American Children

I really don't want to comment on politics, but what is going on in the Republican Convention circus this week has clear implications for kids. No, I'm not talking about the anti-abortion stance. Yes, I'm talking about Sarah Palin.

I really don’t want to comment on politics, but what is going on in the Republican Convention circus this week has clear implications for kids. No, I’m not talking about the anti-abortion stance. Yes, I’m talking about Sarah Palin.

Almost 6 months ago, I discussed a study in which found that children attending high school provided with comprehensive sex education were around 60% less likely to get pregnant or cause pregnancy than children who had no formal sex education. As is evident in her both her political and personal philosophies, Governor Palin missed that memo.

Naturally, the choice of Bristol Palin to carry out the pregnancy should be respected — if, in fact, she actually made the choice herself. However, parading the pregnant teenager before a nation tonight along with her obviously immature fiancé sends many messages to adults and children alike, and all of them are wrong.

As someone who studied clinical psychology at in APA-approved graduate program, I’m appalled that a mother would expose her child to the scrutiny of not only the nation, but of the world. It’s an issue that is tough for a teenager to deal with privately, let alone in the public spotlight. But exponentially more harm lies ahead as the public conversation turns to “accidents happen” and “all babies are blessings.” The message? Don’t teach your kids about sex, it’s okay if pregnancy happens anyway, it’s always best for pregnant children to give birth, marriage between two children is okay, and hey, while we’re at it, let’s throw in the idea that pregnant girls will be emotionally (if not financially) supported by their families and society at large.

Raising a child takes more than love. It takes maturity and resources that most teenage mothers don’t have.

Let’s for just a minute pretend that teenage pregnancy doesn’t affect the health of the teenage mother. I want to focus on the last point, noting that Palin herself very recently gave funding for teenage mothers the old heave-ho. Consider the struggles of the SCHIP program over the last few years. The dismal state of our education system and a national conversation regarding vaccination and healthcare that centers upon “belief” as opposed to evidence-based medicine. There is a legitimate question circulating: have we, as a society, come to value the status of the fetus more than we value the health and welfare of the children living among us?

This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. This isn’t a feminist issue. This is an American issue. And it will be paraded on national television tonight.