Turning Attention to Pregnancy Prevention

After so much bullshit regarding Sarah Palin’s child and her daughter’s pregnancy, including smear tactics that I think would only serve to undermine the left in the end, I have to say that I’m absolutely thrilled that a major media organization is writing about McCain and Palin’s record on sexual and reproductive health.

Republican John McCain, whose running mate disclosed that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, has opposed proposals to spend federal money on teen-pregnancy prevention programs and voted to require poor teen mothers to stay in school or lose their benefits.

Palin herself said she opposes funding sexual-education programs in Alaska.

”The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support,” she wrote in a 2006 questionnaire distributed among gubernatorial candidates.

McCain’s position on contraceptives and teen pregnancy issues has been difficult to judge on the campaign trail, as he appears uncomfortable discussing such topics. Reporters asked the presumptive GOP presidential nominee in November 2007 whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, whether such programs should include directions for using contraceptives and whether he supports President Bush’s policy of promoting abstinence.

”Ahhh, I think I support the president’s policy,” McCain said.

When reporters pressed McCain whether the government should provide contraceptives or counseling on contraceptives, he replied, ”You’ve stumped me.” McCain said later that he was sure he opposed government spending on contraceptives.

The McCain campaign on Monday did not respond to repeated requests for information.

In Senate votes, McCain has opposed some proposals to pay for teen-pregnancy prevention programs. In 2006, McCain joined fellow Republicans in voting against a Senate Democratic proposal to send $100 million to communities for teen-pregnancy prevention programs that would have included sex education about contraceptives.

In 2005, McCain opposed a Senate Democratic proposal that would have spent tens of millions of dollars to pay for pregnancy prevention programs other than abstinence-only education, including education on emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill. The bill also would have required insurance companies that cover Viagra to also pay for prescription contraception.

This article isn’t from a progressive news source.  It’s from the AP.  While we’ve been seeing lots of articles like this one in liberal publications for months now, the AP picking it up in detail and without prompting from pro-choice groups is absolutely fabulous.  Specifically, and significantly, they’re even discussing pro-choice issues in much broader terms than just abortion.

I stand by the position that bringing Palin’s daughter into the spotlight is wrong, but I do not have a problem with making sex education, contraception access and teen pregnancy prevention significant campaign issues.  In fact, I fucking love it.  A large majority of parents support comprehensive sex education. And as polls show, far too many pro-choice Americans, specifically pro-choice women in swing states, do not know McCain’s record on reproductive health.  Bringing that into the spotlight can only help us.  I think we can do that without talking about Bristol Palin.  We’ve been doing it for years!  Only now, we have the public willing to listen.

So, supposedly progressive bloggers and commentators, how about instead of pissing yourselves in excitement as though trashing a woman’s parenting skills and the difficult reality of a teenage girl’s life is somehow going to help us in the election, all of us shut the fuck up about Bristol Palin and start talking about the stuff that matters and that could actually help us win this thing?  Leave the Palins as a family out of this, and discuss McCain and Palin as candidates on these issues while the public is interested in them.  With that strategy, for a change, we could actually both be and look like the good guys!  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Unless of course, supposedly progressive bloggers and commentators, you’re actually a lot more interested in making misogynist arguments than winning the election on merits, or at all, and in a way that doesn’t treat us female voters like second-class citizen political servants.  Quite the gamble, I know.

[BTW — to all of those self-identified “pro-lifers” who keep linking back to me, I’m both impressed and bemused that you are capable of writing blog posts while simultaneously being unable to read blog posts. But I have never said or implied, here or elsewhere, any of the following: that Sarah Palin should have had an abortion, that Bristol Palin should have an abortion, that I am amused by Bristol’s pregnancy, Sarah Palin’s child is actually Bristol’s, or that any of this should have a bearing on the election. Sorry to let this radical feminist, pro-abortion blogger disappoint.]

0 thoughts on “Turning Attention to Pregnancy Prevention

  1. Kristen

    “So, supposedly progressive bloggers and commentators, how about instead of pissing yourselves in excitement as though trashing a woman’s parenting skills and the difficult reality of a teenage girl’s life is somehow going to help us in the election, all of us shut the fuck up about Bristol Palin and start talking about the stuff that matters and that could actually help us win this thing?”

    Not to mention Bristol’s child will someday be a teenager who will undoubtedly read some of these horrid blog posts. How would you feel if an entire nation of people considered you a mistake?

    Reply
  2. POAndrea

    While I regret that Miss Bristol and her unfortunate condition has been made into such a media event, all I can say is “what did you expect?” It is Bush, Palin, McCain and like-minded politicians who have made women’s personal and private lives a matter of public policy and governmental interest. This seems to be a case of the chickens coming home to roost. A focus on abstinence-only sex education, limited funding for birth control, and restrictive abortion laws could forseeably result in many more families faced with situations just like this. Why SHOULDN’T we talk about Bristol, when these politicians have been talking about me, my daughters, and our uteri for years? Granted, the Palin family may be happy with the situation and may have found a workable and very satisfying arrangement. They may not view the coming child as a “mistake”. That is not for me or the American public to say, just as it is not for politicians to make these decisions about my own pregnancies. But they HAVE, and it’s only fair (though admittedly ugly) to discuss their and their family members’ reproductive choices as openly as they have debated and legislated my own.

    Reply
  3. Cara Post author

    Why SHOULDN’T we talk about Bristol, when these politicians have been talking about me, my daughters, and our uteri for years?

    Because Bristol is not a politician. Further, when talking about me, you, daughters, mothers, etc., we’re talking about groups of people. No one has ever singled out my reproductive choices and put it on the news. Further yet, just because they do it doesn’t make it right. The very fact that we’re constantly bemoaning that they do this is the very reason why we ought to show that we’re better than it. One can hardly complain about another’s actions when engaging in the same behavior. My goal is not to make the reproductive lives of ALL women public regardless of political affiliation. My goal is to all all women keep their reproductive lives as private as they wish to keep them and not be judged by society for the choice to have or not have a child.

    Reply
  4. Jenna

    You know what I’m sick of (along with everything you’ve mentioned), the fact that EVERY SINGLE MEDIA OUTLET attaches to Bristol Palin’s name – unmarried or unwed.

    She’s 17 effing years old – OF COURSE SHE’S UNMARRIED! There’s no need to spell it out because it SHOULD be the automatic assumption that someone so young is unmarried. And why add it at all unless you are attempting to attach some sort of stigma to it?! This isn’t 1958, A LOT of 17 year old’s become pregnant (just as they did then – remember 1957 was the year we had the most teen births in the US). There’s no need to keep reinforcing the fact that she got knocked up without that magic ring on her finger and license from the county. No one needs permission to become pregnant and a wedding ring isn’t a magical baby-making device.

    Basically, I’m pissed off that the media still treats teenagers as though they are pure, innocent, cherubs who have no interest in icky sex. If we treated sex, including teenage sexuality and sex, as though it were NORMAL and expected (like most other industrial nations DO), then it wouldn’t matter AT ALL that she’s 17 and pregnant. A LOT of 17 year olds are pregnant, 17 year olds have historically become pregnant. This is NOT new, she is not the first 17 year old protestant from conservative parents to become pregnant at an early age. Nor is it in any way shameful that she did so without jumping into marriage first.

    The media’s attempts to affix a scarlet letter on this girl are beyond my comprehension. Are we really a nation that is THAT prudish? Did we all, especially those working in the media, suddenly forget what we did when we were 17? Why are people treating this like some sort of shocking, shameful occurance?

    Sorry, that’s my rant for the day.

    Reply
  5. Lee

    I agree with POAndrea on this. They represent themselves as the party of “family values”, and stick their collective nose into every women’s very personal reproductive choices, but play the privacy card when Palin’s family shows that their own policies don’t work. Either reproductive matters are private for everyone, or they’re not. They can’t have it both ways.

    Don’t get me wrong. I do have plenty of sympathy for Bristol Palin, although it’s not just because she’s 17 and pregnant. It’s because Bristol’s sanctimonious, hypocrite of a mother decided to make her daughter’s already difficult life even worse by dragging her into the into the media spotlight in order to further her own career ambitions. If Sarah Palin REALLY didn’t want her family in the news, she should have turned down the VP nomination.

    Reply
  6. Jess

    Cara, thanks for this post. No matter how tempting it might seem for our side to ask snide questions like “how’s that abstinence-only education working out for your family, Gov. Palin?”, it’s a huge mistake. We can and should talk about the issues without dragging a teenage girl’s name through the mud. Why? Because the point of being pro-choice is that women’s lives and bodies shouldn’t just be political footballs to be thrown around for someone else’s gain.
    If we need more incentive that just plain ethics, think about tactics. Cara pointed this out too. Remember 4 years ago when John Edwards brought up the topic of Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter in the VP debate? Bad political move- it was spun as crass and opportunist and in bad taste. And that was nowhere near as mean-spirited as the things that are being said about Bristol Palin. Basically, the more liberals harp on the story of her pregnancy, the more we seem like asses. Unelectable asses. I’m glad Obama’s already distanced himself from the story.

    Reply
  7. Ryan

    This may just be me but I sort of feel like there may be this subtext in the MSM coverage that Sarah Palin has failed at parenting somehow. I’m sure a lot of parents get all kinds of surprises from 17 year old kids.

    Most times I hear about this story I keep thinking, “and… the point is? I’m glad to see that this situation is in fact leading to some meaningful discussion of the sex ed/birth control policies of the Republican ticket.

    Reply
  8. annajcook

    You know what I’m sick of (along with everything you’ve mentioned), the fact that EVERY SINGLE MEDIA OUTLET attaches to Bristol Palin’s name – unmarried or unwed.

    Not to mention Bristol’s child will someday be a teenager who will undoubtedly read some of these horrid blog posts. How would you feel if an entire nation of people considered you a mistake?

    Good points both. A lot of the pro-choice/liberal op-ed pieces I’ve read are still starting with the assumption that Ms. Palin made a “mistake,” was ignorant, etc., and that her decision to carry the pregnancy to term is lamentable. Who are we to make judgments about what’s right for her?

    I keep thinking that the explicitly feminist point to keep highlighting here is the question of agency — how much decision-making authority and the resources to make reproductive decisions teenagers have in our society, and how much Sarah Palin (and McCain) believe they should have. I’m glad that Ms. Palin’s pregnancy has brought that issue to the forefront of the political news coverage, but I wish it could be done in a way that respects the privacy of the real people (at least those not running for office) involved.

    Reply
  9. POAndrea

    Thank you, annajcook for writing “the explicitly feminist point to keep highlighting here is the question of agency — how much decision-making authority and the resources to make reproductive decisions teenagers have in our society, and how much Sarah Palin (and McCain) believe they should have.” (my apologies–I don’t know how to do that nifty quote-thing)

    BEAUTIFUL!!

    Add “adult women” after teenagers, and I think you’ve said it ALL. This is what scares the hell outta me when considering the devastation that the McCain/Palin duo could inflict upon women’s rights. Their beliefs and values are infuriating enough, but when these threaten to become reality through laws and funding policies they are absolutely TERRIFYING.

    Reply

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