Roundup: Palin Slashed Funds for Teen Moms, The Real Work/Family Question, Obama’s Ads on Abortion

Emily Douglas

Sarah Palin slashes support for teen mothers, ab-only proponents spin Bristol Palin's pregnancy, Romney waffles on ab-only and Obama unveils a new ad on abortion.

Palin, McCain Both Oppose Measures that Would Prevent Teen Pregnancy,
Support Teen Mothers

Gov. Sarah Palin doesn’t just oppose "explicit
sex-ed programs." The Washington
Post has also found that as governor
, Palin used a line-item veto to cut
funding from a transitional housing program for teenage mothers.  On both counts, she fits well with her running
mate.  While John McCain’s position on
contraception and sexuality education has been kept murky, certain votes are
clear — in 2006, he
voted against
a $100 million teen pregnancy prevention proposal that would
have provided funds for sex education and contraception; in 2005, he opposed a pregnancy
prevention measure that also would have required to insurers who cover Viagra
to cover hormonal birth control. Finally, McCain supported a bill that would
require poor teen mothers to stay in school in order to receive benefits.  

Want to know more on Sarah Palin’s views on family and
reproductive health issues?  Her
legislative record is thin, but her responses to a 2006 Eagle Forum
questionnaire offer some clues.  See
relevant portions of the questionnaire here

Ab-Only Proponents Spin the Pregnancy

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How are proponents of abstinence-only programs (the only "education" offered
on sexuality at Bristol Palin’s high school) spinning the story?  By being nonsensical, of course!  Take it from Leslee Unruh:
"Abstinence works. It works every single time…Blaming sex
education for the failures of people who make a mistake is not fair."  So abstinence doesn’t get teens pregnant, mistakes get teens pregnant?  Well, that’s the point,
say advocates for comprehensive sexuality education.  Stephen Conley, executive director of the
American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, says
Bristol Palin’s pregnancy is "a reminder of how, even in strong families
where youth are taught to refrain from sex until marriage, teens can make poor
decisions…Teens need the reinforcement of school programs that give them the
information and skills they need to take responsibility for their sexual
health."

Are All Choices Right?

While many feminists (and others)
have called for support for Bristol Palin’s decision to carry the pregnancy to
term and marry her boyfriend, others are less politic in wondering whether, of
all available choices, that was really the best.  For
Linda Hirshman
, the statistics on the lower educational attainment of teen mothers and
likelihood of divorce following an early marriage make raising a child as a teenager and a questionable decision. 
And John
Aloysius Farrell wonders
, "Has anyone in St. Paul even raised the suggestion that it is not in the
best interest of Levi and Bristol,
at 17, to be forced into marriage with the whole world watching?"  He concludes, "I guess you can’t go
barnstorming the country on Air Force Two, railing against sex ed and promoting
abstinence, with an unwed teenage mother at home."  The Beacon
News
talked to teens in suburban Chicago
about how their parents would influence pregnancy-related decisions,
concluding, "[Parental notification] law or no law, local teens confess that a
parent’s opinion has much to do with how they would react to an unplanned
pregnancy."

On Palin’s Work/Family Judgment…

Can she juggle a breast pump and BlackBerry in the vice-presidency, as Sarah
Palin reportedly has done as governor of Alaska?  Should we even ask about Sarah Palin’s own
family values?  It’s condescending to
assume Palin hasn’t thought about it herself, Ann Friedman points out.  But when Palin passes herself off as a
supermom – who can do it all and likes it that way – she implicitly downplays
the significance of her opposition to policies that better enable all women to
balance work and family. Apparently, "for the GOP, feminism means never having
to say you’re exhausted," Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick observed yesterday on Slate,
noting that when compared to Palin’s example, every "pro-family policy or job-based concession
the rest of us require, and have finally demanded, seem[s] like
self-indulgence…Think of the family-friendly policies Palin’s example would
seem to brush aside. No need for child care subsidies or universal preschool if
a mother of five can run the state without a babysitter. Who really needs
family leave laws that protect women’s jobs if a governor can go back to work a
few days after giving birth?"

It’s a model of wifely sacrifice – self-abrogation women alone are expected
to perform – mirrored in anti-choice logic that expects women to bear children
even when those pregnancies resulted from rape or incest.  Wrote Frances
Kissling wrote on Rewire yesterday
, "These expectations that
women — and women only — are required to undertake supererogatory acts of
extreme sacrifice has been rejected by main stream feminism and it is only its
re-emergence in Feminists For Life and fundamentalist Christianity that enables women like
Palin to call themselves ‘feminist.’"

Palin herself has coopted the language of women’s advancement to describe
her career trajectory.  The Christian
Coalition
approvingly quoted Palin in a press release: "It’s a sign of the times to be able to
do this.  There is no reason to believe a woman can’t do it with a growing
family.  My baby will not be at all or in any sense neglected."

Romney Waffles on Ab-Only

In the wake of the news of Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy, Mitt Romney, runner
up for the vice-presidential nomination, told
a reporter
that "I would not propose that people don’t get any sex
education but abstinence," seemingly countering his position while
governor of Massachusetts.

Obama Unveils Ads on Abortion

Barack Obama wants voters to know that McCain isn’t bucking his party’s
stance on abortion rights.  A new
Obama radio ad
features a Planned Parenthood nurse explaining that McCain
supports a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and believes that Roe v.
Wade should be overturned.  ""We
can’t let John McCain take away our right to choose," says the nurse. "We
can’t let him take us back."

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