The failure of Abstinence Only education.

It’s in the news that Bristol Palin is pregnant again, out of wedlock and not looking to be wedlocked anytime soon since she abruptly called off her wedding to Dakota Meyer over Memorial Day Weekend. It did seem odd that though the wedding was off (not delayed or postponed), her mother Sarah Palin and friends still joined the Meyer family for a party celebrating ‘life’. It seems pretty clear why now, Bristol was pregnant and Dakota Meyer by circumstance will need to be in the Palins’ lives for a long time to come. Since Sarah Palin was named as John McCain’s VP running mate in 2008, her family and all their peccadilloes were thrown in the national spotlight in the most brutal way, and inconveniently, Bristol Palin at the time was 17 years old and pregnant with her first child Tripp. The Palin family put out a statement that Bristol Palin and the baby’s father Levi Johnston were ‘engaged’ and were happy together and though not the best time to have this baby, they were looking forward to the addition. The whole thing was a PR image control. Of course, the wedding never happened and the engagement was off soon after the baby was born. The cynic in me was suspect of the fact that they were ever really engaged, and if they were, it’s because there is a baby on the way, not because they really wanted to be engaged. Though not a Palin fan or supporter, I felt badly for Bristol, she was just a young girl, most likely not thrilled with the fact that she’s pregnant. Though her family has means and she won’t be out on her own with a tiny baby, her life as carefree teenager was most likely over, and it was all done in the national spotlight, for the most selfish opportunistic reason, John McCain needed a boost in the polls so he chose a candidate like Sarah Palin. Knowing full well she was unqualified to be Vice President and they were unlikely to win the general election unless the Obama campaign screws up royally in the last few weeks of the general election campaign. Sarah Palin, being a first term governor of Alaska, could not give up this chance to be in the national spotlight, even if she has to expose her pregnant young daughter to the press.

Even more bizarre is that Bristol Palin became a spokesperson for Abstinence Only education, giving speeches and lectures about her own cautionary tale, 17 years old, barefoot and pregnant, alone with a small child, not something to aspire to and her solution is abstinence only. She needed to support her baby and it was probably clear that Levi Johnston wasn’t the reliable type and she was paid for speaking fees and appearances. She also did the Dancing with the Stars and other paid television work as she knew deep down that it will be her supporting her baby alone and she was right about that. I admire that about her, getting her hustle on, keeping a roof over her and little Tripp’s head, saving for their future. She largely stayed out of trouble, no arrests or falling out of nightclubs drunk, she is a very responsible young adult. A lot of teenage mothers lose their shit at some point, from the pressure of caring for a baby on their own, missing out on the rites of passage that their peers get to experience, not being able to go away to college and experience college life and combine that with the inherent immaturity that comes with that age group, they go overboard with their partying in their mid-20s. Not Bristol, she largely stayed on the straight and narrow and just took care of her son and when a paid gig came along, she took it, like all responsible mothers do. She didn’t expect a handout from her newly wealthy mother and I don’t think Sarah Palin offered.

Fastforward to now, she’s pregnant again and she’ll most likely be a single mother to this new baby along with Tripp. And I am sure she feels ashamed and is waiting for the internet trolls and journalists with poison pens to mock her and call her a hypocrite and slut shaming. To preempt leaks in the media about her second (gasp) pregnancy, she wrote this short blog:

(I’m announcing this news a lot sooner than I ever expected due to the constant trolls who have nothing better to talk about!!!)

I wanted you guys to be the first to know that I am pregnant.

Honestly, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one.

At the end of the day there’s nothing I can’t do with God by my side, and I know I am fully capable of handling anything that is put in front of me with dignity and grace.

Life moves on no matter what.  So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up.

When life gets tough, there is no other option but to get tougher.

I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you.

But please respect Tripp’s and my privacy during this time. I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy.

My little family always has, and always will come first.

Tripp, this new baby, and I will all be fine, because God is merciful.

The short little missive is tinged with shame and regret, and that’s unnecessary, Bristol Palin is now a grown woman and she can do what she pleases with whom she pleases. She need not apologize to anyone, not even to her parents. It’s not an ideal situation, she’s supposed to be married and enjoying her newlywed life with Dakota Meyer (most likely the baby’s father) but it didn’t happen that way, it’s not the end of the world. Like she says, “Life moves on no matter what.  So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up.” Even though she was an advocate of Abstinence Only education, she’s not the failure, the failure is the stupidity of the policy. The Abstinence Only movement supported and promoted by Evangelical Christians and the political right isn’t really about morality or waiting until marriage to have sex, it’s about denying women the right to birth control and an attempt to shame women who get pregnant out of wedlock and to place responsibility of safe sex on the shoulders of women, instead of a joint responsibility. Study after study has shown that abstinence only education is a failure, incongruent with human desire and modern Western society, for good or ill, is a sexually liberated one. It’s also a backward looking policy not a forward looking one. Western society is no longer a society where people only had sex within the confines of a marriage. Many children are born to common law couples and cohabiting couples, so abstinence only policy runs contrary to how modern families are formed. Bristol Palin would have been better off promoting safe sex and reliable birth control methods for committed couples. Bristol Palin should be applauded for not entering into marriage with someone just because she’s pregnant and just to spare herself the shame, she did what was right for her and her children not what the public wants to see or hear.

So to Bristol Palin, don’t feel bad, don’t feel ashamed no matter what your family, church group or internet trolls say. A child is a blessing, you’ve done this once before, so you are an old pro at this, you got this, you can do it. Don’t let anyone slut-shame you or troll you because you feel ashamed and somehow believe you deserve the ridicule and vitriol, you don’t, fight back at every turn. You are free to do as you please, your parents may not like the sound of that but it’s true, life happens and you roll with it. You will find your happy ending one day with the right man under the right circumstance.

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