It was almost as if Bristol Palin, the 19-year-old daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was showing her Mom how to make a serious entry onto the national stage. No fireworks, no red-meat rhetoric to fire up the true believers.
Instead, in interviews on the morning shows -- on NBC's Today show accompanied by her father, First Dude Todd Palin, and her four-month-old son Tripp -- the unwed teen mother talked quietly and poignantly about how her life has changed since she had a baby. She pitched abstinence if possible and protection if not. This despite the fact that her mother, tapped in August as Republican John McCain's vice presidential candidate, was a strong proponent of abstinence-only education.
The single mother -- who never married the baby's father, spotlight-seeking Levi Johnston -- is now the teen ambassador for the Candie's Foundation to prevent teenage pregnancy. According to the foundation, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate -- about 750,000 a year -- is the highest in the industrialized world, twice as high as in England and Canada and eight times as high as Japan's. And, says Candie's, which is in the business of selling what its officials call "frankly sexy shoes," warns that teen fathers rarely marry the mothers of their children and that the sons of teen couples are twice as likely to end up in prison.
Bristol says she loves her son, adding that he's "not a mistake, he's a blessing." Still, she said, her life has been thrown into a tempest of diapers, sleepless nights and milk bottles. Her goal: to save even one teenage girl from an unexpected pregnancy with unintended consequences.
"I'm trying to tell them that this is 24-hour-a-day job," she said. "It's not like an accessory on your hip, it's hard work."
As for her father, Todd Palin said he is "very proud" of Bristol. "You can never turn back clock," he observed.
Contraception is rational solution
By Cynthia Tucker
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
It never takes much for the smoldering embers of the abortion wars to flare into a raging wildfire. So it’s no great surprise that the imminent retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter has poured kerosene on tinder, fueling another explosion of red-hot rhetoric, political grandstanding and meaningless posturing.
No matter who President Obama nominates, we’ll be treated to the spectacle of social conservatives fighting to derail the nomination over one issue, Roe v. Wade. Republicans, desperate for ways to energize their withering base, are only too happy to have the subject of abortion rights to whip up a frenzy, since they are getting little public support for their oppositional stances on the major issues of the day —- the economy, health care or the environment.
So here’s a suggestion for a pragmatic president with excellent political instincts and the moral capacity to see the ethical quandaries inherent in Roe: Find partners for a highly public crusade to encourage contraception. And challenge abortion-rights opponents to join that crusade. They can hardly argue with the logic; if contraceptive use goes up, the abortion rate will decline.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a family planning nonprofit, nearly half of all pregnancies to American women are unintended. About 40 percent of those pregnancies will end in abortions, the institute says.
The rate of abortion has dropped over the past three decades, as research has yielded contraceptives that are more convenient and less prone to harsh side effects. But most of these benefits have been reaped by higher-income women. It is among that group that unintended pregnancies have been decreasing. Unplanned pregnancies have increased among poor women, who often find contraceptives expensive and difficult to obtain.
But birth control is also a matter of culture. We live in a society that celebrates sexual freedom but refuses to teach its children that responsibility to protect against unwanted pregnancies (and sexually transmitted diseases) comes alongside that freedom. Popular culture —- even the family TV hour —- is awash in casual sexual encounters and advertisements for remedies for “erectile dysfunction,” but Hollywood and Madison Avenue shy away from condoms. It’s no wonder that the U.S. abortion rate is higher than that of many Western European countries that publicly encourage contraceptive use.
It’s time for Americans to put our creativity and practicality to good use with a broad, privately funded campaign to encourage young women and young men to use readily available birth control methods. That’s something about which many of us, on both sides of Roe, ought to be able to agree.
There will always be hard-core Roe opponents who have no interest in making common cause with those of us on the other side. There will continue to be ultra-conservatives who detest the idea that women have control over their own bodies; there will always be those narrow-minded traditionalists who hide behind their “love” for the unborn, despite the fact that they oppose all government support for poor children already born. Don’t expect to see those pseudo-pious citizens getting behind contraception or sex education.
But, among many Americans of more moderate views, there is broad support for a practical approach to curbing the abortion rate. A highly visible campaign to encourage contraception (along with health care that makes birth control widely accessible) would certainly help.