Sarah Palin and I have a lot in common. We were athletes and both
became hockey Moms, we have held public office in small towns, we like
to fish (I am proud of my marksmanship skills but just can’t seem to
rustle up what it takes to shoot for sport one of God’s creatures), we
both have a can-do attitude and serious spiritual lives but we disagree
when it comes to matters of privacy and family planning.
it’s my independent New England roots or the tolerant Quaker in me that
planted the simple belief that personal choices across a range of
important life decisions, like when to have children, are absolutely a
private family matter. The choices other people make about the size and
timing of their family unit is never anyone else’s business and to talk
about it, where I come from, is called gossip. Neither is it anyone
else’s business how a family chooses to cope with the issues of dignity
in dying, that’s morbid prying. It is no one’s right, in this country
at least, to insist that there is only one way to believe in or to name
a Higher Power, that there is only one way to honor the sanctity of
life, that’s the kind of holier than thou attitude that drove our
ancestors from distant lands to this place of hope for individual
Lately we’ve heard the phrase "it’s a private family
matter" being used to protect the innocent children of candidates,
which I am all for, but it has sounded more like a shield to prevent
the media from talking about politicians’ parading families than it
does a sincere belief that we should all be protected from the
uninvited bright lights, the opinions and will of others, including the
government. I must have missed something along the way but, since when
did women’s medical decisions, and we women know that pregnancy is both
a spiritual and medical condition, stop being a "private family matter?"
of honoring the private discussions between women and their families,
between families and their doctors, between people and their God, self
appointed groups want to dictate the final say in matters they have no
business being in. This dangerous meddling is happening in many areas
of people’s lives, from government intrusion into the private
discussion of when a member of one’s family should die to leaders who
profess to know the mysteries of life itself. From birth control and
emergency contraception availability to deciding whether an unplanned
pregnancy should be continued our privacy is being taken from us
because someone else claims to know better about how we should conduct
our lives. At every step there are individuals, strangers, trying to
gain control over our "private family matters" — and I’m not the only one
who feels this way.
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Republicans and Democrats polled by the
Women Donors Network show overwhelming support for allowing people to
control their own fates in hospitals and at the doctor’s office. Just
as no one tells us which church to attend, which car to buy or how many
guns we can own, we don’t want to be limited in our medical choices.
Voters across the country strongly believe that they should be able to
make their own important life decisions for themselves and their
families. A majority of Americans believe that government’s role is to
provide information, access and services to ensure that we can make
these choices responsibly. If politicians can rightly demand a safe
space for their "private family matters" then they ought to afford us
the same courtesy and keep their noses out of other people’s business
As the next weeks unfold, voters across America
should know where candidates stand, not just about "choice," the now
polarizing code word for abortion, but more about candidates positions’
on a range of common but important life decisions. We must hear the
thinking of those hoping to lead this country on critical topics like
affordable and readily available birth control, accurate sexuality
education and how they define and defend the lines of decency and
privacy not only for themselves but for all of us. Yes, the mother from
Alaska and I share many similarities but regarding important life
decisions, personal family matters, I only claim to know what’s best
for me and my family.
This article was first published by American Forum.