Younger Palin Pushes Teen Pregnancy Issue
Flashing a smile on the cover of the July 14 US Weekly with her baby and new fiancé Levi Johnston, she has quickly become the poster child of teen pregnancy—a title Palin is willingly accepting.
Two years ago, Bristol Palin’s teen pregnancy sent shockwaves throughout her mother, Sarah Palin's vice presidential campaign. Had John McCain become president, the pregnant teen would have probably been “forced” to marry her baby’s father much sooner.
However, after the campaign ended, the couple’s relationship also took a turn for the worse. They broke up and Johnston fought back in a heated custody battle with the Palins, taking the time to publicly attack the former vice presidential hopeful to the media (as well as pose half-nude in an issue of Playgirl).
Bristol made the talk show circuit, hoping to do damage control. By some twist of fate however, the couple recently found their way back together, announcing their reunion and second engagement inside the gossip rag.
The notice of an upcoming marriage between the two comes as good news for the politician’s daughter. Bristol Palin, who has been noted as having the highest profile teen pregnancy since let’s say, Jaime Lynn Spears, has been the butt of countless jokes for her highly stigmatized situation. Unlike Spears however, Palin has actually worked to inform teen girls on the issue of teen motherhood and pregnancy.
Back in May in her appearance on Good Morning America, the teen mother said, "Regardless of what I did personally, abstinence is the only 100 percent foolproof way you can prevent pregnancy." While some would argue that Palin is a hypocrite, it seems that she genuinely wants young girls like herself to learn from her mistake. On the ABC Family teen program, "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," Palin also used her situation to help give a face to the teen pregnancy issues dealt with on the show. She was named a Teen Abstinence Ambassador for the Candie’s Foundation and has worked extensively with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
But for some reason, nobody seems to be giving the girl a break.
Though her purpose for being so outspoken on teen pregnancy may be the result of pressure from her politically motivated mother, perhaps the public should just lighten up. Bristol Palin has been blamed for glamorizing the topic of teen pregnancy but really it is the media who is to blame for that. Shocker.
Typical gossip magazines and even traditional news outlets, like CNN and Fox, have not only scrutinized the politician’s daughter to no end, but through ridiculous headlines and tabloid talk have stigmatized and characterized teen pregnancy deeper in the hole of taboo. The discussion should be opened and led by someone with an appropriate voice like Palin. The media should not only allow her to do this freely but also spare her humiliating media backtalk.
For one, Palin is recognizing how relevant the pregnancy issue is to teen girls. She also has the ability to sensitize the conversation because she’s experienced it firsthand. MTV has also taken similar measures with its popular reality program, "Sixteen and Pregnant." Ditching its superficial prequel, "My Super Sweet Sixteen," for a show with more substance, "Sixteen and Pregnant" captures the real-life struggles, challenges and joys of teen mothers. This depiction provides another perspective for young people to model and learn from.
With the issue of teen pregnancy barely embraced in popular culture, if Palin wants to accept the mantle as the issue’s newest young advocate, the public and media should just let her be.
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