Sarah Palin's Baby and the Rights of the Disabled

What began with most Americans learning about Sarah Palin, and learning that she chose to give birth to a Down syndrome child, quickly descended into rumors fueled on liberal blogs that the child was really born to her teenage daughter Bristol (whoops, that's another impending child) with Palin passing off the child as her own.

When wading through the often vitriolic debates about whether Palin should have gotten pregnant in her forties or should have given birth to a disabled child in first place (this from the "stay out of our wombs!" crowd) or whether she went back to work too soon after giving birth or should conduct a rigorous campaign with a Down baby at home (this from both sides of the political spectrum), we can't lose sight of a discussion that needs to be sparked by John McCain's pick.

It's the old quality of life debate, given greater urgency by the sharply declining number of Down syndrome births and scientific advancements that could soon detect any number of abnormalities in the womb.

We can't miss the opportunity to bring to the forefront the gross discrimination which results in the lives of the disabled being regarded as less worthy or, at worst, completely disposable.

When Adolf Hitler set about his plans to craft the perfect, master Aryan race, his first task was to eliminate the handicapped and mentally disabled; as the first step in this goal, midwives and physicians were ordered to register children born with severe birth defects, and "experts" reviewing the cases ordered the deaths of about 5,000 such children from 1939 to 1945. The vulnerable in our society are the canary in the coal mine: When society decides that any sector of the population is less worthy of protection, less deserving of life than another, we teeter over the edge into an abyss of inhumanity.

Ronald Reagan saw this acutely in 1982, when "Baby Doe," a Down syndrome baby born with a malformed esophagus, was denied corrective surgery by his parents, who had two "normal" children and knew full well that the baby would starve to death. Illinois prosecutors tried to gain custody of the child to give it proper treatment, but this was denied by the courts.