Wednesday, May 06, 2009

America's Top Teen SpokesMom -- For Abstinence? Huh?

There's a day for everything.

Today is National Day To Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
Some of my friends and colleagues have written some great commentary over at RH Reality Check about what we know about preventing teen pregnancies that you should check out.

And then there is Bristol Palin making the rounds of the morning talk shows. I missed her on GMA, where she said, "abstinence in the only way that you can effectively 100% full proof way to prevent pregnancy." Apparently not in her case.

But, I did see her on the Today Show, where her father called her pregnancy "a mistake." And Bristol appeared to take back her early comment that abstinence wasn't realistic for all teens. She repeated her 100% abstinence message, and when pressed by Matt Lauer, both she and her dad gave a quick nod to safer sex being a good idea if a teen isn't abstinent.

She was poised, articulate, and it was clear that she had been carefully coached, with the adult message, "don't have sex, but if you must, protect yourself." Her message that being a teen mom is hard rang true -- her message, don't have sex like I did, was not. How much more impact she might have if she told her story honestly and directly -- and if she had used what is clearly a national pulpit being offered her to call for parents to talk to their teens, comprehensive sexuality education, and contraceptive services for teens.

As I said at our Congressional briefing last week
, there is 40 years of research on how to prevent teenage pregnancies and scores of countries that do it better than we do. Helping young people to delay sexual intercourse until they are physically, emotionally and spiritually ready is key -- but so is providing young people with the information, services, and skills they need to protect themselves if and when they do have sex.

Bristol, if you really want to help prevent teen pregnancies in the U.S. -- and I believe you do -- maybe leave Dad at home and talk from your heart about how teens can make good decisions -- about sex and about protection.

1 comment:

Pam said...

But isn't it a valid position for Bristol to take that she didn't abstain but now wishes she had? What would be wrong with her saying that from here on out she plans to abstain until marriage becasue she has learned that sex and especially teen prengancy isn't worth it?

Are you saying she should be out there saying, hey, teen sex is great, just don't get caught like I did? Maybe she really does wish she had been abstinent in retrospect.

Many women I know who did have sex before marriage because the culture told them it was perfectly okay, normal and natural, honestly feel that those relationships saddled them with sexual baggage they regretted having when they did finally get married and come to enjoy a real, permanent relationship of complete self-giving. If they could do it over again, they would abstain.

I know it doesn't necessarily follow that EVERYONE feels this way, but just because Bristol had sex, and ended up having a very public baby, doesn't mean that abstinence is a bad thing, or that she is a hypocrite for promoting it. Perhaps abstinence legitimately means more to her now that she is older, wiser and a parent herself.