Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dear Sarah

Dear Sarah,

You have a five-month old baby with Downs Syndrome, and I understand you were aware of the condition of the fetus before giving birth. I must commend you for undertaking the care of a child with special needs with four children already at home and a full-time job. I can only assume you have the means and resources to deal with your extraordinary situation. Not everyone does.

You made a decision for yourself, and I am sure you feel it’s the best decision for you. That does not mean this would be the best decision for anyone else. I have no business telling anyone what she should do in such a situation. But then neither do you. That’s the point.

It is a medical and personal determination that must be made. Whenever someone tells me that abortion is murder, I realize that person is not talking about a medical or personal choice but about religion. And religion should be a private matter in this country. That is the American way, we are told, though not lately by the evangelizers who seem to have waded quite deeply into politics. But if our Constitution is to have validity, such a very private and personal medical matter must remain in the realm of being decided by a woman. Certainly with advice from her physician and input from the baby’s father, if that’s germane. But not the government!

Sarah, I must admit that there are things about you I find perplexing. You are proud of being a strong woman, forceful—someone who speaks up for her rights. So why are you so willing to give up another woman’s right to decide for herself what can or cannot be done with her body? It seems a giant contradiction to me. The only answer I can come up with is a religious one. But if that’s the answer, then as a political figure, you should be pledged to allow others to follow their own conscience, as you have followed yours. To want others to believe as you believe does not offer the freedom of expression, the freedom of religion promised in our Constitution.

Yes, this is a complex issue, and every decision to have or to not have an abortion can be complicated. For instance a planned pregnancy can result in a woman becoming ill, and the physician recommending an abortion for the health of the mother. Or because of the compromised situation of the fetus. Or a woman may desperately want an abortion because of rape or incest! Or perhaps you may consider it not a worthy reason if a woman becomes pregnant because of the failure of birth control, or the failure of a vasectomy or other procedure. Whatever the reason, these are not my reasons, or your reasons, but we must respect that all women have the right to be fully informed of their options—and that must include the option of abortion.

Women must not be held hostage to politicians making the most important personal decisions for them. We are in the 21st century. Aren’t we?

Please give the matter some thought. I hope that ambition does not cloud your vision. I’d like to believe you when you said you went into politics to help people. Right now, I am having difficulty accepting that concept in light of your fiery defense of upholding a stand that has no respect or regard for women.

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