It's been about 48 hours since Bristol Palin's pregnancy was announced, and pundits of all stripes have weighed in on the significance of a single, underage, fertile female. In the Washington Post, columnist Courtland Milloy writes, "We are ambivalent about what to do once a girl becomes pregnant. But once that choice is made — and it is a personal choice — what the girl needs most is love and support. If the public can't offer that to Bristol, the least we can do is leave her alone." No, Courtland. The least the public can do is take Bristol's mother to task for not supporting teen pregnancies that occur outside her immediate family.The WaPo is reporting that, as Governor of Alaska, Palin slashed funding for a program that benefited teen moms.According to the WaPo, "Palin reduced funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20 percent, cutting funds from $5 million to $3.9 million. Covenant House is a mix of programs and shelters for troubled youths, including Passage House, which is a transitional home for teenage mothers…[where, according to Passage House's website] 'young mothers a place to live with their babies for up to eighteen months while they gain the necessary skills and resources to change their lives.'" And since we're all on board with not prying into the circumstance of Bristol as an individual, let's take a look at the fate that lies ahead for most other teen mothers, shall we? Linda Hirshman, writing on Slate's XX Factor blog, runs through what the average American teen mom experiences, and honestly, it's bleak. "Even controlling for social and economic backgrounds, only 40 percent of teenage girls who bear children before age 18 go on to graduate from high school, compared with the 75 percent of teens who do not give birth until ages 20 or 21" Hirshman notes. "Overall, teenage mothers-and their children-are also far more likely to live in poverty than females who don't give birth until after age 20. Two-thirds of the families begun by a young unmarried mother are poor. These families are more likely to be on welfare and to require publicly provided health care." And we know what Palin thinks about publicly provided health care: She thinks it shouldn't exist! Even Seventeen editor Ann Shoket has something to say about Bristol's pregnancy and what it means for the American teen. "No matter how you feel about her politics, Sarah Palin is a shining example of the potential and power of women," Shoket notes in the Huffington Post today. "And in one hot moment with her boyfriend, her daughter gave away her power to make the decisions about how she wanted her future to play out." Pretty harsh words coming from the editor of a usually soft and fluffy teen mag. And here's the thing. Individually, Bristol Palin will be fine. But despite what her mother's campaign would have you believe, the Palins are not regular folk. They are a gubernatorial family with the resources and the connections to help support a teen pregnancy. Obviously, a teen pregnancy is not the end of the world, nor is it anything to be ashamed of. However, it is something that should be prevented as much as possible, and considering Palin's stance on abortion, it seems she's only concerned about the individual pregnancy of her daughter and not the pregnancies of our nation's daughters. Linda Hirshman says it better than I can: "For the millions of women each year who do not want to make that choice, and for the parents who do not want that fate for their daughters, the cruelty of the Republican position on abortion rights is now graphically laid bare." UPDATE: Despite some Republicans' request for privacy with regards to Bristol, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates points out that many conservatives are already using this unborn child like "a political football." Coates quotes the following passage from the WSJ to illustrate his point: "Gov. Palin and her husband 'have embraced the grandchild about to be born,' Gary Bauer, a social conservative activist and onetime presidential candidate, told the Texas delegation. 'They already are teaching America a lesson about the sanctity of life,' he added, as the delegates jumped to their feet in applause.'" The Candidate's Daughter Could Use Our Sympathy And A Lot More Privacy [Washington Post] Palin Slashed Funding for Teen Moms [Washington Post] Do As We Do [Slate] What Was Bristol's Plan A? [Huffington Post] And Now Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Program [The Atlantic] Related: The Numbers on Teen Pregnancy [Freakonomcs/NYT]
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