Where oh where to begin? For a sexologist and sexuality educator, the news about Governor Sarah Palin's nomination and the subsequent information that has come to light about her family is simultaneously a nightmare and a dream come true. Between her pro-life, anti-sex ed, pro-gun, anti-gay marriage, pro-creationism beliefs and her teen daughter's out-of-wedlock pregnancy, there is plenty of material to address.
First things first. Full disclosure: I am pro-comprehensive sexuality education, pro-choice (I believe that individuals are entitled to make their choices when it comes to their bodies), pro-same sex marriage, and I firmly believe that religion has no place in public education. And quite frankly, the nomination of Sarah Palin excites me as an Obama supporter, but scares the crap out of me as a woman.
When I was sixteen, two years before I had sex for the first time, I carried a loose-leaf with the words, "Support Vaginal Pride," plastered across the front. I had picked the sticker up at a choice rally sometime in 1992. I have always been pro-choice in theory, but until I became pregnant with my son, I didn't have any idea how pro-choice I really was. While I love my son, pregnancy was excruciating for me. I was depressed, throwing up daily for twenty weeks, uncomfortable, my body felt like it didn't belong to me, and I had tried to get pregnant! I couldn't imagine having to go through this (let alone raising a child in the end) if I wasn't ready physically let alone emotionally. While pregnancy was right for me at a certain point in my life, it definitely isn't right for everyone, especially a teenager.
Going through with a pregnancy - whether it is a fetus with special needs or not - does not make a woman a hero. It does not make her brave. What is brave is being honest with yourself and determining whether or not you are capable of bringing another life into this world and unconditionally taking care of it. It is equally brave and honest to admit that you cannot care for a baby, and thus, decide to terminate. Palin isn't a martyr. Let's be sure that we don't place her on a pedestal for her actions. She made her decision and many other women make theirs. I am a supporter of all choices and Palin is no better than anyone else.
Yet from a sexually political perspective, Palin is terrifying. Sarah Palin is anti-choice across the board. She doesn't believe in abortions for girls and women who are victims of incest or rape.
As for Bristol Palin, the Governor's pregnant 17-year-old, she has followed in the footsteps of many girls this year, becoming yet another statistic of teen pregnancy. I don't know when it became in vogue for young girls to forgo protection, get knocked up and refuse to consider the option of termination, but clearly our policies about reproductive health services and sexuality education (specifically the abstinence-only movement) have done a great disservice to our youth. Quite frankly this incident underscores the fact that Governor Palin's adherence to abstinence-only-until-marriage sexuality education is a waste of time and money.
Let's try to remember that those of us who support a woman's right to choose aren't suggesting that all women run out and terminate pregnancies. We believe that every woman has the right to make her own decision; for some that means termination, for others it means continuing the pregnancy. In the end, who am I (and who are all these politicians?) to suggest that women can't do that? What was right for Palin (and questionably her daughter) is definitely not right for all.
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