An Open Letter to Sarah Palin

Lynn Paltrow, the Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, published an open letter to Sarah Palin yesterday that was too good not to mention:

Many Americans agree with your position regarding abortion — they do this as a matter of faith, ethics, personal experience and sometimes politics. I am just wondering though, if you have thought about what would happen if you succeeded in getting your position — that fetuses have a right to life — established as the law of the land? Did you know that it not only threatens the lives, health and freedom of women who might want or need someday to end their pregnancies, it would also give the government the power to control the lives of women — like you who — go to term?

Read the whole thing; it’s not to miss.

Join the Conversation

  • aniri

    This letter just makes me so sad. It’s a fact that Sarah Palin will never read it and even if she does, she is not going to GET it. And even if she GETS it, she will pretend like she didn’t and continue with her politics and her life as is. From watching the RNC I realized that a lot of the “values” that Republicans claim to have are a political facade and don’t mean much to them personally. This is not to glorify Democrats, but I am horrified at the prospect of McCain / Palin in the white house. Dare I say, GOD FORBID!!!
    As I’ve told a lot of people who oppose Obama – even if he sits in the while house for 4 years and does absolutely nothing, this country will be better off than if McCain were president. Now I personally believe Obama can do a lot of good, but people who don’t think so need to realize how much bad can come from McCain/Palin.
    I wish us all lots of luck. I’ve never felt so anxious about an election in my life.

  • Renee

    This letter highlighted why it is so important to keep fighting for womens reproductive choices. I was not aware of the forced c-sections. That is an extreme violation of the body. People like Palin will not realize what is at stake until it is too late. They are the Serena Joys of this world and they must be brought to awareness.
    For a touch of good news, yesterday the British Columbia Supreme court affirmed the bubble law and protesters must stay 50 feet away from abortion clinics. This assures that women can have access to an abortion and they will not be harassed on their way into or out of a clinic.

  • laurylen

    wow – this is why I chose not to become pregnant. the fuckers have no right. NONE! sorry – i’m screaming at them, not you. thanks for the post

  • Nettle Syrup

    Oh aniri, I’m British and would you believe I’VE never felt so anxious about an election in my life! I don’t have a vote because I don’t live there, but I feel like I should because this is going to affect us in a big, big way. And we all know that, the news is reporting every day on the progress of the US elections.
    This is a fantastic letter. Just stiffens my resolve even MORE that we women have to fight to have our human rights respected.

  • Kate

    Wow, Paltrow pretty much knocked that one out of the park!
    I think this letter is wonderful because it addresses the real issue of the abortion debate: it’s not about women vs. their fetuses, it’s about individual freedom vs. the male-dominated government dictating what we should and can do with our bodies. It’s not about life, it’s about control.

  • nestra

    The writer of this letter seems either ignorant or dull-witted. To the anti-choice advocates, the issue is not whether a fetus should be given rights. To them, a fetus is a baby. Regardless of the writer’s understanding of the word, this is what Palin would read:
    “Many Americans agree with your position regarding infanticide — they do this as a matter of faith, ethics, personal experience and sometimes politics. I am just wondering though, if you have thought about what would happen if you succeeded in getting your position — that infants have a right to life — established as the law of the land? Did you know that it not only threatens the lives, health and freedom of women who might want or need someday to kill their children, it would also give the government the power to control the lives of women — like you who — raise their children?”
    It makes the writer seem inhumane.
    I think the pro-choice crowd would be better served if they realize the passion the anti-choice advocates of about their position is the same as they might feel if a law was passed that mothers could kill their children for any reason until the child was 9-months old or reached a certain developmental level.
    It seems preposterous, but to many people they are logical equivalents. The argument “but they’re not” is not working. People who morally feel that they are feel the same obligation to protect a fetus as they would to protect an infant. Pro choice advocates seem to ignore or not understand this. I think accepting that as the position of the opposite side might allow them to craft more effective arguments.
    When a pro choicer writes “it is like a parasite and I should have the choice to get rid of it,” the anti-choicer reads “this baby is like a parasite and I should have the choice to kill it.” Letters like the one in the post do no good.

  • laurajd

    As much as I am pro-choice, a feminist and very much for reproductive rights, I have to somewhat agree with nestra and her/his (sorry I am not sure what gender you are) last paragraph about “it is like a parasite and I should have the choice to get rid of it.” TO me, that statement sounds absurd. I cannot understand how the writer could have referred to something that could potentially become a human one day as a parasite. I am sorry, but no matter if it is an embryo or a third trimester baby, it is NOT a parasite.
    If I have an abortion, it is because I freely chose to do so because I am not ready to have a child. Or other circumstances could lead me to it. But, I would not refer to it as a parasite.
    As of the election, I am going to be voting Libertarian. I cannot stand both parties and I cannot stand the constant bickering towards each other. I wish I could just say Grow Up, Already! You are Adults! I want to hear what you will do for this country and how you will improve what Bush ruined. Not blah blah blah Obama has no experience and blah blah blah McCain is just another Bush. I personally think it is time to vote third party and I will be proud doing it!

  • allegra

    Good god. I didn’t even know these things were happening all over the country.
    I cannot understand how the writer could have referred to something that could potentially become a human one day as a parasite. I am sorry, but no matter if it is an embryo or a third trimester baby, it is NOT a parasite.
    You don’t need to call a fetus a parasite or use such loaded terms to understand that one human being has no obligation, legal or otherwise, to keep another human being alive. Parents have the right, for example, not to allow their children to have expensive treatment for serious fatal illnesses like cancer. I believe, to a point, parents have a right not to allow their children treatment for ANYTHING. Parents have the right not to have their children vaccinated against fatal, highly contagious diseases. Secondly, I once read an example on this website that no one can force another person to, say, donate a kidney just because another person needs a kidney to live. So it is with a fetus. Why is a woman required to donate her body and organs to her fetus, which is in fact NOT equivalent in many ways to a grown adult?

  • Mama Mia

    Nestra and Laurajd,
    Did you actually read the same letter as I did? It doesn’t say the word parasite anywhere. I actually read the letter prepared to be outraged that someone would stupidly do that, and yet, she didn’t.
    She had a very measured list of examples of women who did not receive the same treatment that Sarah Palin did during her pregnancy. It isn’t even about abortion, per se. It is about pregnancy, and having the right to decide how your pregnancy progresses, not how to end it.
    I agree that we have not been doing a good job in evolving our message. Consider how the right has changed their message about creationism in schools. Instead of “Teach creationism” as the message, which failed, it is now “Teach the controversy” which seems to be working in their favor.
    We do need to come up with better arguments that resonate better with people, but c’mon, at least read the letter before you trash it.

  • allegra

    I’m sorry. I value women and their bodily integrity over fetuses which have a chance of not surviving anyway (miscarriage) and which are not the “innocent” blank slates Republicans make of them. If fetuses in fact are “human,” they may not grow up to be productive, intelligent members of society. All humans make mistakes. Some do terrible things. Some do wonderful things. The Republican arguments for why we should value the unborn over the already born still don’t stand.
    And if most anti-choicers in fact see no difference in any way between a wanted baby or adult woman and an unwanted fetus, then they have a serious problem. I won’t abandon logic or critical analysis just to please the totally ignorant.

  • Hopea

    Sorry, this is totally OT, but can anyone point me to a feminist review of this article:

  • Mama Mia

    Was that message aimed at my thinking that we need to evolve our message? I don’t think we need to abandon logic or critical analysis at all. But if the goal is to protect women’s rights, we need to tweak our marketing. If the goal is to be righteously accurate and better than them, we can do that, too, as we watch rights disappear.
    I do agree that it is annoying to be talking to a brick wall about something that is so clear to us and have no understanding. The problem is they feel the same way about us, and they are doing a better job at whittling away rights, frankly.

  • Jessica

    nestra and laurajd – I’m not sure where you’re getting this “parasite” language but it wasn’t used in the letter at all. Please don’t incorrectly attribute language to the article – it derails the conversation and confuses the topic. Thanks.

  • dabraingirl

    The metaphor you gave for a woman’s right to control her pregnancy was amazing. I’ve had many arguments with many people about pro-choice and womens’ rights and have never been able to explain it the way you did with such a simple analogy. To be thought of as an incubator and breeder is disgusting, let alone being treated as such by the medical establishment.

  • Blue

    Allegra, Well stated. Hope you don’t mind being quoted! :)

  • novinda

    Notwithstanding the horrendous treatment of the pregnant women in the NAPW letter, I honestly believe that such a (true) message will not serve the purpose of convincing people that the pro-choice position is the only humane and logical position. The anti-choice/forced pregnancy camp is NOT concerned about the rights and health of pregnant women— they are concerned with the rights of the fetus. The woman serves merely as a vessel to incubate the incipient human life.
    Given that the perspective of the anti-choice activists is to reduce women’s choice to nil, in the effort to save “teh babiez” that may or may not actually result from pregnancy, I am convinced that another facet that should be added to the pro-choice argument is a strong concern for the life of the (actual) infant that results from a pregnancy. Whether the full-term infant results from a wanted or unwanted pregnancy, the environment into which it is born and the resources available to the parents determine whether the infant will actually thrive. A truly unwanted infant is likely to come to a worse end than an aborted fetus, whether from being tossed in the trash, drowned, microwaved, or any of the other heinous ways people dispose of their infants. That, of course, leaves out the people who keep their children and subsequently neglect them. And of course, the loving parents who want to provide everything for their infant but simply do not have the resources to do so effectively, and perhaps would be in a better position later in life.
    The vast majority of the anti-choice crowd are hypocrites when it comes to this issue. As much as it pains me to say this, the only anti-choice politician who is consistent on this is Mike Huckabee. Otherwise, their concern is focused solely on conception to parturition. What happens afterward is, well, up to the parents. The environment into which the fetus emerges is not of concern to them— after all, the government shouldn’t be giving handouts. Or helping to clean up rural and urban environments choked with crime and smothered by pollution. Or adequately dealing with child abusers and neglectful parents.**
    To reiterate what Jocelyn Elders said over a decade ago, the love affair with the fetus has to end. Perhaps reaching out to those who are squeamish about abortion or on the fence by talking about future life of “teh babiez” in addition to women’s reproductive rights could be more effective than current methods. It could help pro-choice people seem less like “baby-killers,” and more like people who care about everyone’s quality of life.
    **Last semester in med school I worked with a pediatrician who specializes in child abuse, and residencies are developing fellowships in the field. Urgently needed, but still deeply sad. How many of those kids are unwanted and unloved? But teh babiez! Save teh babiez! Riiiight. Uh, until they’re born. Then they don’t give a fuck.
    Wow, that’s long.

  • Mama Mia

    That is exactly what I wish I had said! I have been thinking lately that we need to take ownership of the phrase “pro-living” or something like that, to point out that what happens after birth is as important as what happens before. Hillary Clinton, when she was trying to moderate her image in preparation for running, moderated her stance on abortion, not on choice, but using words that indicated we aren’t cheering for abortion, but trying to find ways to help people in difficult situations. I think that was a good move.
    I think you are right about reaching out to people by highlighting the needs of children after they are born.
    And, interestingly, my husband and I were discussing Sarah Palin last night, and we concluded that part of what we don’t like is that it doesn’t seem that she truly believes the Christian values she spouts, since she cuts funding for those who are suffering and need help. The only one we could think of that we felt was not a hypocrite on that front was Huckabee. He is fervently pro-life, but also believes in funding programs for the poor, is opposed to harsh sentences for drug crimes because it is not compassionate. I am in no way campaigning for him, but just wanted to say you don’t have to be pained saying that about Huckabee. I agree.

  • ShifterCat

    That was beautiful, Novinda.
    To advocate the pro-choice position in ethical terms, I think that’s exactly the tack we have to take: you can have quantity of life, or you can have quality of life, but you can’t have both.
    Although many of Robert A. Heinlein’s positions are problematic, he had a truly beautiful statement about humanity as an organism which needs occasional pruning, and how he considers pruning before sapience occurs to be the more humane option.
    And then there’s the Prayer Before Birth.

  • Rebecca

    Great letter.
    That’s one thing I don’t think pro-lifers get. That pro-choicers value the woman over the embryo whether or not she plans to carry to term. That we don’t want a world in which a woman can be denied cancer treatment because it might harm her embryo. That we don’t want police investigations into every miscarriage. That we don’t want fracking forced cesareans. (My God, that was disturbing.)
    I talked a little about related things in one of my posts at the community.

  • pull_rank

    Lynn Paltrow is a true hero in the fight for reproductive justice who rarely gets the credit she deserves. I doubt Sarah Palin cares, but hopefully more people with check out NAPW and the great work they do.

  • keshmeshi

    In a Palin-approved pro-life world, the government would not have allowed her to fly from Alaska to Texas after she started leaking amniotic fluid. I wonder how she would feel about that — the government telling her what she is or isn’t allowed to do while pregnant. I suspect she would object strongly to it.

  • keshmeshi

    Also, Governor Palin opposes abortion even in the case of rape. A pretty horrifying position for the governor of a state with the highest rate of sexual assault in the country.