Alaska governor welcomes Down syndrome son

WASHINGTON (BP)--Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband Todd, having put their pro-life beliefs into personal practice, introduced their fifth child to reporters and photographers April 21. Their son, born April 18, has Down syndrome.

"When we first heard, it was kind of confusing," Palin, 44, said of the testing early in her pregnancy that showed her baby had Down syndrome. The news was "very, very challenging," she said, according to the Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News.

However, the governor said, she and her husband came to believe that God has blessed them. Palen said her son, Trig Paxson Van Palin, is "absolutely perfect."

"It just feels like he fits perfectly," she said. "He is supposed to be here with us."

Ben Mitchell, director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in suburban Chicago, described Palin's decision as "a tangible reminder that Down syndrome should not mean a death sentence for the unborn."

"Governor Palin should be heralded for her courage of conviction. Like other faithful women and families, she is not pro-life in rhetoric only, but pro-life when it comes to making the nitty-gritty decisions that respect life over destruction," said Mitchell, who also is a longtime consultant to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

A pro-life advocate and a Republican, Palin was elected in 2006 as Alaska's first female governor, as well as its youngest. She is breast feeding Trig and plans to take him to work with her, the Daily News reported.

The prevalence of prenatal genetic testing and the reportedly hopeless portrait painted by many obstetricians have made abortion the default option in recent years for parents whose unborn children are diagnosed with Down syndrome. It has been estimated as many as 90 percent of unborn babies detected with Down syndrome in the United States are aborted.

Palin e-mailed a letter to family members and close friends on the same day she gave birth, writing it as if it came from God and signing it: "Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father."

"Many people will express sympathy, but you don't want or need that, because Trig will be a joy," the letter said, according to the Daily News. "You have to trust me on this.

"Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed-up world you live in down there on Earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome."

Down syndrome normally results when a person has three copies, rather than two, of chromosome 21.

"Her choice to value life in a very personal way speaks volumes and gives those of us in the pro-life community in Alaska cause to believe that we truly do have a pro-life leader in charge of our state," Eagle Forum Alaska President Debbie Joslin told "When so many in our culture have chosen to devalue the lives of those who face special learning disabilities, Governor Palin shines as a great positive role model."

Compiled by Baptist Press' Washington bureau chief Tom Strode and BP editor Art Toalston.

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