- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How Sarah Palin plays with women voters is not yet known, and it is not yet evident what type of vice president or grandmother she might make. But would the media (and notice we didn’t say “mainstream” media) question Fred Thompson about juggling politics, Hollywood and a young family? Did they question Joe Biden about his role as a single dad raising two young boys who had lost their mom and a sister? Is the media bearing down on women holding America’s other top elected posts - from the Senate and House to gubernatorial and statewide posts - because they have children? Of course not.

But read this, too. Mrs. Palin is like a lot of women - like the late Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and Rep. Shirley Chisholm. But the media are failing to grasp a true opportunity in their midst. Barack Obama got it almost right: “You know my mother had me when she was 18, and how a family deals with issues and, you know, teenage children, that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that’s off limits.”

No, teen pregnancy is not news. The media know where babies come from. Indeed, here comes the news:

n There are more than 729,000 teen pregnancies annually, and in 2006, there were 435,000 births to teens.

n Teen-pregnancy and birth rates have declined dramatically since the early 1990s (down 38 percent and 32 percent respectively), because of a decline in sexual activity and an increase in contraceptive use.

n The teen birth rate is on the rise for the first time in 15 years.

n And, also courtesy of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy, is this: The teen pregnancy and birth rate in Alaska is below the national average and, since the early 1990s, has declined more steeply than the national average.

So, OK. Bristol Palin is going against trend. But the news is - or would be if the media does its job - what do McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden propose to do about this pathology? Hand out condoms and fund abortions, or merely say that, at least, she’s having the baby? Neither response is appropriate.

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