Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Sarah Palin has unwittingly reignited the national conversation on teen motherhood, just as I thought that Juno and Jamie Lyn Spears had exhausted the topic. It's appropriate that at just the moment that the Republican party is engaging in its quadrennial celebration of nineteenth-century family values that Bristol and Levi have raised the issue again, and the stakes.

Much of the commentariat has focused on the question of how Sarah Palin will juggle the demands of five children, one with Downs syndrome, and a child with a child while she's serving as McCain's veep. Others have debated the merits of Bristol's choice (or, more likely, Sarah and Todd's choice) to carry her pregnancy to term and to marry the man who impregnated her. Will Sarah Palin find sympathy among the millions of voters who have had a child outside of marriage? Or will she be judged as a parent who put her ambition ahead of her childrearing (a question that, of course, no one would think of asking fisherman Todd or John McSame.)

But to me, there is something far more damning about the Palin family crisis. It is testimony to the utter failure of one of the key programs of the religious right and its enablers in the Republican Party--namely abstinence-only sex education. I will bet that Sarah and Todd Palin have not taught their children about condom use. Birth control? And God forbid, the day-after pill.

Here is the text of the Republican Party platform for 2008:

We renew our call for replacing “family planning”
programs for teens with increased funding for
abstinence education, which teaches abstinence until
marriage as the responsible and expected standard of
behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only
protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock
pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases,
including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually.
We oppose school-based clinics that provide
referrals, counseling, and related services for abortion
and contraception.

Well, a little family planning would have prevented Bristol's unexpected and politically-problematic pregnancy. It would have prevented a shotgun wedding of a seventeen-year old. Just saying no won't work. Take heed Sarah Palin, John McCain, and Republican Party. Take heed America. The story of the Palin family is a true American story, a story of the gaping chasm between an outdated and counterproductive Republican policy on sex and the reality that teenagers, even daughters of moose-gutting wingnuts, can't be talked or prayed or cajoled out of exploring their sexuality.


kathy a. said...

i totally agree with you on the policy issues. and sarah palin did stress that her daughter had made the choice to keep the child -- which we have to take at her word, but the operative word is choice.

but -- nobody in the world could think that bristol palin chose to make her personal pregnancy a public issue. and it shouldn't be. the underaged children of politicians are not political footballs. they need the same chance to grow up and grow into their lives as every other kid.

there are plenty of reasons to dispute palin's policy positions -- the few we know about - -without making her kid's personal circumstances the example we use.

kathy a. said...

that said -- sarah palin is an appalling choice for VP. mccain is 72 and has had health problems. palin has no national or international experience. we are in a couple of wars, and having a national economic meltdown.

palin opposes sex education and opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. she supports teaching creationism in the public schools. her rural experiences with guns leave her ill-equipped to understand why city folk don't need semi-automatics and saturday night specials on the streets. she is under investigation for misusing power, and requires extreme loyalty from people who work under her jurisdiction.

that seems like plenty to work with.

Tom S said...

Thanks, Kathy. I agree with you partially. The story is not really about Bristol. She should be left alone and respected, at least until she is an adult. But among other things, Bristol's predicament (not the pregnancy, but the very public nature of it) is largely the result of Sarah Palin's bad judgment. Sarah Palin brought her family onto the national stage and used them as props (including her four-month old son with Downs syndrome who really has no choice). And now Bristol's expletive using fiance has joined the family at the GOP convention and will be on the stage with her tomorrow night. Sarah Palin knew when she accepted McCain's invitation to serve as VP candidate that her family would be subjected to intense public scrutiny, much of it unflattering. That leads me to question her fundamental judgment, especially because she had to know that Bristol's story would come out.

But putting Bristol's case to teh side, it's Palin's track record (and her party's) of opposing sex education and sanctimoniously denouncing immorality and illegitimacy that is really the issue here. On this matter, the GOP is full of rank hypocrites and Sarah Palin ranks high among them.

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