Friday, September 5, 2008

Pregnancy, Privacy and Presidential Politics

John Lantos, MD
John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics

The Sarah Palin family offers the nation a textbook of bioethical issues related to pregnancy and childbirth. Some of the issues include:

* After prenatal testing showed Down syndrome, Governor Palin decided to carry the pregnancy to term. Why did she seek prenatal diagnosis? Were there fetal conditions for which they might have terminated the pregnancy?

* Eight months into her pregnancy, Governor Palin was giving a speech in Texas when her water broke. Ruptured membranes increase the risk of infection. Doctors recommend immediate hospitalization. The Governor flew home to Alaska, then drove past Anchorage’s tertiary care centers to deliver in her home town of Wasilla. Was she taking unjustifiable risks?

*Did her daughter Bristol really choose to continue her pregnancy? What choices were offered? Did she, like the movie character Juno, make the decision before telling her parents about the pregnancy?

Questions about the appropriate boundaries of family privacy swirl around the Palin family’s decisions and disclosures. Sadly, personal choices in this realm have been politicized for the last forty years.

The ultimate political choice about such reproductive matters is whether they should be personal and private or not. Already, it seems, Governor Palin’s travails are changing the way both liberals and conservatives talk about such matters.

What do you think? To view and share opinions click on "comments" at the end of this post.

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