I support and admire Sarah Palin, but I don’t agree with her abstinence-only education approach. Luckily, this topic is not a dealbreaker for me, so she received my vote last month. However, my reasons for not supporting abstinence-only education fall beyond the standard objections.
1. Abstinence-only education doesn’t support the “culture of life” that we, as Republicans, so otherwise defend. Rather than hear the message “Delay sex until marriage” most teens hear, “Don’t have kids, EVER.” It’s difficult for teens to differentiate the idea that having a kid at age 17 is significantly different than having a kid at age 27 or 37. If a child will negatively impact their lifestyle now, wouldn’t the same hold true 10 years from now? While parents might be pleased at the present moment for not having to deal with the headache of an unintended teen pregnancy, their desire to influence and dictate what their teens do with their bodies will carry over into their adults lives. Parents who actively advocate an anti-pregnancy (albeit, teen pregnancy) agenda, have forfeited the right to ever inquire or complain about an adult married child who doesn’t want kids. Unfortunately, many parents are selfish and only want grandchildren when it’s convenient for them and fits their lifestyle. Recognize that the pregnant teen you’re encouraging to have an abortion might be the only grandchild you’ll ever have.
2. A generation of “childfree” adults is the result of an anti-teen pregnancy sentiment of the 1980s and 1990s. Teen pregnancy began to rise during those decades, and teens growing up during that time period took the message to heart. “Kids cost money, kids will cramp your lifestyle.” What teens heard is, “I wish you were never born, how carefree my life would have been.” I won’t fully elaborate here on what qualifies as a teen pregnancy, but a pregnant 18-year-old is a legal adult and should not be labeled as a pregnant teen.
3. In many ways, it’s anti-family. A pregnant 16-year-old should be given the full financial and emotional support of her family. Isn’t that what the concept of “family” embodies? Support, love, and assistance. A new mom who is 36 years old and drops baby off at Grandma’s every morning after the end of her 6-week maternity leave has ended is considered a “career woman” and the baby and grandmother are having “bonding time” while mom works 10-hour days. A 16-year-old who needs mom and dad to watch her baby so she can go to work is letting the grandparents “raise” the baby. Similar scenario: a thirty-something mom who heads to the salon for a manicure and leaves baby behind is engaging in the all-important “me time.” A teen mom who wants to attend a friend’s birthday party is a selfish, immature “child” who isn’t prepared to parent. The double standard exists because we, as females (and humans), are skilled at rationalizing our own behavior to suit our mood and lifestyle, but rarely allow others the same courtesy.
The recent election was a wakeup call for me. I encountered numerous articles about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, many of which referred to her situation with the phrase “out-of-wedlock pregnancy.” It’s not 1965 anymore. With the divorce rate above 40% (among “adults”) and more children being co-raised in two homes, I didn’t even realize the phrase “out-of-wedlock” was still being used to describe pregnancy. An important fact that no one seems to realize is that Sarah Palin’s own mother is barely 70, and Palin herself is 44. The generation gap in her family is much more narrow than it is for some families. Bristol Palin’s pregnancy fits that established pattern. Some families simply prefer to enjoy the wonderful experience of life within a multi-generational context.