I thought we had reached a new low on the teen pregnancy front when Jamie Lynn Spears announced the impending birth of her baby and I had to explain it to my tween daughter. I wasn’t getting much support for my views and values when Spears was glamorized by being featured prominently on national magazine covers, complete with stories of her dreamy musings on how she was “ready” to become a mother.
As a gynecologist and a mother, I have spent decades counseling young girls to avoid teenage pregnancy. My recommendations always include delaying sexual activity, using contraception, and considering future goals and the way that teen pregnancy tends to make them unachievable. I didn’t expect any help from the entertainment press, but I was surprised nonetheless by how easily Spears' pregnancy was accepted, how her pre-baby planning and purchases were portrayed as normal events for a 16 year old, and how she and her baby appeared on national magazine covers.
Over the years, I’ve become very cynical on the issue of teen pregnancy, but evidently not cynical enough. I could never have imagined that I would be blindsided by the Republican Party glamorizing teen pregnancy.
Sarah Palin claims her teen daughter is currently five months pregnant. I take leave to doubt that she is pregnant now; it seems far more likely that she was pregnant during the 5 months she disappeared from school prior to the birth of her baby “brother” in April. Be that as it may, Sarah Palin’s teenage daughter did get pregnant sometime within the last year or so.
No family is perfect, poor decisions are made, and children should be loved and supported in their aftermath. Nonetheless, you can call me old fashioned, but I don’t think that being supportive of your child’s poor decisions means proudly parading her on a national stage. I certainly don’t think that being supportive means flying in her teenage boyfriend so he can appear with her in the national limelight. If this isn’t glamorizing teen pregnancy, I don’t know what is.
What are the Republicans thinking? If this child made a mistake, it should be a private, family concern. The child should be allowed to retire from public view. Will that hurt her mother’s image? I don’t know and I don’t care, and if Palin is concerned about her daughter, she shouldn’t care either. Her daughter’s well-being should trump other considerations and her daughter’s well-being is certainly not being served by shoving her onto a national TV stage, beamed live to millions of households around the country.
If the Republicans are the party of family values, they should stop glamorizing teenage pregnancy simply because one of their own has a pregnant teenage daughter. They should leave the daughter out of limelight, and that goes double for the boyfriend. This is a tragedy. Dressing it up and putting it on national TV as if it is perfectly acceptable so long as a shotgun marriage is in the works manages to be both exploitative and hypocritical.