Palin and teenage pregnancy and…everything else

This weekend, John McCain announced that his running mate would be Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska.  It seems there has been little talk of anything else since that announcement…particularly since the announcement that Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is 5 months pregnant.

There has been much written on the topic since the announcement, while I was away attending to family and holiday events.  So rather than adding to the general clamor, I’m going to hook you up with what I consider the best of what’s already been said.

First, of course, is the New York Times story.  But here’s the gist: Sarah Palin’s 17 year old daughter, Bristol, is 5 months pregnant, plans to have the baby and marry her Baby Daddy, Levi.  Everyone says everyone knew about the pregnancy before McCain announced Palin as his running mate.  The McCain/Palin campaign is saying that Bristol’s pregnancy is a private familiy matter, and should be off-limits to the media.  (A futile request, frankly.)  Obama agrees it is a family  matter, and is treating the matter with discretion.

Now on to the conversation and analysis of the Palin’s VP nomination and how that relates to Bristol’s pregnancy:

Rev. Debra Haffner speaks to the importance of conversation about sexual options.  Among her points is this one: “The research, as I’ve written about in my books for parents (see the list to the right), is quite clear. In homes where parents talk openly about sexuality with their children, including their values about premarital sex, contraception and STD prevention, their children are more likely to delay sexual activity and more likely to protect themselves if they do have sex. Perhaps Gov. Palin should reconsider her positions on teenage pregnancy prevention.”

RH Reality Check speaks well, as always, to the problems inherent to the Republican-supported abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that leave teenagers uneducated about how to prevent pregnancy and STDs and without places or people to ask real questions about sexuality.

The American Prospect talks about the political issue of women’s choice, Sarah Palin’s position on abortion, and how these political issues makes Bristol’s pregnancy something worth talking about in the public sphere – as different from the standard candidates’ children’s bungles.  And here’s another post from RH Reality Check about Palin’s political views on abortion and her affiliation with “Feminists for Life.”

Now, I feel strongly that abortion must be safe and accessible.  I feel strongly that comprehensive sexuality education is an inherent right that every young person in our country must have access to. However, I also want to point out that there is much, much more to Sarah Palin than just her stances on these issues (however much we disagree on these issues).  To find out more about Sarah Palin, check out Palinland and More from Palinland.  These are interesting and informative posts via Lawyers, Guns and Money.  And here is another general, and much more chatty, post on Palin from Bitch, Ph.D.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. …did the John Edward’s story prompt this kind of talk about the sex education he did or didn’t recieve?

    How do men get a pass on this topic?

  2. It’s just a different issue, Bill. I’m not really interested in Edward’s sex life any more than I am interested in Palin’s sex life or her daughter’s sex life. But what I am interested in is Palin’s oppressive, dogmatic, anti-women approach to sex education and abortion rights.

    It’s clear that comprehensive sex education – lots of good information and conversation – decreases sexual activity and unsafe sex. It’s also clear that abortion must be the woman’s choice – a point which Palin disagrees with, even in the case of incest and rape. This is a poignant time to talk about these issues with Palin’s daughter as starting point.

    John Edwards is supportive of comprehensive sex education – his pass is not because of his gender but because he supports legislation and education that could prevent a mistake like the one he made.

  3. Wouldn’t it be fair to ask Edwards if he paid attention to comprehensive sex education? If he read the curriculum he supported? And expecially the responsibilities of Fatherhood?

    Why give Edwards a pass and publically skewer this young woman?

  4. Ah, perhaps it is in that last phrase “publicly skewer this young woman” where we have a different understanding of the public outrage on the topic is focused.

    I certainly have no beef with Bristol. I suspect that what Bristol needs most right now is some privacy, a really good midwife or doctor, and a few very close and dependable friends.

    I have substantial issues with Sarah Palin – who is the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate. Palin does not support educating teenagers about sex, does not a woman’s choice to terminate a pregnancy, and she does not support public programs to help young mothers. From start to finish, she is condemning young women to stepping back in time when their options and resources were severely restricted to the home – to a time when a woman would not ever be considered for the office of Vice President.

    Yes, it might have been fair to ask Edwards if he “knew what caused this” if turned out that his mistress’ baby was in fact his and if he were the Democratic Nominee. But we don’t know yet (he says it’s not his child), and he’s not the nominee.

    Regardless of who we’re asking, the entire point of asking is to start the political conversation – not a personal conversation – about sex education. Asking these questions of Edwards will not start a political conversation. Asking them of Palin will. And is.

  5. I agree that this is a private family matter. It would make me very angry if they used Bristol to promote their agenda of making abortion illegal.

  6. Hi Karen,

    I liked your quote, “I certainly have no beef with Bristol. I suspect that what Bristol needs most right now is some privacy, a really good midwife or doctor, and a few very close and dependable friends.” When this story broke, my thoughts were that I could only imagine what she is inherently going through with her pregnancy at 17 and then to add that it is national news to it. Teenagers have enough to deal with. I hope she is strong enough to make it through this. And I wonder if Sarah Palin talked to Bristol about what this means for her prior to agreeing to be the nominee. My next thoughts turned to how we as a nation have the opportunity to have the discussion of teenage sexuality and education. My hope is that there could be a great lesson to be learned here about what could be gained by educating teenagers about sex, a woman’s right to choose, and public programs to help young mothers. But this is also something that my usual optimism isn’t quite there on. I feel like this situation will only be used to serve someone’s agenda.

    As always, enjoy reading your site.


    PS – OWL starts Sunday! Can’t wait!

Comments are closed.