The reality of teen pregnancy hit American hard this summer when news surfaced that John McCain’s running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s unmarried high school daughter, Bristol Palin, was pregnant.
Was it possible that a young girl whose mother was such a firm proponent of abstinence-only education was actually pregnant?
As it turns out, it was and Americans quickly came up in arms to both defend and challenge the effectiveness of programs that preach abstinence.
Now, in her first interview since giving birth, Bristol Plain sits down with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News for her show “On the Record” and tells America that abstinence-only education is “not realistic at all.”
The 18-year-old who gave birth in late December to son Tripp says that having a child is not “glamorous at all” and “kids should just wait.” She has to balance school and homework while taking care of a baby that is up half the night and that’s just for starters.
“It’s not just the baby that’s hard. It’s just, like, I’m not living for myself anymore,” she says. “ It’s, like, for another person, so that’s different.”
Fortunately, Bristol has been blessed with a large family that is willing to help her out so she can stay in school and get an education and a partner who is a supportive and involved father. Other young girls are not as lucky.
In the long run though, Bristol does not regret her decision to become a mother, but realizes that her situation is not ideal.
“Of course I wish it would have happened in 10 years so I could have a job and an education and be like prepared and have my own house and stuff … I don’t regret it at all I just wish it would have happened in 10 years rather than now.”
She hopes other teenagers will learn from her story and that by sharing it she will help prevent other teenagers from becoming pregnant. It was Bristol’s idea to do the interview with Fox (she didn’t tell her mother she was doing it until the day before) as she plans to be an advocate to prevent teen pregnancy and it looks like she won’t be following her mother’s platform of abstinence (“[it’s] not realistic at all.”) – halleluiah!
From the interview it is clear that Bristol is a teenager – a girl who should be hitting the books and finding another word for “like” instead of changing diapers and doing midnight feedings. Her story can serve as an example to other teens that having sex has consequences even in the best of circumstances (supportive family and partner, economic stability) and to politicians, like her mother, that abstinence-only education programs do not work and should not be funded.
At the close of the interview Gov. Sarah Palin made a surprise appearance during the interview and said,
“Let me put it this way I think Bristol is kind of an example of truly it can happen to anyone. Bristol [is a] great athlete, great student, great aspirations that she had for herself, plans that didn’t include a baby of course but it did happen to her and now again less than ideal circumstances but we make the most of it.”
It can and does happen to anyone which is exactly why abstinence-only programs are so dangerous. Bristol is proof that these programs don’t work whether you get the message at school, at home, or both.
The truth of the matter is that teen pregnancy rates in the United States are rising. Now more than ever, we need to equip teens with all the information necessary to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancies. That means teaching about abstinence and methods of contraception – condoms, birth control pills, IUDs, and emergency contraception. Without these tools young women will continue to become mothers far too soon.
If teens won’t listen to their parents or teachers, maybe they will start to listen to their peers, to teens like Bristol, who share their stories about the hardships that motherhood entails.
Photo by Anthony Easton (PinkMoose) used under a Creative Commons license.