Given that Palin's decision is being celebrated in some quarters, it is crucial to reaffirm the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome (or by extension, any unborn fetus)—a freedom that anti-abortion advocates seek to deny.I think this is the crucial issue which hinges on the more fundamental right to abortion, a derivative right which is derived from two principles: The woman's right to her own life and therefore her right to control what happens within her own body, and the fact that individual rights belong to separate actual individuals, not embedded potential ones.
Therefore, it is the woman's right to have an abortion as part of the right to her own life -- yes, contrary to what the anti-abortionists would have you believe, abortion is pro-life, pro-the life of the only actual individual involved -- the woman.
With respect to Down syndrome, I also agree with Nick here:
...it is completely legitimate for a woman to look at the circumstances of her life and decide that having a child with Down syndrome (or any child for that matter) is not an obligation that she can accept. After all, the choice to have a child is a profoundly selfish choice; that is, a choice that is an expression of the parent's personal desire to create new life.This is what the opponents of abortion will never understand since they take the morality of sacrifice as a given and apply it to parenting. In accordance with altruism, devoting your life to a being that will always lead a somewhat stunted existence would be considered highly virtuous. But I think it is profoundly wrong to view parenting as a sacrifice. As Ayn Rand pointed out:
“Sacrifice” is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue. Thus, altruism gauges a man’s virtue by the degree to which he surrenders, renounces or betrays his values (since help to a stranger or an enemy is regarded as more virtuous, less “selfish,” than help to those one loves). The rational principle of conduct is the exact opposite: always act in accordance with the hierarchy of your values, and never sacrifice a greater value to a lesser one.But your children, if you love them, can be your highest values, therefore what you do for them need not be considered a sacrifice but rather an instance of the virtue of integrity, of standing in action by the values you hold dear. It is true that if you love your children you will deal with the inevitable illnesses and the like but why should it be highly moral to give birth to what amounts to a kind of permanently ill child. If one had a choice, and fortunately we still do, one would make the perfectly moral choice and prefer to have a healthy child, at least so far as one knows.