Monday, September 01, 2008

Who is Against Bristol Palin?

CNN reports that evangelicals are rallying around Bristol Palin. And I'm glad to hear it. I'm glad that nobody is portraying her as a slut or whore. I'm glad that the evangelical community is reacting to the news with compassion given that they believe her to have engaged in what they see as immoral behavior, and I hope that they would demonstrate that compassion to all other women who have engaged in similar behavior -- both on a micro-level (in personal relations) and a macro-level (in terms of public policy).

And I, along with everybody else who identifies as pro-choice, respect her choice to keep her child. That is, of course, implicit in the definition of "choice". Assuming (as seems reasonable) that this was not a planned pregnancy, I wish that she had access to contraception and birth control so that she did not become pregnant before she was ready (I feel like it is a fair assumption that she received a pretty strong pro-abstinence message from her family). And if she did use contraception and it failed, then I hope that she had a full array of options presented to her, and that she made a free and independent decision about her future. And yes, I hope that she made it in consultation with her parents, not because I don't respect her autonomy, but because I hope that all teenagers feel safe and comfortable in discussing such weighty matters with their parents. It is a blessing that Bristol did appear to feel secure in talking to her parents about this. Many teens do not have that in their lives.

So when evangelical leader Richard Land says this:
"This is the pro-life choice. The fact that people will criticize her for this shows the astounding extent to which the secular critics of the pro-life movement just don't get it," Land said in a statement.

I am left perplexed. Who is "criticizing" Bristol Palin? At absolute worst, it is a data point for the proposition that abstinence-only is an insufficient reproductive health message for teens. But even that argument hasn't really cropped up. At Feministing, they note that insofar as Bristol had a "choice" on whether to keep her child (a point the McCain/Palin campaign emphasized to the press), that's a choice McCain and Palin want to take away. But again, that's not a criticism of Bristol -- that's a request that the right she had over her own body be extended to cover all women.

And certainly, nobody is saying that Bristol is a bad person. Those of us on the left don't even think that she did anything wrong, in a moral sense. We may suspect that she had insufficient access to reproductive health products or information, or that she may have felt uncomfortable using them. But that's hardly her fault.

It is all very simple. We on the left (like, I assume, our friends on the right) want every pregnancy to be a planned pregnancy. Assuming this pregnancy was not planned, then that is unfortunate, and we would like to see young women like Bristol have all the resources they need to prevent it from happening. But once the unplanned pregnancy occurs, we also want Bristol to be in a position where she can choose, in consultation with those close to her, what outcome she feels is right. Insofar as Bristol engaged in that process, and elected to keep her baby, that is a success story. And don't let anybody tell you the left feels otherwise.

1 comment:

Julia said...

"This is the pro-life choice."

OMG the word CHOICE is right in there!!!