After the announcement of Palin as the VP pick, at first I didn't know who she was. Then I realized I had read articles about her last spring when Trig was born, when she said, "Trig is beautiful and already adored by us. We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives."
I thought about blogging about Palin earlier, but Andy Crouch beat me to the punch. He notes that when he was a teenager back in the '80s, he remembers seeing numerous kids his age with Down syndrome. But he doesn't see as many today, because so many have been aborted. On the Palins' decision to have Trig, Andy observes,
I also saw a letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune by Mark Mostert, codirector of Regent University’s Institute for the Study of Disability and Bioethics. He wrote:
I cannot think of any other public figures in my adult life, at least of the prominence they are about to enjoy or endure, who have made this decision. They will cause many, many families to reconsider the horizons of the possible. Their public example could very well lead to a cultural sea change—a dramatic shift in the “horizons of the possible.” That phrase from my book is no metaphor. Those horizons are so real that, for a future generation of children and their parents, they are quite literally a matter of life and death. For this reason, which utterly transcends politics and this year’s election, the sudden prominence of the Palins is, in the deepest sense, an extraordinary act of public service.
For years advocates fought to have people with Down syndrome brought from the shadows of institutionalization to their rightful place in our communities and lives. Lately, though, there are fewer and fewer of them around.Last night, Palin introduced Trig alongside her other children, saying, "We were so blessed in April; Todd and I welcomed our littlest one into the world, a perfectly beautiful baby boy named Trig." Then she said, "Children with special needs inspire a special love. To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message for you. For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House."
Why? Because the vast majority of in-utero Down syndrome diagnoses result in abortion. The numbers don't lie: When it comes to people with Down syndrome, they're considered defective. The message is clear: We'd rather just not have them around.
Good for Palin for standing up to the pressure from the medical community, which almost always recommends termination of the pregnancy.
Good for Palin for making the statement that needs to be made much more often: Genetic discrimination against people with Down syndrome must stop. Now. No excuses.
After Palin's speech, Mostert posted this blog entry saying, "She faced the camera squarely and said what no other politician on either side of the aisle has, so far, been willing or able to say: That all people with disabilities matter, that they will no longer be ignored. That they have a rightful and unmistakable place at the table of civic life. That they are, before anything else, Americans."
Not only are they Americans, more significantly, they bear the image of God and thus have inestimable value and worth. Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, regardless of chromosome count or disabilities. Children with Down syndrome, like Trig Palin and Elijah Hsu, are people deeply loved not only by their families, but by God. And our society is richer for their presence.
This blog post should not be taken as an endorsement of Palin or the GOP ticket. But whatever one thinks of Palin or her politics, I think some of the most significant aspects of last night's speech were the camera shots of little Trig, alive and well. This boy's very existence has brought disability awareness, special needs and prolife issues to the forefront of a national discussion. I am hopeful that regardless of what happens this election, our country will become a better place for and with people with disabilities.