PALIN AND THE MEANING OF CHOICE.

Cara at The Curvature had a great post last week on how annoyed she was that antichoicers were portraying Sarah Palin's child with Down's syndrome as a heroic choice on the part of the vice-presidential candidate. Cara writes,

You know, it's the anti-choicers who use "it's not a choice, it's a child" as a rallying cry to force women to give birth. And yet here I am, as pro-choice as can be, really fucking annoyed that conservative assholes are portraying this very real, actual child as a political choice rather than the human being that he is.

Now today comes the news that Palin's 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. In the news release, the McCain campaign made sure to state that:

Bristol Palin made the decision on her own to keep the baby, McCain aides said.

While it's obvious why they made this statement to assure the public that Bristol was not coerced into keeping the baby (after all, she does have a parent who is a staunch opponent of the right to choose and is currently on the Republican presidential ticket), as my significant other pointed out, there's some serious hypocrisy at play here. I mean, John McCain and Sarah Palin don't believe women have a right to choose. It's absolutely absurd for the campaign to emphasize the fact that Bristol "made this decision," and then push for policies that take away that choice.

In reality, Bristol's actual "choice" was probably not whether to terminate the pregnancy or carry it to term, but whether raise the child herself or put it up for adoption. But the reason that the McCain campaign chose to emphasize Bristol's agency in this decision was to reassure the public that this pregnancy is not coercive. They know the public wants to feel secure in the knowledge that it was Bristol's choice to keep the pregnancy. And coming from the McCain campaign, which opposes a woman's right to choose, that statement is disgusting. As former TAPper Kate Sheppard wrote in In These Times recently, during the 2000 primary McCain said that if his daughter got pregnant it would be a "family decision":

"The final decision would be made by Meghan with our advice and counsel," McCain said, referring to himself and his wife, Cindy. When reporters suggested that this view made him, in fact, pro-choice, McCain became irritated. "I don't think it is the pro-choice position to say that my daughter and my wife and I will discuss something that is a family matter that we have to decide."

In other words: My family and my daughter deserve a choice, but no other woman can be trusted with this decision. This fits nicely with the narrative on both Palin's decision to carry her Down's syndrome child to term and her daughter's decision to carry her own pregnancy to term. Their decisions are seen by the antichoice Republican base as affirmation that Palin shares their values. But the underlying message that each woman had a choice is a validation of pro-choice values.

--Ann Friedman

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