The high-profile example provided by Sarah Palin of a Down syndrome baby carried to term has been celebrated by the pro-life movement, as well as by pro-choicers who welcome increased visibility of the many options available to women -- whether they are confronted with an unplanned pregnancy or a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. But a prominent Canadian gynecologist has vocalized his serious concern that Palin's choice could encourage other women to make the same decision against abortion, to their detriment.
Dr. Andre Lalonde, executive vice president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Ottawa, said that the "greater public awareness of women making choices like Palin to complete a pregnancy and give birth to their genetically-abnormal baby could be detrimental and confusing to the women and their families," according to the Los Angeles Times. He told the Daily Mail that many women are not prepared to care for a special-needs child and said, "The worry is that this will have an implication for abortion issues in Canada."
Wait, so when a high-profile woman makes her own reproductive choice, she is also making a reproductive choice for other women? I suppose it's possible that any woman who has an abortion might inadvertently encourage other women in her life to terminate their pregnancies; a woman who carries an unplanned pregnancy to term might influence other women to do the same; and a woman who gives up a child for adoption might serve as a guiding example for her peers.
But if a woman is so easily swayed by seeing a single positive example of a Down syndrome baby carried to term -- or a woman choosing abortion or adoption -- maybe, just maybe, she's making the right decision for herself. Regardless, it certainly shouldn't be an example that she is shielded from for fear that she will be emotionally coerced into carrying to term. More examples of the choices available to women serve to strengthen women's choices. Most important, though, is that those influences be balanced by straightforward, unbiased medical information. It seems Dr. Lalonde's time would be better spent pursuing that goal, instead of speculating on the impact of Palin's personal choice.
And why worry about that impact when Palin's aim is to remove women's choice altogether?