Trig, the anti-abortion straw baby

Sarah Palin's son is being used to demonize pro-choicers

Published December 4, 2009 10:20PM (EST)

Sarah Palin is the new anti-abortion icon, Ben Smith argues today in Politico: "Her decision to carry to term her Down syndrome child established a special relationship with anti-abortion activists, and now Palin has transformed herself from a politician who was anti-abortion into the leading figure of the anti-abortion movement." The truth, though, is that she has been upstaged by the movement's real star: Trig.

The 19-month-old has accompanied Palin on her book tour and is rarely out of the spotlight. He can be seen resting on her hip as she addresses a crowd or carried by an aide while Palin signs books. Adoring fans have showed up with handmade signs that trumpet things like, "We Love Trig." Jason Recher, a campaign aide who came along for the book tour, told Politico: "There’s a lot of people who come through the line to see Trig instead of to see her." It makes me think of the way believers the world over flock to see children who are deemed to be the reincarnation of a particular deity. Trig is being treated as the movement's blessed icon, a martyr because of what could have happened to him: abortion.

He's also being used as a straw man baby against pro-choice activists. "Palin's allies [suggest] that antipathy to her is based on the belief that she should have had an abortion rather than bearing her son," Smith explains. He quotes two conservatives bloggers who argue that this is part of a "broader societal bias against disability." This is just another iteration of the "pro-choicers hate babies" argument. Thankfully, Smith injects some reportorial balance: "Those people are, in fact, rather hard to find."

That doesn't stop Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, from offering a sneering representation of the liberal point-of-view: "She had the audacity in the eyes of the abortion rights world to actually have this child and then has the audacity to bring him along with her and feature him as a centrally valued person in their family." Who, exactly, in the mainstream reproductive rights camp is offended by her choice? Dannenfelser dishonestly recasts disagreements with the way Trig is being used to further the anti-choice agenda with an objection to his actual existence and the fact that his family adores him. It isn't Palin's choice that we care about -- it's her disregard for other women's right to make their own choice, whatever that may be.

Remarkably, the article ends with a relatively inoffensive sentiment from Dannenfelser: She celebrates Palin for providing an example that will influence some women confronted with a similar situation. I think it's wonderful for there to be a public example of a family happily raising a baby with Down syndrome; women should be exposed to a whole range of role models for the various paths that are possible in life. But, again, it comes down to the issue of, hello, choice. Even Palin writes in her book that she considered abortion "for a split second" when she found out about Trig's condition. She considered it because she had a choice.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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