Bristol Palin, the 17 year old unwed daughter of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is pregnant. We congratulate the Palins on their expected grandchild, and the fact that their family is in a position to make the choice to keep and support the child, based on access to high-quality reproductive health care and other family resources. Not all Americans are able to make that same choice, and not all 17 year olds are prepared to be mothers. Bristol plans to marry the father of child.
According to the New York Times;
The campaign intends to cast this as the kind of situation that ordinary American families face. The McCain campaign says it was aware of her daughter’s pregnancy before it named her as the running mate on Friday.
This is the kind of situation ordinary American families face, which is why comprehensive sexuality education and access to contraception are important. It also underscores why every American family should be able to make the very personal and private decisions that are best for their particular circumstances.
The fact that the campaign knew raises questions about why they waited until today, as Hurricane Gustav hits the Gulf Coast and the GOP convention begins, to announce this. Are they trying to bury the story?
Palin said, "Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we
knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. As Bristol
faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows that she has our
unconditional love and support." It is great when teens have that love and support, and level of communication with parents, but that is not the case in many families. Palin herself has supported forcing parental notification laws, even in cases where teens may be coming from abusive families, where rape or incest may be involved.
Many people in the progressive sexual and reproductive health community also believe it would be great if teens had the education and tools to prevent these situations, so they don’t have to "grow up faster" than their parents plan. Comprehensive sexuality education and access to contraception can help families better communicate about the realities of teen life today.
According to the Associated Press,
"Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America called
the pregnancy private. ‘It’s a matter that should stay in the family
and they have to work through it together. My prayers go out to them.’"
We should all pray that every American family has the same right to privacy when it comes to personal matters, but the problem is that the Christian Coalition and the McCain-Palin GOP platform will strip that right from Americans. Privacy is not something that is only afforded to people who make decisions that the far-right agrees with.
Bristol’s pregnancy seems to support the notion of this Alaska teen’s suggestion that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs like those operating in Alaska, don’t really work.
We were lectured on the dangers of sex, the
emotions, diseases and other problems it created. Horrific pictures of
sexually transmitted diseases were projected onto the white board, with
gristly explanations meant to scare us away from sex.
very entertaining lecture by some guest speakers from the federally
funded Let’s Talk program told us that having sex — or really any form
of physical contact, because that leads to intercourse — would make us
unhappy and impure.
efforts to scare us away from sex were mostly laughed at because our
class knew that nothing a teacher can say will make all teens abstain
from sex. At the teacher’s choice, another guest speaker from Planned
Parenthood came and taught us about contraceptive options, as well as
other facts about the subject. This
kind of presentation, however, receives no federal funding, and it was
our teacher’s choice for us to hear it, while every class heard from
The fact that the
federal government funds an abstinence-only education program is
unrealistic and unfair to American teenagers.
is an important option for teenagers," says Clover Simon, CEO of
Planned Parenthood of Anchorage. "But when you teach abstinence-only,
you leave out that choice that some teenagers will make to be sexually
Preaching abstinence will never create a completely celibate teenage population.
At least one Alaska teen has the wisdom to see what actually works to prevent teen pregnancy. Lucky for her, her teacher had the wisdom to bring in a speaker that addressed the realities of life, in addition to the mandated lecture from failed abstinence-only programs.
Sarah Palin in her race for Governor said she supports abstinence-only programs. Twenty-five of her fellow Governors have rejected federal abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, but John McCain says he supports the Bush policies when it comes to wasting more than one billion federal tax dollars on failed abstinence-only programs.