Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Palin and Pregnancy - No, not THAT Pregnancy

The Daily Sentinel is absolutely correct in its' editorial this morning that the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's oldest daughter, Bristol, has no bearing or relevance to the Presidential campaign that will occupy a great deal of Gov. Palin's time over the next two months. Barack Obama said the same thing on Monday.

This does not mean that Governor Palin's stated public positions and actions as Governor of Alaska are off limits, particularly with regard to issues related to teenage pregnancy and support for teenage and young adult mothers.

Today's Chicago Tribune includes a report on additional attention being leveled at the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education programs, such as those advocated by Gov. Palin and utilized at the school her daughter attends.

Conflicting studies cited in the story report anywhere from a similar likelihood that teens receiving abstinence-based education will become as sexually active as those who do not participate, to a "stalling" of teenage sexual activity in response to these programs. Sounds like it's a billion-dollar wash to me.

A fellow from yet another overly influential think tank was quoted as saying that "abstinence programs are effective, particularly when you consider we are swimming in a culture that overwhelmingly promotes casual teen sex".

That's just great; they're trying to use this issue as cannon fodder in the culture wars. It's too important for posturing. There are literally lives at stake. The best quote in this story was from a director of a national advocacy group, whose mission includes efforts to "strengthen a culture of personal responsibility regarding sex, getting pregnant, and bringing children into the world". He said:
"Too often abstinence and contraception are pitted against each other as contradictory policies when in fact they are complementary strategies. We want to encourage young people to delay. We also understand that at some point they are going to be sexually active and they will need information about contraception."
So it's about communication, consensus, recognizing the reality of human nature, and developing reasonable alternative strategies. That's a little better.

Another report in yesterday's Washington Post stated that Gov. Palin used her line-item veto to cut funding by 20 percent to a program designed to help expectant teenage mothers with developing life skills and providing a transitional place to live. A graphic of actual budget line-items also shows that the Governor completely vetoed a library project, and cut funding to a food bank by 50%. And that was just part of one page.

Not all expectant young mothers have the family support, real or perceived, to deal with the consequences of their actions. We can stand there, pass judgment, and do nothing, or we can act collectively as an example of Christ's love (or a community of compassion, if you prefer) for the benefit of all concerned. Like it or not, sometimes the government is the only way to sustain these efforts.

My late wife volunteered as a mentor, and we gave financial support to, Hope Haven, a transitional home for pregnant women in Grand Junction that ceased operations a couple of years ago. While most if not all of the clients were adult women, the core mission of the facility was a valid one, as opposed to the alternative.

For an example of that, we need look no further than the matter of Morgan Hite, age 22. Already the mother of a 4-year-old daughter, Morgan was visiting her parents in Grand Junction this past February when she allegedly delivered a baby boy in the neighbors' bathtub, placed him in a plastic tote bag, and left him to die in one of her parents' closets before going back Wasilla, Alaska.

Governor Palin dutifully signed an extradition warrant to allow Ms. Hite to be brought back to Colorado to face trial. While the costs of her prosecution and possible incarceration pale in comparison to the loss of a human life in such an indifferent manner, one has to ask what can be done to prevent these types of situations, with the costs of our collective inaction in mind as well.

Barring a wholesale change of hearts and minds away from a culture that helps to promote irresponsible behavior among our teens and young adults, it's up to us as citizens to continue to support non-profit and government-supported initiatives that deal with the problem in a realistic fashion, along with communicating with our own kids regarding the risks of being sexually active. An example is Mesa County's Nurse-Family Partnership that I wrote about in July.

This is an area that Janet Rowland can speak well to, given her background in the Human Services arena. Maybe we should get these two together.

My girlfriend Leslie, who has a knack for distilling things down to common sense terms, said it best while we were talking about this:
"If there is a child in need, and I am capable, then that is my child".
Best wishes to Bristol Palin, her fiancee, and their respective families for a healthy baby and strong, loving relationships to nurture her with. My prayers go out to every woman, regardless of age, facing a pregnancy alone. Please know that you're not.

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