Bristol Palin: Media Maven with a Message

In a stroke of media mastery, Bristol Palin harnessed the Palin
family-doting Fox News last night to announce a powerful (and decidedly
non-Fox News) message for policy makers: abstinence only is "not
realistic." The new teen mom also told Greta Van Susteren that she
would "love to be an advocate to prevent teen pregnancy." Making this
announcement on one of the most watched, and most conservative, news
stations in the nation is already a pretty good display of her ability
to reach a large swath of Americans (particularly the most difficult to
reach on this issue.)

Highlights from Greta Van Susteren’s interview with Bristol Palin in which Bristol talks candidly about teen pregnancy, abstinence and contraception.

As we all remember, Bristol and her unplanned pregnancy dominated
the national news for a month during the Presidential campaign. Yet
this is really the first time we’ve heard from Bristol herself. It
appears she is striking out on her own. In fact, she told her mother
about the interview and her plans to discuss teen pregnancy prevention
during it just the day before. Some have spun this story as Bristol
attacking her mother’s abstinence-only policies. She clearly is not,
but she is finding her own voice. (Anyway, it appears Governor Palin is
reconsidering her position. She makes an appearance during the
interview and admits that the abstinence-only approach is, as she puts
it, "naive" which, in itself, is a big news the main stream media has
yet to pick up on.)

What the interview reveals is that Bristol is lovely, humble, honest,
no doubt still a teenager and refreshingly free of any political
agenda–except to use her experience to steer teens away from the same
fate. In startling candidness, Bristol expresses the conflicting
emotions that come packaged with teen parenthood; her love for her
child and of motherhood and her belief that waiting ten years before
becoming a parent would have been a better path.

She explained,

    "I like being a mom, I love it. Just
seeing him smile and stuff, it’s awesome…It is very challenging but
it’s so rewarding…Of course, I wish it would happen in ten years so I
could have a job and an education and be, like, prepared and have my
own house and stuff… I just hope that people learn from my story and,
I don’t know, prevent teen pregnancy I guess… It’s not just the baby
part of it that’s hard, it’s that I’m not living for myself anymore I’m
living for another human being…I’d like to be an advocate to prevent
teen pregnancy because its not a situation you strive for I
guess…Kids should just wait–it’s not glamorous at all."

In many ways, Bristol appears on the national stage just in the
nick of time. Teen birth rates are suddenly spiking nationally after
fifteen years of steady decline and Congress is about to consider
re-funding the failed abstinence-only policies that likely led to this
trend. An organization like The National Campaign for the Prevention of
Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy could use a spokesperson like Palin right
about now. Together, armed with real data, they can educate teens about
the real life consequences of sex and lobby for the policies that help
delay teen sexual activity and prevent unintended pregnancy. Palin has
already won fans in the organization. One is Bill Albert, Chief Program
Officer. He described Palin as ‘brave.’

"There has to be some real passion, great inner fortitude to come
forward to talk about these issues," Albert explained, "she said
something very powerful–‘I wish I had waited, I wish this beautiful
event could have happened in ten years.’ She said it in her own words
and it was not an anti-child message, not an anti-family message–it
was about timing and what order you want to take life’s most important
events. If she could turn back the big hands on the clock of time she
would have waited. That is a message on target with all the teen
parents we talk to. Teen mothers and fathers are the most powerful
messengers of all. She already is an advocate."

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  • invalid-0

    This is the same kid that you people have been raking across the coals since June. Now, she says that she doesn’t think abstinence education is realistic and suddenly you’ve decided she’s lovely, humble and honest.
    Why couldn’t you give her credit for those qualities when she needed you?

  • emily-douglas

    Cristina and other pro-choice advocates never raked Bristol Palin across the coals. What we object to, and strenuously, is that she and many other American teenagers aren’t given the information they need to protect themselves and prevent parenting before they’re ready. The good news is it sounds like Bristol wants to join the fight to teach them.

  • alexm

    I hope that Bristol can use her name and stature to make some inroads into the Republican Party and its misogynist policies.


    The personal is political.

  • jodi-jacobson

    and we applauded her for it.  we congratulated her on the birth of her baby, and celebrated the fact that she was able to make her own choice in this pregnancy.  Far from raking her across the coals, we gave voice to what she was saying.

    I am not clear exactly how this constitutes raking her across the coals.


    Jodi Jacobson

  • colleen

    "This is the same kid that you people have been raking across the coals since June."


    How dishonest of you.

    No one here ‘raked’ this young woman across the coals.All criticism was directed towards her mother for punishing her daughter by calling a press conference soon after she entered the race to announce her daughter’s OOW pregnancy and then hauling her around like a tent revival exhibit.

  • cristina-page

    I have previously written about Bristol and Levi on two separate occasions. Below are links to those pieces.

    A Mom Before the Prom and Levi Drops Out of High School.

    Using the very public debate about Palin’s pregnancy to point out the realities of teen pregnancy (which weren’t being discussed despite all the hoopla about her pregnancy) and calling for a more honest national discussion about it is not exactly raking Bristol over the coals. In fact, it is that very conversation Bristol is now hoping to begin.

  • invalid-0

    I didn’t hear any statement against abstinence-only education. She said abstinence was not “realistic” but then kept saying that everyone should “just wait 10 years.” That sounds a lot like abstinence to me. I think she still doesn’t get it, or at least doesn’t have the courage to say it.

  • invalid-0

    Never did Bristol say that she wanted to wait ten years to have sex. Come on now! She wishes she had delayed childbearing. Access to information and birth control such as the five year Mirena IUD could have made a big difference in how her life would go. One can only hope that she now has access to a method of birth control that will work for her long term.

  • invalid-0

    a lovely young lady. She seems to have her head on her shoulders much better than her mom. Athough I think that Sarah Palin is a good mother and hard worker I can not get past her Hate for animals and the earth. I can not understand how someone who appears to value life so much can have so many dead animals hanging on her walls!! It is not hunting that bothers me it is the whole wolf massacre, the beluga whales and now black bear killings for no good reasons that can be proven by wildlife experts. I hope Bristol and her siblings do not carry this vengeance towards animals and the planet.

  • invalid-0

    Really good interview, Bristol seems pretty badass for wanting to share her story and to become an advocate for delaying childbearing till one has an education etc, and is not a teenager. I commend her for doing the interview on her own terms. I also like the fact that she flat out said, teen parenting is not glamorous. It is obvious that she loves her child, but she was realistic when she said she wishes the pregnancy had happened when she was 27, rather than 17.

    I wish the interviewer had asked flat out (To both the Gov and Bristol), “Do you think teens should have access to and the correct information about birth control?”. Not in a personal manner, just overall.

    Also interesting how Gov. Palin said she thinks families need to help their teenagers if they are faced with a pregnancy, not the government. Unfortunately, not many teenagers are as lucky as Bristol and do not have a supportive family; what happens to these teenagers and their children if they have no where to go?

    Gov. Palin was 1 month pregnant when she eloped with her husband in 1988, I hate the whole “Do as I say, not as I do”. I hope she will put her money where her mouth is and fund comprehensive science-based sex education from now on in her state of Alaska.

    Over 90% of people have sex before marriage, and that is not a bad thing. Let’s be safe and able to plan our families!!!

  • invalid-0

    Stroke of media mastery? How pathetic. This idyllic fantasy brought to you by a privileged teenager carrying around her baby in her mommy’s house is not the way it is for most of America’s teen mothers.

    This is terrible journalism.