A teen pregnancy is ‘off-limits,’ and so is the failure of abstinence-only education

Rather than discuss the implications of presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s teenage daughter’s pregnancy, politicians are rushing to declare children off-limits.

Karen Rhoades, a substitute teacher in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, points up a different issue when she says:

With Sarah being vice president,she is not going to have day-to-day grandma duties. I am assuming Bristol and her husband will live here in Alaska with the rest of her family and they will do their best to be good parents. They have a supporting family, very loving and close. Bristol and the baby will be fine.

That’s just it. Palin will not be dealing with the consequences of this pregnancy. Nor will James Dobson, who gushed that the Palins are “not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances.” Excuse me, but “trying circumstances?” Grandma won’t even be around. None of these people are in any economic difficulty. I’m trying to imagine what difficulty they might be in, apart from a little embarrassment or “long-term fallout, especially from the conservative right, which favors abstinence over sex education.” As Rhoades said, “Bristol and the baby will be fine.”

And to argue as the Palins do, that “Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child,” is to suggest that difficulties encountered early are somehow extraordinary, that they are somehow more trying than those, say, of a single mother, who might also be in her teens.

Grandma will instead be preaching the virtues of “abstinence-until-marriage education,” the form of sexuality education that emphasizes fear rather than responsibility, and diverts huge sums of money to a failure. And Barack Obama, in his zeal to pander to evangelicals who, energized by McCain’s selection of Palin as a running mate, are more likely to vote for McCain, won’t be talking about abstinence-only education either. As Rahul Parick wrote for Salon,

Like many issues in this campaign, it’s not easy to separate where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stand on sex education. Both have been solid supporters of reproductive rights, although Obama’s time in the Senate doesn’t give him as deep a congressional record as his rival. Perhaps his strongest stance was in cosponsoring legislation to reverse the birth control price hike last fall, but he hasn’t pushed it forward. In 2007, he also introduced a bill to reduce teen pregnancy in minority communities. But it’s a little odd, for someone who has attracted so much energy and support from young people, that Obama doesn’t have any stance or position on his campaign Web site about any of these reproductive issues. The closest thing I could find was “Healthcare” under “Issues,” where at the bottom he has a bullet point about women’s health. But he makes no specific mention of reproductive issues.

“No specific mention,” indeed. That is, until Obama reaffirms male hegemony over women’s bodies, and leaves “open the possibility that he actually supports a significant narrowing of abortion rights.”

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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