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And the plot thickens

By   |  September 2, 2008

This past Friday we learned that John McCain had selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his VP for the Republican ticket. Gee, that’s just peachy. It was particularly noteworthy that Palin just had a baby this year with Down’s Syndrome rather than aborting it. Over the weekend, there was blog speculation that the baby was not Sarah’s but actually belonged to Bristol, Sarah’s high school-aged daughter. Wow, that’s right out of a plotline on Desperate Housewives. On Monday, Labor Day, the story is revealed that Bristol is currently pregnant in her second trimester and will be marrying the father. Well, how ironic is that.

In theory, abstinence is the only way to guarantee that someone won’t get pregnant or develop an STD, but in reality, it’s not a feasible line of thinking for everyone to implement in the long run. Just because kids “firmly” decide that they will wait till marriage doesn’t mean that all of them will follow through on that “promise,” and then when they do take the plunge, they will be ill-equipped with how to practice safe sex, leading to unexpected or perhaps undesirable outcomes. The Society of Adolescent Medicine published a position paper describing the disservice of current abstinence-only education and stating abstinence should be encouraged but only within the context of a comprehensive explanation of sexual health (e. g. contraceptives, risk reduction, etc.). If there is evidence that the system is flawed, shouldn’t we attempt to fix it?

Raising a child as a child is no picnic either. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Every once in a while I’ll read about some teenage mother who beat the odds, got an education, and has a great job now. These human interest stories are heartwarming and inspiring, but for every story with a happy ending, there are way more stories of dreams curtailed, dysfunctional families, and unrealized potential.

From my own anthropological observations, my peers in medical school and graduate school are/were not the ones at risk for unplanned pregnancy. We should be highly concerned for the girls without goals. The joke in small towns is often that sex and drinking are the only things to do there, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Beyond sex ed itself, we should be encouraging girls, and really all young people, to strive for excellence, and maybe we as a society will be better able to use good judgment and to make good decisions.

Returning to the original issue at hand, though, I have to wonder how the younger Palin’s baby’s healthcare will be paid for since its mother likely doesn’t have health insurance provided by her employer. The healthcare system is so complicated, but that’s another issue.

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