ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The attentive audience never knew that Gov. Sarah Palin was pregnant with her fifth child.
It was Nov. 24, 2007, and Palin was giving a passionate pro-life speech during Alaska Right to Life’s annual fundraiser in Anchorage.
It would be another four months before the 44-year-old Alaska governor announced her surprise pregnancy with her fifth child. On April 18, 2008, she gave birth to her son, and Alaskans discovered that the little boy, Trig, was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Before any of this became public, Palin’s stance on unplanned pregnancy was stated, perhaps most clearly, back on that quiet November night, months before Sen. John McCain ushered her into the national spotlight with an invitation to run as vice president of the United States.
Speaking in Anchorage to pro-life advocates, family friends and local politicians, Palin urged Alaskans to defend unborn life — even when situations were less than ideal.
But the audience didn’t know how personally connected to the issue the governor was.
“I am not calloused about the issue of unplanned pregnancy,” she told the unsuspecting crowd. “I sympathize and I empathize with those who are in that situation. Someone in less than ideal circumstances finds out they are pregnant, and they think, ‘Oh no, in an instant, my plans are ruined, my dreams are broken.’”
Palin continued: “I’m not calloused to that. In fact, I understand. So I want to help and encourage those who are in that situation.”
In the months following the speech, Palin’s words would have ample opportunity to find expression.
After giving birth to her son Trig, it was quickly revealed that the child had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. Palin responded with a press release, stating: “Trig is beautiful and already adored by us. We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives.”
The fact that Palin gave birth, knowing that her son had Down syndrome, resonated with many in the pro-life community, especially since a 1999 study indicated that 90% of Down’s babies are aborted.
Palin is also a member of Feminists for Life. Serrin Foster, president of the organization, told Catholic News Agency that her group normally doesn’t disclose its membership. Palin herself freely spoke about it to the Anchorage Daily News in August of 2006, the year she joined.
“One can only wonder how Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would feel to see this,” Foster said. “Hillary speaking on the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. And now, Sarah Palin two days later, becoming the first pro-life feminist to be chosen as a major party’s vice presidential nominee.”
Palin Pushes Pro-Life Law
Palin’s pro-life stance would face another challenge, however, just three days after she accepted the Republican nomination for vice president. On Sept. 1, at the start of the Republican National Convention, she revealed that her 17-year-old daughter Bristol was pregnant and that the family was supporting her decision to keep the baby.
Palin’s speech, nine months before, addressed this very issue: “Our girls and our young women [need] to see how precious and valuable they are and be challenged to love and respect themselves and to honor their bodies and to protect that life which we are so privileged to help carry,” she said. “As women, we are strong enough and sacrificial enough to do this. It is the way we are created …”
Later in the speech, Palin urged men to shoulder their responsibilities when it comes to unplanned pregnancies.
“Men need to learn to extend their strength to others,” she said. “They, too, must be encouraged to selflessly become more responsible and to sacrificially own up to their responsibilities in less than ideal circumstances …”
Towards the end of the speech, Palin denounced a recent Alaska Supreme Court decision to strike down a state law that required girls 16 and under to obtain parental consent before obtaining an abortion.
“What the courts intended to be a freedom for these young girls, to make this decision without parental consent, without parental advice or guidance, actually erected a wall between the parent and the child, totally cutting the child off from their [parents’] wisdom and protection,” she said.
The governor then called on the audience to support her administration and the Alaska Legislature as they took the necessary steps to change the court ruling.
“Those who do not see hope and promise, they kind of give up on this,” Palin said of abortion advocates who oppose parental notification laws. “But those of you who do see hope and promise and believe purpose is given to our babies, let us make it our privilege and responsibility to peaceabl[y] act [and] speak up to protect children. Our voices must be heard, because theirs are not.”
Joel Davidson is based
in Anchorage, Alaska.