Wednesday, September 3, 2008

5 Reasons Bristol's Pregnancy Matters

So, with the news that Sarah Palin's 17 year old unwed daughter, Bristol, is pregnant, there has been a lot of chatter about how this is a private family matter and we should all just leave poor Bristol Palin alone. I agree that we should leave Bristol alone, but her pregnancy should force some light on the conservative policies and stances that her mother and McCain support. Here are 5 reasons Bristol Palin's pregnancy matters:

#1 Conservatives claim the moral high ground.
It is often complained by liberals that conservative republicans have hijacked the issue of values. And for the most part, this is true. Conservatives tout themselves as the religious who want to preserve traditional marriage (aka deny gay rights), love "the unborn" (aka force pregnancy) and prevent sex from destroying our culture (aka push their backward view of morality on everyone else). Yet Bristol's pregnancy seems to undermine that claim. Not because her pregnancy is wrong. I'm not one to say that premarital sex is immoral. Nor would I expect most liberals to say that there is something morally suspect about coitus before marriage. To most of us liberals, it's none of our business. But religious republicans, republicans like Palin, would say that it is immoral. This is a scandal by their standards, not ours, and yet they are reacting as though their core beliefs do not hold this situation to be a sin in the eyes of their god. I smell hypocrisy.

#2 Conservatives, including Palin, oppose comprehensive sex-ed and fight for abstinence-only education.
Many conservatives oppose anything but abstinence-only education for our teens, claiming that comprehensive sex-ed will lead to more sex. Palin herself opposes comprehensive sex-education and supports abstinence-only. McCain has also claimed that he supports abstinence-only. Now, as we should all be well aware at this point, studies have shown that abstinence-only education does not work, and in many cases, these programs disseminate false information to teens about sex and pregnancy. Furthermore, studies have also shown that comprehensive sex eduation programs are effective in helping teens to dely sexual intercourse or protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy.

Now, what should we take away from this? Comprehensive sex education helps prevent teen pregnancy and transmission of STDs. Abstinence-only education does not. And yet conservatives like Palin and McCain want to prevent teens from getting the information that might help them to avoid the situation that Bristol Palin is now in. Don't you think a mother who is dealing with helping her daughter with a teen pregnancy and has the political clout would work to keep other girls from being put in the same unfortunate position that her daughter is in? Apparently not Sarah Palin.

#3 Many conservatives oppose hormonal birth control or are unconcerned with women's access to it.
Even if sexually active teens and women know that they can protect themselves from pregnancy through various means, that doesn't help if they don't have access to contraception. But many religious republicans flat out oppose hormonal contraception, tossing out science to call the pill and its variants "abortifacents", and hence immoral. That means that the use of contraception is also immoral to this people and if they think abortion should be illegal, then surely "abortifacents" - things that cause abortions, should also be illegal. Furthermore, many conservatives have pushed to allow doctors and pharmacists to refuse to write prescriptions for birth control or fill those prescriptions if they have moral objections, thus limiting women's access, especially in rural areas (like, say, Alaska?).

Now, it's not clear what either McCain's or Palin's positions are on this. Republicans have a way of avoiding discussing their views on birth control (since the vast majority of the American populace is okay with it). But if Palin's "right to life" credentials are good enough to garner the support of the religious wingnuts like Dobson and Robertson, then it's likely that she opposes birth control as well. That would certainly explain why a busy woman in her 40s who already had four children would manage to get pregnant, despite the risks of birth defects (like Down Syndrome) for babies of older women. But denying access to birth control just means more teen pregnancy. More girls like Bristol Palin.

#4 As Governor, Palin slashed funding that would have gone to teen mothers.
Palin used her line item veto to cut funding for a program that helps teen mothers. The program gives young single moms a place to stay while they acquire some skills that will allow them to get by in the world. So, Palin doesn't want kids to be educated on how to avoid pregnancy, (probably) doesn't want them to have access to the means to prevent pregnancy, and yet won't give them money to help them once they (surprise!) get pregnant. Of course, this won't affect girls like Bristol, who, thankfully, have supportive (and rich) families to take care of them. But for lots of other young women who get pregnant, that support isn't there. And apparently Palin doesn't care.

#5 "Choice"
In the press release from the campaign on the pregnancy, the family claimed, "We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby". The talking heads have been claiming that the fact that Palin practices what she preaches (i.e., that her daughter "chose life") will actually help with the conservative base. With regard to Palin's own recent pregnancy, in fact, many have been pushing the notion that she chose to have the baby despite his condition.

Well, guess what, Sarah Palin is pro-life. She believes that abortion should be illegal, even in
cases of rape or incest. She does not believe that women have the right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. And if she were really, truly pro-life, then neither she nor her daughter would have a choice in the matter. If you are pro-life, then there is no option other than carrying the pregnancy to term. And if there is only one option, then there is no choice. If Palin really practiced what she preached, then she didn't choose anything, and neither did her daughter. Yet the media does not bring this up. Instead, they laud her choice. Wrong. Pro-choicers can laud her choice. To pro-lifers, neither Palin nor her daughter actually had one to begin with, and true pro-lifers should be offended by the idea that either Palin or her daughter actually chose to carry their pregnancies to term. After all, "it's a baby, not a choice" right?


David Gerard said...

There's something not right about the idea of Bristol Palin as reasonable fair game. How Sarah got the job OTOH ...

Artemis311 said...

I agree about Bristol Palin not being fair game. I'm definitely NOT trying to attack her. Rather, I simply thing this situation should force us to look at some of the issues surrounding teen pregnancy, sex-education and birth control in this country.

David Gerard said...

Oh yeah. It's a tricky one all the way along.