Well, today Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin confirmed that her 17 year old daughter Bristol is five months pregnant. The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates of the industrialized world, despite the legalization and availability of various forms of contraception. Actually, teen birth rates are on the rise for the first time in 15 years, as 3 in 10 girls in the US become pregnant by age 20. Moreover, Latina teenagers have a pregnancy rate that is twice the national average.
It is reported that Sarah Palin supports abstinence only sex education. A recent national study showed that abstinence only sex education, which has been promoted by the Bush administration, is not working, while costing us $176 million per year. If Sarah Palin cannot even get her own daughter to comply with the lessons of abstinence only, then how does she expect the rest of the teens in America to do so?
Obviously, I don’t know Sarah Palin, but I assume like most parents that she wants the best for her children. Bristol’s decision to progress with her pregnancy is her business, but how can her mother in good faith continue to promote a policy that clearly is failing America’s children? European countries have better adolescent sexuality outcomes with lower teen pregnancy rates and fewer incidences of disease as their youth are exposed to more comprehensive sex education. Why can’t we learn from our European allies and take a more realistic approach to sex education?
Unfortunately, for many Latina pregnant teens, they don’t have the benefit of having mothers who earn higher than average salaries and who have wonderful government health benefits that would afford them an easier pregnancy or experience as a young mother. I hope that Latino parents pay attention to all candidates’ positions on teaching sex education and make the most informed choices in educating their children. We need to reverse this troubling trend in our community and in the country at large, especially if we want our youth to be able to compete successfully in the global economy.