Bristol Palin promotes teen pregnancy

That’s not the official plan, of course. Bristol Palin has been hired by a national foundation ostensibly to “raise awareness” for teen pregnancy prevention. It seems a decidedly poor choice since Bristol Palin has done more to glamorize teen pregnancy than any other individual.

Palin’s story is hardly a cautionary tale. The typical teen pregnancy is shadowed by shame, fear and the specter of poverty. Bristol’s teen pregnancy differed not simply because her avowedly Fundamentalist mother, the governor of Alaska, has publicly supported her, both emotionally and financially. The principle difference is that Bristol’s unwed teen pregnancy catapulted her to a life of national celebrity.

Rather than being viewed as a source of shame to be hidden away, Bristol Palin and her boyfriend were proudly displayed at the Republican Party Convention. John McCain, attempting to bask in the light of her celebrity, actually went to the airport to greet her and the baby’s father when they arrived in Minnesota. She made multiple appearances on national TV and her story was breathlessly covered by celebrity publications like People Magazine. Bristol Palin has continued to bask in her new-found celebrity since the baby’s birth. In a February interview by Fox News, she declared that teen sexual abstinence is “not realistic at all.”

Prior to Bristol Palin’s appearance on the national stage, I had thought we 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. Despite that, I was blindsided by the willingness, even eagerness, of the Republican Party and the national press to glamorize Bristol Palin.

No family is perfect, poor decisions are made, and children should be loved and supported in their aftermath. Nonetheless, 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 that isn’t glamorizing teen pregnancy, I don’t know what is.

Bristol Palin hired to promote awareness of teen pregnancy? Does her story — get pregnant, have your pregnancy supported by your famous mother, have your boyfriend invited to join you on national television, be personally greeted at the airport by the Republican presidential candidate, give interviews to celebrity magazine — discourage teen pregnancy or promote it?