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Monday, September 01, 2008

Bristol Palin's Pregancy

Sarah Palin has announced that her 17 year old, unmarried daughter, Bristol Palin, is pregnant and will marry the father of her child. I suppose congratulations are in order. I also suppose that not having a baby at such a young age would have been better for the young couple. And no, it's not a criticism of Bristol's choice to carry her child to term. That is a personal decision.

But I'm pretty sure the pregnancy was accidental. And I am going to leap out on a limb and guess that everything in Bristol Palin's culture made her reject birth control methods to prevent an unplanned pregnancy by a young high school girl. It may not have been lack of knowledge; that would be hard to guess. But, then again, it might have been both such a lack and also lack of access to contraception. But it could also be lack of desire to use birth control. Within conservative Christian culture, young people would be very reluctant to protect themselves from an unplanned pregnancy for one simple reason.

It's one thing to get swept away by passion and love and to fall into the temptation of sin. It's quite another to go out and secure the contraception that would prevent pregnancy because that's an admission that you planned to engage in "sinful" behavior. Christians are not as unforgiving as the popular parody of them would suggest. In fact, they frequently understand and forgive lapses of even the worst behavior, something that is to their credit. But what is much less forgivable to them is anything that would smack of premeditation. Go out and buy a condom before a date and suddenly it changes the whole nature of the sin from venial to grave (to put it in Catholic terms - the difference being whether it's premeditated or impulsive).

Unfortunately, that leaves young people very vulnerable. Also, those who don't share the conservative Christian world view would see it as irresponsible. I'm not going to sit in judgment on Bristol and her boyfriend. But there are other viewpoints than the conservative Christian one, and there are some adults who would like to teach their children about responsible sexual behavior.

Abstinence may be the best and safest course. But failing that maybe admitting human frailty and being prepared might be better for a young person's future. The real issue isn't what the Palin family chooses - its' that others have the right to make different choices. And that's what worries me about Sarah Palin's anti-choice position. It's not what she and her daughter decide; it's protecting everybody else's right to make a different decision for their family.

Here's the thing, abstinence may be the best and safest course. It's what I personally would teach any young person, male or female. But I'm pretty sure it's what Bristol Palin was taught by parents who left no doubt that that was the preferred behavior. Abstinence only education and morality didn't work for Bristol Palin because she was a young woman in love. And young people have passions and raging hormones that sometimes override their most sincere intentions. Young people often don't make good decisions; they make mistakes (I'm talking about the acts that led up to the pregnancy - not what she decided to do afterwards).

I'm not going to second guess Bristol Palin's decision to marry and have the child. I wish her all the success in the world. Young women can raise children, complete school and go on to successful lives. It's just much more difficult. And it robs her of part of the carefree adolescence and young adulthood she - and her future husband - could have had.

The take home point, over and above this individual story, is that any parent could have a teenager who gets pregnant. It's not an indictment of that mother's or father's parenting skills. But every family deserves the right to make the decision of how a pregnancy is handled. And with Sarah Palin's and John McCain's anti-abortion position, that decision would be taken away from families and their sons and daughters and given to the government.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

"And with Sarah Palin's and John McCain's anti-abortion position, that decision would be taken away from families and their sons and daughters and given to the government."

Ridiculous. As a democrat, PLEASE leave this family matter alone.

With all due respect, you come off as preachy, and it is ugly. Less is better.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Sorry but I disagree. First of all, if Chelsea Clinton had gotten pregnant, do you honestly think they would have left it alone?

Second, all I am saying is that regardless of how well one brings up one's children, things like this can happen to any family. Teaching abstinence only is not a guarantee no matter how much parents try to inculcate their values into their children.

I am not criticizing the Palins' choice but pointing out that Gov. Palin's anti-abortion stance would prevent others in similar sad circumstances from making choices different from theirs.

I think it's a valid point. And nowhere did I criticize the family, only the Governor's anti-choice political position. Please read carefully before you engage your fingers in typing.

Anonymous said...

Democrats should be careful about attacking Palin.

Americans are going to fall in love with with this soccer grand-mom!

Hokie Guru said...

Good post, AIAW

Mike@Blueweeds said...

Great post.

The important issues raised by the pregnancy do not go away by refusing to discuss them or attacking thoughtful opinion. The knee jerk reaction of social conservatives who advocate abstinence only sex education is to shut down debate and hide the issue (and the object) away when the consequences of the policy become apparent.

The vacuous denials and attacks say more about the politics of the family values crowd than anything the Palin child did or did not do.

J. Tyler Ballance said...

Have you noticed how all we hear about is salacious crap and innuendo from and about both major party tickets?

They don't want to discuss real ideas or real solutions; they haven't got any.

Just keep watching that NASCAR, Joe Sixpack, they will feed you a steady stream of political gossip all the way up until election day, with the hope that you will vote based on looks, or feel good slogans.

The leadership of BOTH parties has decided that Americans are too stupid to really govern ourselves, so they pick lousy candidates, devoid of any competence to lead, then try to baffle their way into power, promising nothing and delivering even less.

Our political process is broken. The best advice for you who are still paying attention is to start stockpiling ammo, and quick!

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

J. Tyler, it's not that dire. There are good candidates all over and we all will discuss the issues. But Mike@Blueweeds is right. The knee jerk reaction of social conservatives is to shut down discussion of the consequences of their policies when those consequences affect themselves.

Again, the issue isn't the gossip over Palin's daughter; the issue is a particular policy that doesn't work well for any teenager.

The truth is Bristol Palin probably isn't a wild kid. The really wild kids who run with the fast crowd are the ones who know to protect themselves. It's the naive kid who gets caught on her first time out. Or the one genuinely in love with the guy, not the one hopping into bed with everybody in sight.

And she might have gotten pregnant even if her family believed in birth control. It's not really about her.

It's about her mother's position on abortion, birth control, abstience only education and a plethora of social issues. The pregnancy just points up how difficult it is for any parent. And some want the right to be able to protect their own children, not dictate how others should live.

That's what the debate is about and it is issue oriented ultimately.

Anonymous said...

I commend you for dragging a 17-year old girl into the race. A complete lack of class doesn't even begin to describe posts like these.

If you're going this low, at least check the spelling on your post title first so you can appear to have a trace of logic.

Unless you are close friends of the family, I seriously doubt you have any credibility on the issue of the Palin's family choices regarding avoiding pregnancy.

It was a chance to throw mud under the disguise of a substantive policy discussion and you succeeded. I suppose congratulations are in order. Now crawl back into the gutter.

Alton Foley said...

J. Tyler, wasn't it just a day or so ago that you were spreading the innuendo that Palin was petty and vindictive in her actions against an Alaska State Trooper? Spouting off about the 50% of divorced men she had alienated?

Come on, you can't be that shallow one day and pretend to be so deep today.

Ted said...

This is a plus. As Mark Steyn points out in his recent best seller, America Alone, if our western civilization is demographically to survive in the increasingly “hostile to the west” islamic world — and not end up like the sinking European populations — these are the precise people (the Bristol Palins’) we should thank for increasing their progeny.

Anonymous said...

What the heck has happened to you.
Have you no shame or decency.
Are you being paid by the campaign or something. Are you that hungry to advance in some sort of blogger power structure??? Its the only logical reason I can fathom how you have gone from one of the best bloggers to someone who repeats democratic talking points ad noseium.

NMM

spotter said...

Some sort of blogger power structure. Ha ha ha. You seem to have touched a nerve, AIAW. When trolls come out of the woodwork like cockroaches, it's because they're afraid of and trying to stifle the message.

There are worse things in the world than being preachy about birth control. If the Palins of the world had their choice, we would all have a lot less to preach about, because it wouldn't be an option, legally. I wonder if the public can begin to understand how incredibly out of whack these people are with generally accepted opinions since, oh, 1961 or so.

If you look at today's NYT, Palin herself had a shotgun wedding, with I'm sure more details correcting the previous details that are supposedly none of our business to follow.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/02/us/politics/02palin.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1220353508-EP1Ay8o%202jhYOYNQgvrKeQ (sorry but I've never figured out that link thing in blogger).

This is a legitimate debate. Republicans are trying to hide who they are, and what they stand for. It won't work this time, thanks to that fearsome blogger power structure.

It pains me to admit it, but what we need is some speaking truth to power by none other than Hillary Clinton. She can most effectively address these "women's issues," which are really people's issues.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Ok, NMM. Before you question whether I'm being paid by anybody, I want you to take a very careful look at my website.

Are there any ads? No. That's because I don't take ads. I do this completely gratis. Not that there is anything wrong with making a buck and getting paid for your work. But I am a complete, unpaid amateur.

Am I anonymous? No, the name AIAW is simply a riff on an old feminist quote "anonymous is always a woman" which was attributed to author Virginia Wolfe. In fact, my name and picture are right on my sidebar and you can email me, so unlike some of my commenters, I am fairly accessible.

And no I don't get paid by any campaign. In fact, I barely work for any campaign because I actually have a day job, which I've mentioned before.

I am highly partisan. I want my side to win. And I sincerely believe that what I discuss is fair game. I also work very hard to make sure I've sourced my posts accurately. When I first heard the rumor that Bristol Palin was pregnant, the first thing I did was get on the internet to find a credible link to a trustworthy news source (not Daily Kos) before writing about it.

You are absolutely free to disagree with my judgment about what is newsworthy and to call me on it. You are always welcome to do so.

But you are not allowed to question whether I am on the take or whether I have personal integrity. You may disagree with my judgment calls. But I most assuredly sincerely believe these are issues that need to be discussed. And if you read carefully you will see I have never condemned either Palin for their choices. But there is a legitimate concern with how well McCain vetted Sarah Palin and with his judgment.

This is an important issue that needs to be discussed. Candidates, like it or not, are in the public spotlight and so are their families. It's true of all candidates. Further, it is always Republicans who have made character an issue not Democrats. We would prefer to discuss policy. Republicans have made it fair game over and over again.

So, you can't keep shooting the messengers every time your own candidates screw up. Or we'll have to question your integrity too.

Anonymous said...

Wedding of Barack Obama’s parents - Feb. 2nd, 1961

Birth of Barack Hussein Obama - August 4, 1961

Hussein's Mother was 18--an unwed teenager who eventually married Obama, Sr.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I'm not sure the status of the child is at all relevant. After all, you can hardly blame Barack Obama or any baby for having the bad judgment to be born to his mother unless you have some extraordinary views about pre-life.

You can fault the judgment of adults in the choices they make. And what I am talking about is John McCain and his very poor job of vetting a VP candidate.

And perhaps Sarah Palin. Let's face it, if she had really wanted to spare her daughter the harsh glare of the spotlight, she could have respectfully declined the job with words like these:

"It is a great honor and I thank you, but right now I have a family situation to attend to that takes precedence."

Then it would have been a blip in Alaska.

Does Sarah Palin really believe she has such expertise and such enormous qualifications that for her to turn down this offer would have deprived the country of something necessary that no other candidate could have provided? Or was she putting ambition ahead of common sense?

By this I mean did she not realize the media would be curious about her family and not in a bad way.

The press was looking for the great narrative of the super mom and her attractive all American family. Feature editors in Style sections and Sunday magazines across the country were salivating over the great photo-ops and puff piece stories about the great American family narrative. And normally politicians love these things too.

Didn't she or McCain realize what they were truly doing and how badly it would turn out not because of malicious intent but because people were really excited to get to know this attractive family?

That's what makes this miscalculation so ludicrous. Like it or not, their judgment was awful.

Beyond the evangelical base, for largely ideological reasons, it's non-political women who are raising these issues.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/02/us/politics/02mother.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

And here about questions of the vetting - to my mind the much more important issue

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/02/us/politics/02vetting.html?hp

Isophorone said...

Oh, yes, the "vetting." Palin's political enemies just CAN'T UNDERSTAND why they weren't consulted! Poor little crybabies!

Speaking of which, Karen, watch the crying little girl act. Everyone will think you turned into Ben Tribbett! LOL

soopermouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Iso, you've guessed my secret: Ben Tribbett and I are the same person, only I'm the 25 year older version and we exist in an alternate universe from each other.

Got to stop reading Sci Fi :)

Also, I deleted a comment. Not because I disagree with the commenter - all the rest of the comments pretty much show that disagreement with me isn't the criteria I use for judging commenters. In fact, I usually enjoy those I disagree with because they challenge me.

But telling me you hate all Democrats and then using really foul language doesn't cut it here no matter who you are. Make a coherent argument and you'll have my admiration. Use obsenities and you'll be deleted as fast as I can see it.

sadformerDem said...

I'm so, so very glad that you "righteous" people are pointing out hypocrisy and destroying a young girl's life. Really, when Republicans have done this you cried "foul". Guess what, it wasn't right for them to do it and it's not right for you to do it either! I'm sure that somewhere buried in that sick twisted sense of logic of yours you can justify it. The attacks on Palin for corruption, inexperience, etc. are fine they need to be addressed because she's an awful pick. Really though, have you stooped so low that you're attacking a teenager? It's sick and disgusting no matter who does it. I've never voted before and I actually believed what Barack Obama said about changing politics. I was so excited to vote for him, but now I see the mindset of his supporters is "we can play dirty because the Republicans have done it too". I wanted change, hope, and new politics but this isn't it. This is just the vile disgusting attacks of the past. Obama has lost votes because of this. I'm voting for Ralph Nader now. At least he hasn't made hay out of an innocent girl's personal life. I'm just sick that the people I had so much hope for are so shallow.

sadformerDem said...

Also, I know not everyone is attacking them (for which I thank you) but even making a point using a young girl's private life is wrong. If this happened to Chelsea Clinton or to the daughter of the Green or Constitution Party candidates we shouldn't talk about it. It's our freedom as women to choose what we do with out own bodies. We have a right to privacy (a right to be left alone( and so does Bristol Palin. Her mom is in the spotlight (and I think her mom is a wacko) but this girl never asked to be shoved into the limelight. Keeping quiet about this and looking at the real issues (economy, global warming, universal health care) is what will change Washington, not embroiling ourselves in scandal like the Rethuglicans. We should take the high road here. Maybe I'm wrong, I very well could be, but I know I'm not excited about the political process anymore. My vote is going to an outsider who won't win, but will at least sitck to the high road.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

sadfordem, you really need to take your blinders off and actually read what I wrote. I never attacked Bristol Palin or her mother for the decision to have their babies or for any of their personal decisions.

I raised the very legitimate issue that others have the same right to make their own decisions on such difficult choices. A right that would be taken away by Palin if her opposition to abortion prevails.

And I raised the issue of the availability of contraceptives to women and sex education for teenagers. Nobody knows where Governor Palin stands on birth control, which frankly worries me when you put it in the context of the righwing's assault on contraception, not just abortion. And we do know that Gov. Palin favors abstinence only education. She campaigned on that issue.

Sorry but that's what makes this fair game - her political stands - not her personal life.

sadformerDem said...

Actually, I thanked you for not attacking them and to boot, I agree that Sarah Palin comes straight out of Puritan times. She's a loon, and I'll call her a loon. Her policies are bad, terrible, awful, outdated, etc, etc. She has no regard for our right to privacy. My point (which I think you missed) is that we can talk about these issues without dragging a 17 year old girl into it. Obama said that families are off limits and I tend to agree. If Palin's daughter chooses to use contraceptives or not or whether or not to keep the child is hers alone. Privacy rights work both ways. It's not our place to use the daughter as an object lesson. Again, I didn't say you attacked them, but look at what the media has done to this girl. she shouldn't be criticized because her mom lives in the stone age. As a woman, I feel like pundits who make hay out of this (you're not making hay) devalue our privacy rights. I've told a lot of my conservative friends that pro-choice = staying out of people's personal business- period. Maybe I do have "blinders" on but if so, they're called decency and respect.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I'm sorry but I did miss those points and thank you for seeing that it wasn't my intent to attack her or to be mean. And thank you for coming back to tell me that.

The thing is, Sarah Palin announced the pregnancy so it became news and seemed a legitimate topic to comment on. I would not carry unsubstantiated rumors (a photo on Daily Kos does not pass as verifying a rumor). But if it's out there in the public domain, I think it's legitimate to comment on - however, people of good faith can certainly disagree with me on that.

My main point wasn't to villify the Palins but to point out that in fact things like this can happen in all families. Remember, the Christian right has long made claims that secular values have led to promiscuity and they have blamed and lashed out at those who don't share their beliefs. They've charged us with causing immorality. My point is that you don't have to be a fundamentalist to be moral and to have values and fundamentalists are as human and prone to error as anybody else. That's why sticking a Bible in a classroom, putting up plaques with the 10 Commandments, and demanding that teenagers be ignorant of birth control (abstinence only education) do not guarantee morality. But it's a claim they've made over and over.

Having said that, I agree that the press has said enough about Bristol and the Palins' personal lives. I am much more interested in the issues and where Sara Palin stands on the economy, the war in Iraq, and energy policy. I want to see how quick a study she is and if she will be knowledeable in media interviews and the debate. I suspect she will be but it will be fair game to disagree with her on policy matters.

It's also fair game to point out that she lacks experience, has exaggerated her knowledge and expertise and distorted her own record as a reformer. It is fair to attack her performance in office. That's not personal and is relevant to her qualifications. A pregnant daughter isn't.

Right now, she's being sequestered from the media, no doubt to bring her up to speed. She may ace a debate by being clever and glib, but will she really be an able leader? That is really the most important question. And to judge her, we need to know more about her.