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Palin, disability and Down syndrome: Sept. 7, 2008

September 7th, 2008

‘Parents of Special-Needs Children Divided Over Palin’s Promise to Help’ — New York Times

Some parents of children with disabilities are enthusiastic over Gov. Palin’s pledge of support, but advocacy on behalf of the disability community has not been “a centerpiece of Ms. Palin’s 20-months in office or any of her campaigns for office.”

“I never heard Governor Palin say as governor, ‘You have an advocate in Juneau,’ ” said Sonja Kerr, a lawyer specializing in disability law in Anchorage.

A spokeswoman for Palin would not elaborate on her decision to give disability issues prominent placement in her acceptance speech.

John McCain has voted against increasing federal special education funding, and also opposes legislation that would help states move people with disabilities from institutions into community living arrangements. Both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain are among sponsors of pending legislation to update and strengthen the Americans with Disabities Act.

Ms. Palin’s effort to rally parents of children with disabilities has also prompted reaction among those who fear that her idea of advocacy might really mean preventing abortions of fetuses with Down syndrome, rather than lobbying for the early medical and developmental assistance that is so crucial to their children’s well-being.

(New York Times photo of Nancy Iannone and daugher Gabriella. Nancy is a contributor to the book Gifts, and comments regularly on these pages.)


Candidacy is a chance to shed light — Beverly Beckham, in the Boston Globe, writes another in an occasional series of columns offering glimpses of her lively and inquisitive granddaughter. She describes five-year-old Lucy as she runs, bounces and skips through her life, and sits on the floor reading “book after book.” Lucy has Down syndrome. Beckham says it would be valuable if Palin’s candidacy …

… illuminated the facts about DS. Because without public education, her 4 1/2-month-old baby boy may see his whole life defined by what he can’t do instead of by what he can do. He will be pigeonholed and pitied and underestimated. And he will make people turn to their own offspring with a sigh and a whispered prayer of thanksgiving, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Unless the world learns better.

… There are many pregnant teenagers. There aren’t so many Lucys and Trigs. The world would do well to learn about them and would be a better place if it got to know them.

See some earlier Beckham columns about Lucy here and here.


Stop discrimination against Down syndrome — letter to USA Today from Mark Mostert, director, Regent University, Institute for the Study of Disability and Bioethics in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

As a society, we prattle on about equality, diversity and “access.” The notion of inclusiveness rules the day as long as we’re not talking about people with an extra chromosome.

When Down syndrome is thrown into the equation, suddenly our high-mindedness sags. Inexcusably.

… Good for Palin for standing up to the pressure from the medical community, which almost always recommends termination of the pregnancy.

Good for Palin for making the statement that needs to be made much more often: Genetic discrimination against people with Down syndrome must stop. Now. No excuses.


‘Sob story’ — Kathryn Jean Lopez in the National Review

When you look at that beautiful boy and realize that in America, some 90 percent of parents would not have let him live, how can you not be both terrified for us and filled with joy for the love this little boy has? How can you help but be excited by the prospect that Americans might become more aware of the silent elimination of such blessings?


‘My Alaskan soul sister is an empty vessel’ — by Mary Mullin in the Irish Times

Sarah Palin and her darling baby, Trig, are being held in the bosom of right-wing Christian fundamentalists who are delighted with themselves. But they have done nothing for people with disabilities. Nothing.

And I am here to tell you, the Christian fundamentalists do not have the market cornered on the love, respect, dedication, frustrations, and courage it takes to raise a child with Down syndrome.

The social conservatives are committing a tremendous act of cynicism by holding up Sarah Palin as a champion of anything. How dare they?

Democratic administrations have welcomed our children into the world with sound public policies; policies which the Republicans have whittled away and weakened.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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