Bristol Palin and Preventing Teen Pregnancy

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The Candie’s Foundation held a benefit yesterday to promote their anti-teen-pregnancy campaign.One of the participants was Bristol Palin, daughter of Governor Sarah Palin, whose own teen pregnancy was revealed to the world during her mother’s and Senator McCain’s election campaign last summer. I’ve felt bad for Bristol ever since that happened. How difficult to find yourself in that position without feeling like the whole world is judging you!

At any rate, Bristol is now adamantly “abstinence-only,” even though in an earlier television interview she said abstinence wasn’t realistic.

The Huffington Post makes it sound as if the Candie’s Foundation position is also abstinence-only, when it is clear if you peruse the site (especially the tips for parents) that it promotes birth control as well.

On a news show last night, a Catholic guest asserted that he thinks the Candie’s Foundation’s appointment of Bristol as a Teen Ambassador makes perfect sense, because, after all, she’s been there. He likened that to a person who has abused animals (but had a change of heart) being more effective in deterring animal abuse than a person who is for animal rights but has never been an abuser. Excuse me??

I don’t doubt that Bristol’s example will give some teens pause, but there are just as many who will say to themselves, “Well, she did it and she came out okay, so why should I worry?” They may not stop to think that it isn’t ideal to be living with your parents and without a high school diploma when you have a child to raise. Bristol’s and her baby’s lives will forever be circumscribed by the fact that she had him when she was seventeen. Her life is no longer her own, she has less options now for her future and she will have to grow up at the same time that her son is.

Candie’s has some public service announcements on its site that are meant to discourage teen pregnancy. See some of them here. I don’t know how effective they are. Perhaps Bristol should make some PSAs where she recites what her life–and her day–is like now that she is a mother. What is ironic about using Bristol as a poster child for preventing teen pregnancies is that on the one hand her mother and others like here are running around saying what a blessing the new baby is at the same time that other spokespersons are saying that having a baby when you are a teen is a disaster.

I’m not saying that Tripp Palin should be brought up knowing that he was a “mistake” (although it’s clear that he was). He deserves all the love and acceptance he can get. Bristol says that if she can prevent one teen pregnancy by her example she will feel that she has accomplished something. She is also saying that she wishes she had waited ten years to have a baby. (Instead, she will have a ten-year-old son when she is 27.) I hope for her and her baby’s sake that she can find some way to reconcile what she shouldn’t have done with her child’s need for affirmation and validation.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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