The Personal and the Private Goes Public (Health)

It’s all over the news, so it’s not exactly private. The 17-year-old daughter of Republican VP candidate Palin is 5 months pregnant. The Republican take on this is “at least she is marrying the father and keeping the baby” — they have to put a positive spin on this somehow. Democratic candidate Obama wants the rest of us to leave the families of politicians alone: “I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories,” quotes the New York Times.

But, I can’t back off. It’s the hypocrisy here that kills me. The Republican platform advocates for abstinence-until-marriage “sex” education — clearly, Palin’s daughter did not follow her mother’s belief system. She had sex before marriage, which according to her mother is the only option for persons when deciding what to do about their sexuality.

The Republican platform also tends to stress the role of the family and how it is up to parents to ensure that their children are responsible, successful human beings. Now, I am not saying that a pregnant teen cannot grow up to be successful. But I can’t help thinking that, if it were a Democratic candidate’s teen daughter who was pregnant that the Republican’s wouldn’t be shouting “this candidate has failed as a parent! I bet he will also fail as a leader. If he can’t control his family, who can he control?” Yet, here the talk is of course supportive: “Good for Bristol for keeping the baby!” “Good to hear she is marrying the father!” Is it? Studies show that people who marry at younger ages tend to have much higher divorce rates. And given the public spotlight of this particular relationship, I don’t think the odds are good for this young couple. Supporting a legal union between these two smacks of politics more than true concern for these two young persons who are trying to make the best of a tough situation.

It’s personal, but I am curious to know if these two used any contraception, and if so, did they know how to use it consistently and correctly? True, a woman can become pregnant using even the most effective forms of contraception. And it’s a shame that this young person is faced with an unexpected pregnancy — and unexpected baby — whether or not she used “protection.” I just wish that somehow this incident can change the Republican agenda which strives to teach children LESS about sex and contraception. Can’t Palin look at her family and think “maybe talking about sex isn’t such a bad idea after all.” “Maybe young persons should learn about different contraceptive methods and their effectiveness at preventing pregnancy?” After all, learning about different ways to prevent pregnancy — including, but not limited to abstinence — reduces the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy. Can’t we use this incident to open up dialogue related to healthy sexuality?

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2 thoughts on “The Personal and the Private Goes Public (Health)

  1. Somehow it’s more “legitimate” in America to be divorced than “never married” — and marrying too young is an “acceptable” reason for divorce. (I catch myself using it as a shorthand explanation when people are shocked that I was married and am divorced. “Child bride,” I say, with a crooked smile. And they nod wisely and go “ahhhh” and the conversation moves on.)But have you noticed that? Women at a certain age are suspiciously “still single” while men over 40 get “and he’s never been married? that’s suspicious!” — as if making the decision not to marry until it feels right to do so is somehow less good than getting married because you think you’re supposed to and then breaking up later.People are weird.

  2. I think that’s a really good point — ’tis better to have at least tried to do the “right” thing and join in legal matrimony than to live in sin as I have (a past relationship as well as my current one with no plans to wed after six years). But to what end? I am very glad I did not get married to my ex cohabitator and I don’t think marriage is really right for my current relationship either. But heaven forbid the Palin’s suggest the kids just stay together — unmarried. I mean, you don’t have to break up just because you don’t walk down the aisle. People are indeed weird.

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