Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Trig: An Advocate for All of Us

Trig Palin is just like the rest of us in every way that matters
September 23, 2008

Palins and TrigBy now most of us have gotten to know something about Trig - Trig Palin, that is, son of Sarah Palin the Republican V.P. candidate, a child born with Down syndrome, received enthusiastically into the heart of the Palin family, and a stumbling block to those who believe Down syndrome babies, when detected early in pregnancy, should be aborted.

It's been a year since I last wrote about the new eugenics and the war on Down babies now underway in the American healthcare system. Trig has me thinking about it all again.

In a recent must-read op-ed ("Trig's Breakthrough", Washington Post, September 10, 2008) former Bush policy advisor and speechwriter Michael Gerson but it beautifully:

The wrenching diagnosis of 47 chromosomes must seem to parents likeTrisomy 21 the end of a dream instead of the beginning of a life. But children born with Down syndrome -- who learn slowly but love deeply -- are generally not experienced by their parents as a curse but as a complex blessing. And when allowed to survive, men and women with an extra chromosome experience themselves as people with abilities, limits and rights.

They experience themselves, that is to say, much like the rest of us.

Gerson goes on to note, of course, that when prenatal testing for Down syndrome turns up positive, the healthcare establishment, with few exceptions becomes stridently eugenic, pressuring parents to abort their Down babies. Notes Gerson:

Unlike what is accorded African Americans and women, civil rights protections for people with Down syndrome have rapidly eroded over the past few decades. Of the cases of Down syndrome diagnosed by prenatal testing each year, about 90 percent are eliminated by abortion. Last year the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended universal, early testing for Down syndrome -- not just for older pregnant women. Some expect this increased screening to reduce the number of Down syndrome births to something far lower than the ACOG Logo5,500 we see today, perhaps to fewer than 1,000.

His observations dovetail with recent and disturbing research suggesting that 2 healthy babies are miscarried for every 3 Down syndrome babies that are detected and prevented from being born. Are these innocents -- whose untimely deaths through miscarriage would appear to be causally connected to the amniocentesis used to detect the presence of a Down child in the womb -- simply to be understood as collateral damage in the war to eliminate Down children?

It would seem quite true then that, if Ms. Palin becomes Vice President of this great country, the disabled will indeed have -- as she promised in her acceptance speech in Minneapolis -- "an advocate in the White House."

And that advocate's name will be Trig Palin.

And yet, Trig will be much more than that.

Trig will be an advocate for all of us who -- like himself -- suffer from life's mishaps in ways that impact our entire being, rendering us broken in many ways, and highly imperfect as we labor to make the long trek toward that degree of perfection we can achieve in this life.

Trig PalinTrig is already forcing us to look at our humanity square in the eye, helping us to recognize -- if we are honest -- that in a very profound sense, none of us is "better" than he is, none of us more (or less) "desirable" than he is, that his, your or my worth as human beings is not predicated on someone else's calculation of his, your or my "quality of life".

As Gerson so aptly put it, "now we have met Trig, who is just like the others, in every way that matters."

And how!

Rev. Thomas V. Berg, L.C. is Executive Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.