Bristol Palin: Media Maven with a Message

Cristina Page

In a stroke of media mastery, Bristol Palin harnessed the Palin family-doting Fox News last night to announce a powerful message for policy makers: abstinence only is "not realistic."

In a stroke of media mastery, Bristol Palin harnessed the Palin
family-doting Fox News last night to announce a powerful (and decidedly
non-Fox News) message for policy makers: abstinence only is "not
realistic." The new teen mom also told Greta Van Susteren that she
would "love to be an advocate to prevent teen pregnancy." Making this
announcement on one of the most watched, and most conservative, news
stations in the nation is already a pretty good display of her ability
to reach a large swath of Americans (particularly the most difficult to
reach on this issue.)

Highlights from Greta Van Susteren’s interview with Bristol Palin in which Bristol talks candidly about teen pregnancy, abstinence and contraception.

As we all remember, Bristol and her unplanned pregnancy dominated
the national news for a month during the Presidential campaign. Yet
this is really the first time we’ve heard from Bristol herself. It
appears she is striking out on her own. In fact, she told her mother
about the interview and her plans to discuss teen pregnancy prevention
during it just the day before. Some have spun this story as Bristol
attacking her mother’s abstinence-only policies. She clearly is not,
but she is finding her own voice. (Anyway, it appears Governor Palin is
reconsidering her position. She makes an appearance during the
interview and admits that the abstinence-only approach is, as she puts
it, "naive" which, in itself, is a big news the main stream media has
yet to pick up on.)

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What the interview reveals is that Bristol is lovely, humble, honest,
no doubt still a teenager and refreshingly free of any political
agenda–except to use her experience to steer teens away from the same
fate. In startling candidness, Bristol expresses the conflicting
emotions that come packaged with teen parenthood; her love for her
child and of motherhood and her belief that waiting ten years before
becoming a parent would have been a better path.

She explained,

    "I like being a mom, I love it. Just
seeing him smile and stuff, it’s awesome…It is very challenging but
it’s so rewarding…Of course, I wish it would happen in ten years so I
could have a job and an education and be, like, prepared and have my
own house and stuff… I just hope that people learn from my story and,
I don’t know, prevent teen pregnancy I guess… It’s not just the baby
part of it that’s hard, it’s that I’m not living for myself anymore I’m
living for another human being…I’d like to be an advocate to prevent
teen pregnancy because its not a situation you strive for I
guess…Kids should just wait–it’s not glamorous at all."

In many ways, Bristol appears on the national stage just in the
nick of time. Teen birth rates are suddenly spiking nationally after
fifteen years of steady decline and Congress is about to consider
re-funding the failed abstinence-only policies that likely led to this
trend. An organization like The National Campaign for the Prevention of
Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy could use a spokesperson like Palin right
about now. Together, armed with real data, they can educate teens about
the real life consequences of sex and lobby for the policies that help
delay teen sexual activity and prevent unintended pregnancy. Palin has
already won fans in the organization. One is Bill Albert, Chief Program
Officer. He described Palin as ‘brave.’

"There has to be some real passion, great inner fortitude to come
forward to talk about these issues," Albert explained, "she said
something very powerful–‘I wish I had waited, I wish this beautiful
event could have happened in ten years.’ She said it in her own words
and it was not an anti-child message, not an anti-family message–it
was about timing and what order you want to take life’s most important
events. If she could turn back the big hands on the clock of time she
would have waited. That is a message on target with all the teen
parents we talk to. Teen mothers and fathers are the most powerful
messengers of all. She already is an advocate."

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