' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Bristol Palin will be more than a firstmother.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bristol Palin will be more than a firstmother.

Sarah Palin. Bristol. Five months pregnant. It might be a personal tragedy in their family, but given the background, maybe not. It's not clear that Bristol is giving up college for baby and marriage to the hockey hunk Levi. She is following in her mother's footsteps, who was pregnant when she got married. In terms of marriage, that has worked out.

Linda, one of the other bloggers on Firstmother Forum, has been upset about this and the girl's life going forward, but perhaps I'm more jaded. I just see the pregnancy as the typical response to having abstinence-only sex education classes, which is what Ms. Palin advocates. And I would assume, she would work to further abstinence-only sex education should she end up as vice president. Here's a snippet of a column I wrote for a local newspaper a year ago:

Everyone can agree that abstinence will prevent pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinence-only programs have been promoted by every GOP Congress and president since Ronald Reagan, who instituted them in 1981. In 1996, a GOP Congress mandated that $50 million each year go to abstinence-only programs, with another $37.5 million coming from the states in matching grants.[Obviously they had no trouble getting this money in Alaska.] Since then the government has spent $1.5 billion on such abstinence-only sex education, despite plenty of evidence that they are simply bogus.

They don't work in the long run--heck, they don't even work in the short run. The studies are numerous, but a favorite of mine is one done jointly by Columbia and Yale universities. It found that while "virginity pledges" seem to encourages teenagers to delay sex the effect was short lived. Eighty-eight percent--call it an overwhelming majority--of those who signed such a pledge ended up having sex not only before they married, but--equally fascinating, before the study ended. Hmm...sounds like most of the virgins stuck to the pledge when it was convenient, but not once they found someone to love.

Two other bits of data from that study stand out: Those taking the pledge had the same rate of sexually transmitted disease as those who did not. (Zero gain.) And they were less likely to use a contraceptive when they put their booties under someone else's bed. (Negative loss.)

And if those same teenagers are having unprotected sex, they are more likely to have unintended pregnancies. [I'm going to assume Bristol's pregnancy is unintended.] Which brings us back to that nagging abortion rate that's been stuck in neutral under Bush's watch, this is, not going down as it had under Clinton. In short, abstinence-only programs lead to more unintended pregnancies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, half of the 6.4 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unintended. Half of them are carried to term.

In April of 2007, the Department of Health and Human Services quietly released a long-awaited, Congressionally mandated evaluation of Title V-abstinence-only programs. The conclusion: "Youth in the program group were no more likely than the control-group youth to have abstained from sex, and among those who reported having had sex, they had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same mean age."

The good news was the the Democrats finally pulled the plug on such an inane and failed program. They planned to let a $50 million grant expire in June, 2000. Conservatives were outraged.

Along with their outrage, I would assume conservatives had more unplanned pregnancies in their teen population. I am a old-timer who went to Catholic schools and had sex at the time when guys who said that they didn't like using condoms got away with it. (Yes, my daughter's father did say that.) Today, more teens are having sex than they were in my day, but in a sane world they are given the education, and easy access to contraception, they need to have sex that is not only safe, but does not lead to an unplanned conception.

No matter how we feel about this family personally and politically, no matter how we feel about abortion, what I applaud and feel good about is that this child will not be given up for adoption. That would be the real tragedy. And we might not hear, as both the Bush presidents have been want to spout--"adoption not abortion."

Bristol's road will not be an easy one, but she will have her baby. And keep it.


PS: For those of you who listened to my lament about Yvonne, we spoke. She denies, denies that she could have ever called women who give up babies "reproductive agents." I believe she believes that she did not say that. She sat quietly and listened while I tried to educate her and open her mind somewhat. I may have succeeded. Or maybe not.

Yvonne is not/never was against adoptees searching, and thank god, her hairdresser (who eventually married the father) has had a successful reunion with the daughter the couple lost to adoption. Among the many things I said was that sometimes the adopted person is not able to do the search because the original birth certificate has been altered, or for other reasons. She was aware that in France the OBCs were never sealed. Can we be friends again? I hope so, in time. Right now I'm still internally reeling from her outburst.


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  2. I learned about this bombshell on Monday’s local 5 o’clock news and I went ballistic. I was so ballistic I called Lorraine, who had heard about it earlier in the day. My first thought was “Why wasn’t this woman using contraception?” My husband peered over his reading glasses and said, “Did you use contraception when you were 17?” So I shot back, “Yes I did. And I was 19 [when I became pregnant], but point taken.” And I’ve been obsessed about young Bristol ever since.

    I loved this line from an article in yesterday’s NY Times:

    On any other day, the pregnancy story would have dominated the convention coverage and consumed cable news chatter. Delegates would have been under siege for their reactions, and news reports would have quickly filled up with baby pictures and high school snapshots of Bristol, and interviews with friends and neighbors and teenage pregnancy experts — and, of course, clips from the movie "Juno." (I assume this meant that Bristol’s news was eclipsed by Hurricane Gustav. Thank God for Gustav)

    I didn't even think of Juno. All I've been thinking is that girl's life is over before it had a chance to start...I know that's probably not what she's thinking, she's probably excited to become a wife and mother (as I was when I learned I was pregnant), given her upbringing and family values, but she's only 17. She's still in high school...she has college and a career to dream about. And she still will, but...

    From an e-mail to Lorraine on Tuesday 9/2: No idea why I'm personalizing this. There's just such a big difference between being pregnant and 17 (or 13, or 15) and 19 or 20, hell, even 18. At least 18 is legal age, but still to young to have a sip of her celebratory toast at her own wedding (21 in most/all states, yes?). Will she even be eligible to cast a vote for her mother in November? And the Republicans are saying "everyone makes mistakes." @#$%!!!! %^&*!!! It just goes back to what I've said forever...if she had access to conception and sex education (which apparently she didn't, since Mom's in favor of abstinence before marriage) it would have reduced her chances of an unplanned pregnancy.

    In an email to Lorraine later in the day I wrote:

    I'm so obsessed with poor Bristol that I've been logging on to everything about her and Levi (thank God the guy's at least a hottie). He's 18, she's 17. Sperm donor was 20, I was 19. My heart aches for that girl, at least they've been dating a year so that's saying
    something (unlike me, such a harlot). Yikes! I thought growing up Catholic was rough!

    What’s so upsetting to me is that what probably will be one of the defining moments in her life is being shared with the whole wide world. I was defiant and rebellious, and I held my own quite well, I thought, dared anyone to pass judgment on me. But I had three semesters of college under my belt, I lived away from home for a year and a half. I had a checking account and knew how to pay bills. Big difference.

    Yes, Bristol will keep her baby, and that’s a relief. And yes, she’s going to have to grow up faster than her parents ever realized. But none of this should be--Bristol should be hanging out with her friends, editing her myspace page, shopping, going to dances, and simply bask in being Levi’s girlfriend, not

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  4. I agree that it can be very hurtful to say a pregnancy was a "mistake," especially to an adoptee. I try very carefully to never say this to my son.

    The only mistake I made was losing my baby to adoption. THAT was a mistake. My pregnancy resulted in his very existence, which I just can't think of as a mistake.

    I do feel bad for Bristol, that her whole life is now under a microscope. I couldn't stand that type of scruntiny in middle-age. At least when I was pregant it was common knowledge, but certainly not front-page news. Hard to even think about what she is going through....

  5. I say best wishes to Bristol, Levi, all the Palins on the upcoming birth of their new child and grandchild. WHY is this such a big deal??? I am so happy to hear this young mom is keeping her baby and her boyfriend is doing the right thing and marrying her, and her parents are being supportive. That is how it should be, should have been, for many of us. I would not vote for Sarah Palin because I do not believe in her political views, but she sure has my respect as a righteous Grandma doing what she should for daughter and family.And many "shotgun" weddings work out just fine. My good friend who got married 8 months pregnant will be married for 42 years, happily.

    I think abstinence-only sex ed is a waste of time. Contraception should be taught and available. It can't hurt and would certainly help lots of kids. Maybe Sarah Palin will rethink her views on this issue. Maybe not. We shall see.

    That being said, it is still cruel to blame a mom already pregnant for her plight. How many of us were young and in love and thought it wouldn't matter if we got pregnant because surely we would get married? How many had a contraceptive fail? Real Sex education will help a lot and prevent a lot of unintended pregnancies, but not all. Love makes us stupid sometimes, no matter how many facts of life we know.

    Unplanned pregnancies happen. That is how most of us over 40 got here! This is not a family tragedy, it is a minor difficulty that will be laughed at in later years when this child is grown. It is time for everyone to get over it and worry about real political issues, not a 17 year old pregnant girl who is going to be fine because she has a loving family behind her.

  6. Great, valid comments all around...thanks to all for the enlightenment and healthy(er) perspectives.

  7. Mairiane said, "how many of us were young and in love and thought it wouldn't matter if we got pregnant because surely we would get married?"

    Right on...at the time, I absolutely would have married my baby's father.

  8. Thank you for saying that Improper Adoptee, somebody needs to.

  9. I have been around Improper Adoptee for a while. I will say this much. She is adoptee centric. I don't think it is right for you to attack her on another's blog.

    I do also agree with her. I don't think we have come that far. That we have lots of work to do. I do think adoption and abortion should remain options but we as a society should present parenting as a valid option.



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