A few people have said to me lately that the fact that Palin’s daughter is pregnant at age 17 shows that she can’t even parent her daughter well, so how could she be expected to run a country? I didn’t say anything at the time; I don’t like the idea of judging politicians by their personal lives too much, but I wasn’t completely sure they were wrong, either. But then I remembered what I did when I was 17, and how very capable my mom is, and everything seemed pretty obvious.
You don’t have control over what your teenager does to a very large degree. They’re probably limited by finances, but anything that can be done locally and cheaply can be done. Sex is one of those things. It’s also something that the vast majority of people have a strong drive to do, especially during their teenage years. See where I’m going with this?
It says nothing about Palin’s parenting skills that her daughter had sex as a teenager. It does say something about her parenting skills that her daughter got pregnant from having sex. And it says something about the abstinence-only doctrine that a supporter of it has a daughter who got pregnant before marriage. Here’s what it says: abstinence-only education, whether given at home or at school, doesn’t work. Since we already know it doesn’t work, not just by this anecdote but also by several studies, it is irresponsible to continue giving it – or rather, to continue denying people the full truth about sex and protection. People like Sarah Palin are choosing to stick with what they’re comfortable with (teaching kindergarteners about their bodies?! Ack!) and to promote their religious ideology (why shouldn’t you have sex before marriage? Because the Bible says so. Oh, it doesn’t? Well, my pastor does.) rather than to protect their own kids and the kids in their state from unwanted pregnancy, disease, and other negative consequences of not knowing much at all about one of the most central parts of being human.
If she just wanted to treat her own kid that way, that would be a sign of bad character or at least of bad judgment. But when she wants to treat all of our kids that way, that’s reason to keep her far away from political office. The same of course goes for John McCain and all other pro-abstinence-only education politicians.
Funny story: when I was in high school, we had some sort of sex education that I don’t recall being strictly abstinence-only (although I know they didn’t teach me how the birth control pill works), but definitely leaned towards abstinence. They gave us pencils that said Abstinence Is Definitely Safe. AIDS. Classy, ain’t it?