In order to rebut the aforementioned rumors, and (more likely) to save her daughter the humiliation of even worse headlines, Sarah Palin today released a statement that her 17-year-old daughter Bristol Palin is five months pregnant and plans to marry her boyfriend. The McCain campaign reportedly knew about the pregnancy but didn't plan to disclose it to the world or think that it disqualified Sarah Palin (Bristol's mother) from running for the Vice Presidency. Naturally, this has led many of the same people who spent the weekend trafficking in the rumors about Trig Palin — Sarah's infant son with Down's Syndrome — to crow wildly about how Bristol Palin, a fucking seventeen-year-old girl, if you've forgotten — is the new anti- poster child for abstinence-only education. Of course those claims are well-researched.Because, for one, most schools in Alaska do teach comprehensive sex-ed, and the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development offers schools a choice of curricula that include programs focusing on abstinence without endorsing a specific program. In fact, there have even been debates in Alaska since the start of Palin's tenure whether exempting children from comprehensive sex ed is constitutional. Palin's statements on abstinence-only education date to one questionnaire from a right-wing group during her campaign in 2006 when asked the following question:
Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?
In answer to that leading question which conflates comprehensive sexual education with condom and Pill distribution, her campaign answered:
Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.
In the last year and a half, searches of her office's website and the Guttmacher Institute revealed no abstinence-only initiatives by her administration. Simply put, Sarah Palin is by no means the world's biggest promoter of abstinence-only education, as some people are claiming. Is it possible that she supports it (or supported it)? Sure, it's certainly a Republican initiative. But there's no evidence that I can find that she yanked Bristol out of sex ed classes or denied her contraceptive education. To make a 17-year-old girl who didn't likely choose either to be pregnant or to be some political football the new poster child for attacking her mother's policy positions doesn't leave any better a taste in my mouth this afternoon than I had this morning. On a more personal note, though, let those of us who did remain abstinent in high school (and thereafter) and always practiced safe sex throw stones. I lost my virginity at 16 not because I wasn't exposed to comprehensive sex ed or because my parents were too religious or even too permissive. I chose to have sex with my high school boyfriend because I loved him deeply and because I wanted to. The two of us were honors students, tops of our classes, responsible and reliable and I'll be damned if I can sit here and swear that we were the safest sex practitioners on God's green earth. That we didn't end up pregnant had likely a lot more to do with luck than it did a rigorous adherence to what Ms. H. taught us in health class. And, had we gotten pregnant, I would've strongly preferred to get an abortion — but I don't think he would've been quite as enthusiastic about that alternative. I can only imagine the courage it took for Bristol to go to her parents, pregnant at 17, and lay out one of the most personal aspects of human life — her sexual activities — and the consequences of those activities and that she was choosing to keep the child despite the high probability of political embarrassment that would be laid at her mother's doorstep. And all of that was before her mother was about to be made VP. She didn't by any means choose the easy path here, and everyone probably fully expected that this big reveal would happen at some point rather soon. That it has doesn't make my bile rise any less with every post I read about how, ha-ha, look what happens when you promote abstinence. Once again, even for this great lover of Schandenfreude, my lips are curling in a little disgust with the glee shown by some of my political compatriots at this news. Yes, we need to have a rational conversation in this country about striking the balance between providing students with age-appropriate sex education and a rational discussion about moral values and their role in making sexual choices. I am a full and complete supporter of comprehensive sex ed — which includes information like "there is no such thing as blue balls" and "no means no" and "saying no to sex can be a sign of respect for both of you." But clapping our hands in joyous rubbernecking over Bristol Palin's being in the family way is not going to be the start of any discussion. It makes us look as judge-y as we accuse Them of being, it makes us look like abortion-promoters instead of choice-respecters (it does mean both choices, after all) and it makes us look like we think a 17-year-old target is easier to hit than a 44-year-old target. Sex education will be a great topic for discussion and reform in an Obama Administration, and it wouldn't — and shouldn't — involve the now rather-public embarrassment or shaming of a 17-year-old girl. Palin's Daughter Pregnant [Politico] To Rebut Rumors, Palin Says Daughter, 17, Pregnant [Reuters] Health Education Curriculum in Alaska [Alaska Legislative Information] HIV/STD and Sexuality Education Curricula [Alaska Department of Education & Early Development ] 2006 Gubernatorial Candidate Questionnaire [Eagle Forum Alaska] Alaska Schools Discuss Whether Exempting Kids from Sex Ed is 'Unconstitutional' [Christian Post]