Sarah Palin: A dangerous and intelligent choice? Hm. Well. I’ve seen enough already to know that lots of supposedly-progressive people are going to attack her on sexist grounds – as one of Avedon Carol’s commenters notes:
A brilliant pick not because she’s going to win over all those Hillary voters but because she gives the Dems an opportunity to remind women that not everyone who hates us has a (R) after their name.
This is going to be so much fun – racism from the right, sexism from the left. America rocks!
Given there is enough to attack Palin on about issues that matter, it is – well, completely unsurprising after months of idiot sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton, that some are already choosing to attack her on issues such as “omg, mother of five! who’s going to stay home and look after her babies? what if she’s breastfeeding when America has a security issue?”
But there is a legitimate question to be raised about Palin and her fifth child Trig.
The most colourful rumor circulating about Governor Palin is that she is not the mother of her 5th child: that Palin claimed young Trig was hers to avoid scandal or for some other reason. (There are extra-colourful add-ons to this rumor that I choose not to discuss, for what ought to be obvious reasons, and give warning in advance that I may delete or edit comments that try to discuss this aspect.) [Second update, 1st September: the “extra-colourful add-ons” were that Bristol Palin was Trig’s real mother in April, a hurtful rumour that has had to be debunked today by a formal announcement that Bristol is herself 5 months pregnant (New York Times) and that she’s planning to marry her boyfriend/her child’s father. The most disturbing thing about the rumours that were proliferating were not the comments about Bristol Palin’s personal appearance, creepy though those were, but the nastiness of including a minor child in this kind of gossip/speculation.]
Set that aside for the moment.
The governor, eight months into her pregnancy, noticed amniotic fluid Thursday morning prior to giving a keynote luncheon address at the Republican Governor’s Energy Conference in Texas. After wrapping up the speech, Palin and her husband consulted with her physician about possibly flying home on an earlier flight. After being granted permission from her doctor, she and her husband proceeded with the trek home.
At that point, Palin was only having minor contractions and was not showing signs of active labor, Sharon Leighow, the governor’s spokeswoman, said on Monday.
After the baby was born, Palin told her staff members that her experiences from four previous pregnancies made her comfortable with the signs of active labor. She felt that neither she nor her baby were in any danger, and so she flew home as scheduled. Newsminer, 22nd April 2008
As Snopes.com notes, most airlines have regulations against letting a pregnant woman fly late in pregnancy: a plane is not a good place to deliver an infant. Apparently Alaska Airlines does not regulate this.
According to Governor Palin’s own version of events, she knew Trig had Downs syndrome: presumably, the diagnosis had been made at about the usual time (15-22 weeks) since Palin had the choice of terminating the pregnancy and chose not to do so.
Governor Palin’s own account of going into labour is at least strikingly unusual, and yet when she felt herself going into labor, she did not go at once to the nearest hospital to ensure that the baby was delivered safely, as any doctor who was aware of her condition would have advised her to do, but boarded an 8-hour flight in the presumption that she would have time to reach a hospital in Alaska before she delivered.
Downs syndrome babies may be in need of immediate medical attention at birth if they are to survive. Most urgently, an echocardiogram needs to be performed – DS babies can have congenital heart disease. A complete blood count needs to be done as soon as possible – a DS fetus may have leukemia. (There are other tests, but none quite so urgent.) A DS baby needs to be born in hospital if at all possible, and one with the best possible pediatrics department.
It was perhaps unwise of Governor Palin to fly to Texas, eight months pregnant, but it was downright maniacally irresponsible of her to decide to fly back when she knew she was in labour.
[Update, 3rd September: But, for an alternate POV, see Dutchmarbel’s comment, which she posted here following some dialogue between us at Obsidian Wings. In summary, Marbel disagrees with me that Palin was irresponsible, and she makes a good, sane, well-informed case for her disagreement.]
And I cannot believe – truly, honestly – that the physician she says she spoke to in Texas (her own physician? Did she speak to him over the phone? Did she go to a obstetrician in Texas?) would have okayed her flying back, while in early labour, when if she gave birth to Trig on the plane, there was a small but not miniscule chance that Trig would never have left the plane alive – and certainly, it would have been safer to stay in Texas, check into a hospital there, and give birth. (Even if her health insurance didn’t cover it: I believe it’s a rule that even US hospitals are required to treat pregnant women in labour.)
Whether or not Governor Palin faced that fact and decided to take the risk, I do not believe that a doctor wholly acquainted with the facts would have taken the risk.
Unless, of course, she wasn’t pregnant at all, and the news she got in Texas was that the real mother of Trig was going into labor.
What I wrote to Snopes.com:
Anyway, that’s what I have, and I would like to know, if Snopes can do it, if: these rumors were circulating back in June: if there’s any way it could be true that a doctor in Texas, knowing Governor Palin was pregnant and the soon-to-be-born baby had Downs syndrome, advised his patient it would be OK to travel back to Alaska – who was this doctor? Did Palin tell this Texas doctor the fetus had DS? How did Alaska Airlines feel about a woman who knew she was in labor boarding the plane?
The fact is: if the story published in Newsminer on 22nd April is correct, and it seems to be substantiated by Governor Palin’s staff, then there are two damaging possibilities: Palin isn’t the mother and flew back to Alaska not to give birth but to appear to have given birth: or Palin decided – either against the advice of her doctor, or without consulting her doctor – that she would take the risk of a Downs syndrome baby being born without medical attention.
Update, Monday 1st September:
Having thought about it overnight, I really don’t believe that Sarah Palin managed to stage a coverup and Trig is someone else’s baby – anyone else’s. It’s beyond belief that in a modern hospital, it could somehow be managed to have the state governor pretend to give birth as a coverup for someone else giving birth. It’s especially unbelievable – and quite out of order – to claim that “someone else” is Sarah Palin’s daughter.
No, the issue here is: Sarah Palin lied. I don’t believe – as she claims – she got a doctor’s okay to fly from Texas to Alaska after her waters broke.
And I’m not sure I believe she knew she had a Downs syndrome baby. If she did know, and had discussed it with her husband (he was with her in Texas) I find it beyond belief that she decided to risk her baby’s life by the chance she’d give birth on the plane – or that her husband didn’t talk her out of it.
At 44, Downs syndrome is a known risk: and I know two other women (Cherie Booth is one of them – the other is a personal friend) who, pregnant after 40, just consciously decided not to be tested for DS. They knew in advance they would not abort if that was the result: the test itself carries with it a small measure of risk/miscarriage: they just decided they’d accept it if that happened. Of course, both of them are pro-choice: to make that decision for yourself is the pro-choice option. But the confusion that pro-lifers perpetually push, between “pro-choice” and “pro-abortion”, obscures this: Sarah Palin chose for herself to bear each of her five children, and that is pro-choice. If Sarah Palin is pro-life, that means she wants to deny the choices she made to other women. And that – aside from whatever lies she told or risks she took this year – is why I would not support her as a politician, regardless of her office.
Obviously, the main reason for not supporting Sarah Palin for Vice President is that if she’s VP that means John McCain is President – and that’s going to be a disaster.