As you’ve probably heard Wednesday
was National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and to kick off the day
the Candie’s Foundation sent its new teen ambassador, Bristol Palin,
to make the rounds of the morning shows and the New York press scene.
The Candie’s Foundation’s mission
is "to educate America’s youth about the devastating consequences
of teen pregnancy through celebrity PSA campaigns and initiatives."
Americans couldn’t get enough of
Vice Presidential-nominee Sarah Palin and her brood during the presidential
campaign, especially pregnant teenager Bristol and her then-fiancé,
Levi Johnston. So, the foundation’s choice of a spokesperson
was a brilliant move guaranteed to bring much-needed attention to the
important issue of teen pregnancy.
Unfortunately, the message she seems
to have been asked to deliver is disingenuous at best and dangerous
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Since the campaign ended, Bristol
has given birth to a son, Tripp, broken up with her fiancée, and appeared
in an off-the-cuff interview on CNN in which she admitted that abstinence
was probably unrealistic for today’s teens. Though, today,
she says that that sentiment was taken out of context, one has to wonder
if it isn’t what she still believes.
Appearing poised and put together,
Bristol’s first live interview was with Good Morning America‘s
Chris Cuomo. Much of the interview focused on the difficulties
of being a teen mother from the fear of disappointing your parents to
the 24/7 grind of sleepless nights and washing bottles. Here,
Bristol did a good job of conveying the fact that teen parenting is
difficult and that even with the help, parental support, and national
attention she has gotten, it’s a life-changing experience and she
wishes she had waited to become a mother.
When asked about how to prevent teen
pregnancy, however, she spouted a strict abstinence message: "abstinence
is the only way that you can effectively, 100%, fool proof way to prevent
pregnancy." Though probably a little bungled, this is clearly
a talking point she was given during her media training to become the
foundation’s ambassador. This became even more clear when, pushed
by Chris Cuomo about safe sex, she simply repeated her abstinence message:
"I’m saying that there is one way to prevent it and that’s not
Bristol went from there to the
Today Show‘s couch where she sat down with Matt Lauer, her father,
and a peacefully sleeping Tripp. Again, much of the interview
focused on the difficulties of teen motherhood, and, again, she was
well-spoken and conveyed the message that this is not an easy life path.
When this interview veered toward prevention messages, Bristol seemed
a little more open to other options. Specifically, when asked
if there was room for the concept of safe sex she said: "if you’re
going to have sex you should have safe sex" before once again repeating
that "abstinence is the only 100% fool proof way of preventing teen
One has to wonder about the conversations
between Bristol and her media coaches on the way across town.
Did she ask to be able to speak her mind? Did they acknowledge
that a teen pregnancy prevention message does not have to, and, in fact,
should not, exclusively focus on abstinence? We will probably
What we do know is this: both Bristol
and the Candie’s Foundation have an excellent opportunity to draw
attention to the 750,000 teen pregnancies that occur in this country
each year (a statistic that both Chris Cuomo and Matt Lauer used as
an introduction to their pieces and millions of morning viewers now
know). And, they should use this opportunity to promote accurate
information and a balanced approach to prevention. Abstinence,
when used consistently and correctly, is 100% effective in preventing
pregnancy. But it clearly isn’t "foolproof" and it is not the
Let’s hope that instead of being
so rigid in their messaging, they use this terrific platform to tell
young people (and their parents) that it is important to delay sexual
activity and to use a reliable method of contraception (consistently
and correctly) as soon as they do become sexually active.