I think the most relevant piece of Sarah Palin‘s press release about her daughter’s pregnancy is this:
“Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.” Finally, a birth announcement that includes the recognition that this job is damned hard.
Bristol Palin is very lucky to have her family’s support in an unfortunate situation. One benefit, clearly, to having women in policy-making positions, is that they know how hard it is to be a parent. (As usual, I refer you to the very well researched and cited The Mask of Motherhood.)
Barack Obama responded graciously to the pregnancy announcement (the whole affair gives a cadre of nasty bloggers a bad name because they hounded a family into revealing something that’s none of our business). (Note that most media are blaming the ugliness on “liberals,” as though most liberals are amoral jerks who seek only to torment Republicans. Most liberals are downright decent folk. Let’s stop the name-calling. It’s always evidence that you don’t have a good argument if all you can do is call names.) Obama’s response included this empathetic observation:
“You know, my mother had me when she was 18. And how families deal with issues and teenage children — that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics.”
Hopefully, instead of judging the families involved, we can talk about teaching children more than just abstinence, which is 100% effective as a method and abyssmally ineffective as an educational policy. Teen pregnancy is on the rise since Republicans have silenced science in our classrooms. And now, with Bush trying to classify birth control as abortion, we have a whole generation of girls and boys who will wind up young parents and young STD statistics because they don’t know they have options for keeping themselves safe and healthy.
In addition to opening a dialogue about the failures of abstinence only as a policy, this announcement should shift the discussion away from Palin’s family and toward this country’s need to improve quality of life for mothers and infants. We should be talking about exactly that which Sarah Palin will offer her daughter and grandchild: support. Since this country ranks near the bottom of industrialized countries for support for young mothers, working mothers, mothers in school, and breastfeeding mothers, we should all talk more about what we can do to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and to support those who decide to have babies.
* “Babies born to teen mothers are more likely to receive poor health care and live in poverty,” notes a cnn.com article.
Luckily for Bristol Palin, her baby will probably get good health care and not live in poverty. Let’s make sure that’s true of every child in the United States, and eventually the world, starting now.