Conservative Republicans are adamant on the issue of teenage pregnancy, unless of course the teenager in question is the daughter of one of their leading candidates. Suddenly, compassion, forgiveness and open mindedness becomes the proper and expected mode of thinking and everyone is supposed to get in line and applaud the courage it took to admit the improprieties. That is, as long as there's a promise to reform, warn others to do differently, and thank the Lord along the way. Sorry, Sarah. We aren't buying it.
Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin has been a staunch advocate of fighting against a woman's right to choose. I have to give her credit for not being hypocritical. She stood by her belief in the rights of an unborn child and, no matter where you stand on that issue, she didn't say one thing and do another. But a consistent political stance clearly isn't a recipe for raising teenage daughters, or sons. That her own child got pregnant isn't in itself a character flaw or condemnation of her as a person. But it does show a glaring lack of understanding of practical issues and a failure to communicate the right message at the most fundamental level - as a parent.
If Sarah Palin doesn't believe in sex education in schools she should at least recognize that it's the parents' job to educate their children on the subject. My parents were pro-lifers and very conservative. My dad was a pastor, and so was my grandfather. But they had the foresight to inform me of all the trappings of an early pregnancy. They did everything they could to ensure that I, and my five siblings, understood all the responsibilities that went along with having sex. There wasn't an unwanted teenage pregnancy among us and we all went on to get college educations. These days, that's quite a statistic.
Mom and Dad sure didn't encourage me to have sex. Far from it. But they were intelligent enough to prepare for the inevitable possibility that I would one day become sexually active. My mother sat me down at home with photos and informed me about sexual reproduction, STDs and various methods of contraception in graphic detail. She showed me what sexual organs look like when they've been infected with a sexually transmitted disease. She made darn sure I'd recognize a penis with gonorrhea if I ever saw one. I guess you could say it kind of took the wind out of my sails. Not that I was a prude in high school, but I was very careful in my choices, and that is because of my parents' influence.
I still remember one thing loud and clear that my mother said to me: "I am raising six children, and I will not raise a seventh. If you get pregnant, I will support you and will always love you, but I am not raising your child. You have a lot of dreams and goals, and they will all be put on hold if you have children before you're ready."
I was fortunate. The older I get the more I realize that I really have extraordinary parents. These aren't easy conversations for parents to have with their children, but they're needed. So many of my friends had parents who threatened them into celibacy by saying, "If you have sex you are going to hell." But kids in Christian schools like the one I went to weren't any less horny for being told sex before marriage is a sin. Quite the opposite! Of course they were going to have sex. Some girls didn't use contraception because they were afraid their parents would find it. I overheard girls advising each other in the locker room to "just have him pull out." It was totally backwards, and so not what my mom talked to me about!
Sex became this thing kids did in secrecy. They didn't talk to their parents about it until they were in trouble because they were afraid. To me, the lack of education, whether from a parent or teacher, was the obvious problem. But apparently not to Sarah Palin.
I don't pretend to know what went on inside the four walls of the vice presidential candidate's home. But having gone to a Presbyterian school and grown up around girls just like her 17-year old daughter, it's a fair guess that this teen didn't have much access to sex education with a politician mother who opposes it.
That suggests Bristol has parents who are out of touch with reality. Sexy images are being pumped at teens every day. They have access to all kinds of information on the Internet, much of it dangerously misinforming. Do they really think telling kids nothing other than to "just say no" is going to stop their sexual urges? Do they really believe the fire and brimstone approach is going to stop the inevitable?
And now that Bristol is pregnant (surprise, surprise), it will be interesting to see if the media buys into the way the Republican Party is framing this. They're saying that the girl is going to marry her high school hockey-player boyfriend, like that's somehow going make the whole thing okay. You know it's never going to work. That girl and her child are going to be in trouble. It's like Jamie Lynn Spears all over again. She made the airbrushed cover of Okay! Magazine, but the father of her child - the product of another upright Christian education - is still running around with other girls.
Instead of putting a Band-Aid over the whole mess with a shotgun wedding, why not do everything we can to make sure it never happens? It's like Barack Obama said in his speech last week: whether we are for abortion or against it, surely we can all agree access to education and birth control to prevent unwanted teen pregnancies from happening in the first place.
Exactly my point! Pro-choice? Pro-life? Democrat? Republican? When it comes to teens, these polarizing labels shouldn't even be on the table. Why not pro-education?
Tina Wells, 28, founded Buzz Marketing Group (www.buzzmg.com) when she was just 16. A leading consulting company that specializes in the latest youth trends, Buzz clients include St. Martin's Press, SonyBMG, Sesame Workshop and Time Inc., to name a few. A trailblazer in her field, her list of honors include Essence Magazine's 40 Under 40 Award, Billboard's 30 Under 30 Award, and AOL's Black Voices Female Entrepreneur's Award.