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Is Sarah Palin (implicitly) Pro-choice?

WaPo's Ruth Marcus makes the case, drawing on a speech Palin gave at a pro-life dinner last week. Marcus quotes Palin at length, discussing her second thoughts at the discovery that she was pregnant at 44 and that her baby would have Down syndrome:

Oh, dear God, I knew, I had instantly an understanding for that fleeting moment why someone would believe it could seem possible to change those circumstances. Just make it all go away and get some normalcy back in life. Just take care of it. Because at the time only my doctor knew the results, Todd didn't even know. No one would know....
So we went through some things a year ago that now lets me understand a woman's, a girl's temptation to maybe try to make it all go away if she has been influenced by society to believe that she's not strong enough or smart enough or equipped enough or convenienced enough to make the choice to let the child live. I do understand what these women, what these girls go through in that thought process.

Marcus then pounces, arguing that "if it were up to Palin, women would have no thought process to go through. The 'good decision to choose life,' as she put it, would be no decision at all, because abortion would not be an option."

This line of argument came up with Bristol Palin's choice to keep her baby, too--which Marcus cites as well--and has been raised in plenty of other contexts: How can pro-lifers praise the "choice" to bear a child, when they don't believe it should be a choice at all?

I'm sympathetic to the intent of this argument, but ultimately I don't think it holds water. There are, after all, plenty of situations in which we applaud someone for doing one thing, even as we believe the alternative should be unacceptable or even illegal.

Imagine someone who is genuinely hungry, or even has a hungry family, who finds himself walking past an unattended fruit stand. Just because we might applaud his decision not to steal an apple, it doesn't mean we think theft should be a legal option. Or to take an even more mundane case, picture someone who's driving to an appointment for which she is late: We could understand why she might be inclined to drive at dangerous speeds--and commend her decision not to do so--without thinking speed limits should be abolished.


Christopher Orr