes.
It is also a stark reminder of the obvious. The pro-life people are certainly right about one thing – life does begin at the moment of conception (when else?). Those of us who are pro-choice must wrestle with that uncomfortable fact even as we assert our political view. In nearly every abortion, a decision is being made between the life (or convenience) of the mother and an already growing and developing life with unique DNA. As much of a religious agnostic as I am, I am seriously disturbed by that.
Still, I remain pro-choice because I would prefer the government not be involved in these highly personal decisions. Also, as we all must acknowledge, if abortions become illegal, they will continue anyway and, once again, become more or less a privilege of the rich. Pretty repellent.
And yet, as I said, I am moved by Sarah Palin’s decision to have her fifth child. In this regard, her morals and her courage are impeccable. I wonder if I would have done the same.