Bristol Palin’s Pregnancy

Posted by Katherine | September 3, 2008 – 8:49 am
Bristol with family
Bristol Palin with family at VP announcement in Dayton
[er3465 / Flickr]

Elle is a Texas-based group blogger who thinks it’s no one’s “business” that 17-year-old Bristol Palin is five months pregnant. Elle was a pregnant teen herself, once. But she does take aim at the coverage of Bristol’s pregnancy. Elle “can’t help noticing how markedly different the rhetoric/coverage surrounding her pregnancy is when compared to young women of color–particularly the reactions from conservatives and evangelicals.” She sees a form of racism in those reactions (thanks, Misa Dayson):

At the back of mind, since I read about this, I’ve been thinking what if Malia or Sasha Obama was older and pregnant? Can you imagine the tropes that would be trotted out? The “See, I told you sos?” The condemnation–not only of the Obamas, but of African Americans in general–from the very people who are closing ranks around Bristol Palin? I do not think it is an invasion of the Palin privacy to say, yes, those people are hypocrites.

[…] You see, not only does Bristol Palin have the right, in a legal sense, to choose to continue this pregnancy, she also has a “cultural right” to be a mother. What do I mean? She’s a white woman, part of a group whose role as mother is encouraged and rewarded. Not so for women of color who are questioned as mothers […]

Bristol Palin’s future mothering is not as worrisome to us as that of the girls whom we are taught to think of as typical teen mothers.

To be fair, some conservatives have at least admitted the problem, in their eyes, isn’t wholly teenage pregnancy, but unwed motherhood. I guess marriage to (typically) another teenager magically eradicates all the potential problems associated with the pregnancy itself not to mention the poverty that often comes afterward. (So perhaps the Palin’s carefully tacked on “and will marry the baby’s father” changes how news of Bristol’s pregnancy is being received, as well. […]

Sarah Palin can’t have it both ways. Her daughter’s pregnancy can’t simultaneously be “no reflection on her” and proof that she (Sarah Palin) “walks the talk.” It is Bristol Palin who’s “walking the talk.”

The Liberal Curmudgeon attributes the public attention to a hypocrisy in the McCain/Palin platform. For Curmudgeon, Bristol’s pregnancy raises significant questions about their position on sex ed (both support abstinence-only education) [see update below]:

How is it that Bristol Palin received mixed signals about sexuality after what I presume was her abstinence-based education ? Had she been exposed to sex education, school-based clinics and school contraceptives, might these have reduced her chances of becoming pregnant?

Liberal Curmudgeon is also confused that Bristol apparently made the decision to keep the baby:

“Decision”? “On her own”? Since when does she have the right to make this independent choice, according to the McCain-Palin ticket? If she has the right to make a choice, do others? And if others have the same right, do they have the right to make a different choice? […]

What Bristol Palin does about her pregnancy should indeed be a private decision for her to make. Yet today’s conservatives, who profess a belief in limited government, want to impose governmental rule on this most personal of choices.

Bristol Palin’s pregnancy has entered the political realm only because her mother and McCain speak of “decisions” when what they really want is to appoint Supreme Court judges who would permit no choice to any pregnant 17-year-old girl.

Private matter or not, it’s not going to leave the public sphere any time soon: Levi Johnston, the father of Bristol’s baby, is going to join the Palins in St. Paul for the convention — with paparazzi unquestionably in tow.

[Update 12 Sept 2008: It appears that Sarah Palin does in fact support education about contraception.]

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