Notes on Sarah Palin, Politics and Teenage Pregnancy

September 3, 2008

– The Reverend Debra W. Haffner, director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, makes a good argument on the limits of family privacy when there are important public issues at stake. In a column reprinted at RH Reality Check, Haffner writes that the unplanned pregnancy of Gov. Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter “raises legitimate questions about Gov. Palin’s positions on sexuality education, teenage pregnancy and reproductive choice. Americans have every right, and American media the responsibility, to explore those questions without exploiting the child involved.”

– Funny that Rachel today cited a section of the Republican Platform that claims the party has “a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy.”

The Washington Post notes that Palin used her line item veto to slash funding for programs that serve teenage mothers:

After the legislature passed a spending bill in April, Palin went through the measure reducing and eliminating funds for programs she opposed. Inking her initials on the legislation — “SP” — Palin reduced funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20 percent, cutting funds from $5 million to $3.9 million. Covenant House is a mix of programs and shelters for troubled youths, including Passage House, which is a transitional home for teenage mothers.

According to Passage House’s web site, its purpose is to provide “young mothers a place to live with their babies for up to eighteen months while they gain the necessary skills and resources to change their lives” and help teen moms “become productive, successful, independent adults who create and provide a stable environment for themselves and their families.”

Michelle Cottle at TNR says it best:

I’m sorry, but a politician who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and who opposes comprehensive sex education should be at the forefront of championing support systems that make it easier for young mothers to keep their babies. […]

Surely a program aimed at assisting the most desperate of young mothers — those whose boyfriends aren’t amenable to a shotgun wedding or who don’t have a strong family support system — would be something a pro-life feminist such as Palin would work to expand not destroy.

– On the subject of working mothers, Ann Friedman suggests changing the conversation from can Gov. Palin balance work and family in the White House to what is she doing to help other working mothers?

Where does Palin stand on S-CHIP? On fair pay? On paid family leave? I have no idea. But her running mate, John McCain, was rated by the Children’s Defense [Fund Action Council] as the worst senator for children. He supports businesses who discriminate on the basis of gender. He attempted to weaken the Family and Medical Leave Act. And he supported Bush’s veto of S-CHIP. (Gloria Feldt and Carol Joffee have more.)

The real story here is not how Sarah Palin chooses to balance her own life. It’s about whether she (and McCain) are committed to making these choices easier for all women. And clearly, the answer is no.

– FInally, I think Rebecca Traister does an excellent job of summing up the frustration many have voiced about Palin’s nomination:

In his callous, superficial and ill-judged attempt to woo women voters with the presence of mammary glands on his ticket — hot, young ones to boot — McCain has committed a sickening grievance against both voters and those female politicians whom he purports to respect and support. What a failure by McCain to have this woman — with her pregnancies and progeny and sex life and child-rearing prowess now being inspected instead of her policy and voting history — stand in for, and someday, possibly emblemize the political progress of American women, especially at a moment at which women had, temporarily it seems, risen far enough above our gestational capabilities to be taken seriously in the race for the White House.

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