VIDEO: Bristol Palin Says Abstinence “Isn’t Realistic”

Emily Douglas

Bristol Palin tells Fox News: abstinence isn't "realistic," teen parenting isn't something to "strive for," and having her baby Tripp was her choice, not her mother's.

For Bristol Palin, being a teen parent poses existential questions.

Now that her son Tripp is born, she wouldn’t want it any other way. And yet she wishes having a baby had happened a decade from now.

"Of course, I wish it would happen in like 10 years, so I
could have a job and an education and my own house and be prepared and
stuff," she told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren.  

In an interview, Sarah Palin’s daughter made a few things clear: having a baby, Tripp, was a choice; it was her choice, not her mother’s; she likes being a mom, and yet, being a teen parent is not something to "strive for."

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

This both-and reality can work for Bristol — and thank goodness it does.  She can both know that she made the right choice and wish that she had never been presented with the options she faced.  How
would Bristol feel now if her family — who help her out more than she
could have imagined, she said — weren’t there to help her out?  If she
hadn’t had a choice, if what she decided was right for her wasn’t
available at all?  If her wish never to have been faced with the challenges of parenting at 18 was read as an admission that she never should have had a baby now?

"It was my choice to have the baby," Bristol said. "It doesn’t matter what my mom’s thoughts are on it." 

When Van Susteren pushed Bristol on whether she and Levi had been "lazy" or "uninterested" in contraception, or opposed it for philosophical or religious reasons, Bristol declined to answer, but said, "Abstinence is…like the, the main…everyone should be abstinent, but it’s not realistic at all."  Why not?  "Because it’s more and more accepted," she explained.

"I hope that people learn from my story and prevent teen pregnancy," she said.  Then she took it one step further: "I’d like to be an advocate to prevent teen pregnancy."  Bristol, you have an open invitation here.

News Abortion

Why You Won’t Hear About Abortion From Arizona’s Largest OB-GYN Network

Nicole Knight Shine

MomDoc imposes a virtual gag order on employees when it comes to abortion care, as a half-dozen former OB-GYNs, nurse practitioners, and support staff told Rewire in a series of interviews.

The voice on the other end of the phone is friendly, but unhelpful, when a Rewire reporter says she’s six weeks pregnant and would like an abortion.

“We don’t provide that,” Marie says.

Marie makes appointments for MomDoc, Arizona’s largest women’s health network. MomDoc is owned and run by Mormons who ascribe to a belief that opposes abortion in nearly all cases.

“Can you tell me where I can get an abortion?” the reporter asks.

Marie says she can’t. “I’m sorry,” she adds.

MomDoc imposes a virtual gag order on employees when it comes to abortion care, as a half-dozen former OB-GYNs, nurse practitioners, and support staff told Rewire in a series of recent interviews by phone and email. What they described affords a window into the workings of a private medical practice, one that opposes abortion care and attempts to suppress abortion access on religious grounds.

What MomDoc represents is a real-life test case pitting the power of religious beliefs against the provision of basic health information about a procedure that, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 30 percent of all U.S. women will have before age 45.

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It’s good business to oppose abortion in the sprawling Phoenix basin, home to the largest concentration of Mormons outside of Utah, according to the most recent U.S. Religion Census.

MomDoc CEO Nick Goodman didn’t respond to repeated requests for interviews and comment.

Started in 1976 by two Mormon OB-GYNs, MomDoc has 21 offices that operate under various names, such as Goodman & Partridge, MomDoc Midwives, MomDoc Women for Women, and Mi Doctora. MomDoc health-care centers offer reproductive services like birth control, and accept Medicaid patients, which means MomDoc is paid with federal dollars.

That Arizona’s largest OB-GYN practice opposes abortion care disturbs pro-choice advocates in a state where reproductive health access is constricted by forced waiting periods, parental consent requirements, and state-directed counseling intended to discourage patients.

Ethical guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a professional organization of 57,000 members, advise physicians who object to abortion on religious grounds to notify patients beforehand and to refer them to abortion providers.

“You need to give your patients all the options so they can make their own choice,” Julie Kwatra, legislative chair of the Arizona chapter of ACOG, told Rewire in a phone interview. “Not telling a patient information is in opposition to every rule of medicine.”

In 2012, Arizona’s right-leaning legislature instituted a religious privilege law that shields health-care professionals who hold religious beliefs from losing licensure.

These protections, critics argue, further stigmatize a legal medical procedure that’s already under attack in GOP-held legislatures nationwide.

MomDoc’s website and advertisements make no mention of its faith-based opposition to abortion rights, pro-choice advocates note.

“Drive down the freeway and every other billboard will be a MomDoc billboard on how they provide midwife care and how they really care about the family,” Kat Sabine, executive director of NARAL Arizona, said in a phone interview with Rewire. “To me it’s almost like locking down and cordoning off abortion care even more than it is in the community.”

By asking its employees to refrain from discussing abortion care, MomDoc runs counter to prevailing professional health-care norms to inform and refer patients, explained Lori Freedman, author of Willing and Unable, a book about doctors’ constraints on abortion.

“I think there’s an ethical problem there—this is information patients would want,” Freedman said a phone interview with Rewire.

It’s impossible to know how many religiously run practices across the country try to silence employees when it comes to abortion care. The executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the group has not polled its 2,500 members on whether they refer patients to abortion providers, but said the organization’s overall position is “abortion hurts women.”

A recent attempt to muzzle a Washington, D.C., OB-GYN grabbed national headlines after her employer told her not to “put a Kmart blue-light special on the fact that we provide abortions.” Although the facility where the provider works doesn’t restrict access to abortion care, the case and MomDoc’s policy are both rooted in a federal measure called the Church Amendment.

Adopted in 1973 shortly after the landmark Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, the Church Amendment offers protections for health-care workers at federally funded institutions who object to participating in abortions for moral or religious reasons. Attorneys for a Washington OB-GYN are arguing in a complaint filed with the Office for Civil Rights that those protections also extend to doctors who wish to speak up in favor of abortion.

MomDoc’s abortion taboo pervades its hiring and employment practices, former employees told Rewire. They asked Rewire not to reveal their names, fearing employment reprisals. Local OB-GYNs familiar with MomDoc, or whose colleagues had interviewed with the practice or work there, helped to corroborate these accounts.

“They brought it up at the [job] interview,” said an OB-GYN who worked for nearly five years in MomDoc clinics in the Arizona towns of Gilbert and Queen Creek. “They said they don’t do abortions, don’t talk about it, don’t refer [patients].”

The OB-GYN and others felt the prohibition was a condition of employment, saying that those who opposed MomDoc’s staunch anti-choice stance “got screened out.”

Once hired, the former OB-GYN said of abortion, “I talked about it, I know other doctors talked about it.”

Indeed, the former MomDoc OB-GYN said of discussing abortion care with patients: “I would always start off telling the patient, ‘I’m not supposed to talk about this, but I will.’” 

The former OB-GYN told Rewire that she’d caution patients to stay mum, and not tell her employer.

“Kind of saying, if you tell them I did [discuss abortion], I’m going to deny it,” the former OB-GYN explained, adding that discussing abortion wasn’t something she felt would lead to her termination.

The day-to-day reality of MomDoc’s abortion taboo seemed to depend on the employee’s position. Support staff described to Rewire how supervisors and team leads imposed an ongoing gag order on abortion.

“I was told in my training that abortion was not something we did, it was not something we promoted, it was not something we referred [patients to],” said an employee who worked in surgery and referrals from 2011 to 2012.

“They told us every conversation was recorded,” said a 72-year-old former appointment setter who worked for six years in MomDoc’s corporate office in Chandler, where she was told not to provide abortion information to callers. She said she’d occasionally “sneak in” a referral to an abortion provider.

“I worked in the medical field for 35 years, and I have never been told I can’t discuss a procedure,” the former scheduler said.

Asked how the policy was enforced, a former OB-GYN said, “I don’t remember anything being in my contract about abortions; it was more of a verbal thing.”

At times, the application of the anti-choice policy seemed uneven. A former nurse practitioner, who worked in Goodman & Partridge and MomDoc facilities from 2013 to 2014, said she was warned in a job interview not to talk about Plan B, emergency contraception that helps prevent pregnancy, rather than abortion.

“I was never told that directly that I couldn’t refer patients to abortion providers,” she recalled in a phone interview. “I had patients that did choose abortion, and I referred them.”

In the end, what the former employees described perhaps exposes the practical limits of imposing a religious gag order on a legal health-care procedure on staff who may not share their employer’s beliefs. Those in a position to do so may merely pay lip service to the prohibition.

“Obviously, when you have a crying teenager in front of you,” a former MomDoc OB-GYN said, “you’re going to help them, you’re going to refer them.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Doesn’t Want Tubman on the $20, Cruz Holds Up Anti-Slavery Bill

Ally Boguhn

Speaking at a town hall event on Thursday, Donald Trump said that while Harriet Tubman is “fantastic,” portraying her on the $20 bill was just “pure political correctness.”

Donald Trump couldn’t get behind putting iconic abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill this week, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is reportedly holding up an anti-slavery measure over abortion access.

Trump Upset Tubman Will Be On $20 Bill 

Trump wasn’t thrilled with news that Tubman would replace former President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill.

Speaking at NBC’s TODAY town hall event on Thursday, Trump said that while Tubman is “fantastic,” portraying her on the $20 bill was just “pure political correctness.”

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“Andrew Jackson had a great history … [Jackson] had a history of tremendous success for the country,” Trump said when asked by host Matt Lauer to address the change. “Maybe we can come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill, or we do another bill. I don’t like seeing it.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced Wednesday that Tubman would replace Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. An image of Jackson will remain on the back. 

Ben Carson, Trump’s former rival for the Republican nomination turned supporter, also thought it’d be best to put Tubman on the $2 bill. “I love Harriet Tubman,” Carson said Wednesday during an appearance on Fox Business Network’s Cavuto: Coast to Coast. “I love what she did, but we can find another way to honor her. Maybe a $2 bill.”

Carson said that Jackson “was a tremendous president.”

“I mean, Andrew Jackson was the last president who actually balanced the federal budget, where we had no national debt,” he told Cavuto.

Cruz Reportedly Holding up Anti-Slavery Bill Because of Abortion

Cruz is reportedly holding up a bipartisan bill to help end slavery over concerns that it could help fund abortion care.

The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act (EMSI), sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), would “help eliminate slavery and human trafficking around the globe,” according to a press release announcing the bill.

The legislation would establish the End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation, a nonprofit organization to fund grants outside of the United States. Though it would be funded in part by the federal government, 80 percent of the $1.5 billion the organization would hope to have would come from the private sector and foreign governments.

Though it’s “Senate tradition to decline to say who has put such a hold on a bill,” TIME reports that “research suggests that it’s Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Ted Cruz of Texas, who is currently running for the GOP presidential nomination. The bill’s supporters say the Senators are holding the bill over a concern that some of the anti-slavery money might be used to pay for abortions.”

A Cruz spokesperson told the publication that while the senator supports the goals of the legislation, “he has some concerns with the EMSI bill, specifically whether it does enough to ensure that the foundation created by the bill would not be able to fund organizations that provide or support abortions.”

The Helms Amendment already ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

What Else We’re Reading

Anti-choice groups are gearing up for a showdown with Trump.

Cruz doubled down on his support of bathroom discrimination laws after Trump told NBC: “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.”

The Boston Globe has a long read explaining how Trump’s time in the pageant business “foreshadows a reputation for sexism and misogyny that sticks with him nearly 25 years later, in his presidential bid, in which coarse descriptions of women and perceived sexist comments have left him with extraordinarily high unfavorable ratings among women.”

Cruz refused to meet with a delegation of Muslims on Muslim Advocacy Day.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign says that Clinton would be open to picking a woman as her running mate should she win the nomination. “We’ll start with a broad list [of potential vice presidential candidates] and then begin to narrow it,” Clinton spokesperson John Podesta told the Boston Globe. “But there is no question that there will be women on that list.”

CNN reports that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has reserved nearly $40 million worth of airtime in states with key Senate races, including Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada, in hopes of retaking the Senate majority.

The Huffington Post reports that Google Trends show that “Ted Cruz’s supporters share his weird fixation with soup.” Supporters of candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are more likely to run a Google search for “Vegan Passover recipes” or a recipe for guacamole, while Clinton’s supporters searched for recipes for meat pies and quinoa.

Ohio Republicans are sponsoring a bill that could jeopardize emergency voting extensions in the state. According to ThinkProgress:

If legislation sponsored by Republican State Senator Bill Seitz is approved, anyone petitioning a judge to extend voting hours would have to put up a cash bond to cover the cost, which could range in the tens of thousands of dollars. If a court later finds that the polls should not have remained open, the voter would forfeit all the money. Only those who are so poor they can be certified as indigent would be exempted.

CORRECTION: The headline of this article has been updated to clarify Sen. Ted Cruz’s reported actions on the anti-slavery bill.