- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Babies, babies and more babies. With the California octuplets, the questionable British tabloid 12-year-old teeny-bopper dad and Baby “Tripp” gurgling in the headlines, I can’t get those babies, especially babies having babies, off my brain.

Maybe she would no longer classify as a child to some, but I’d be willing to bet that 18-year-old unwed mother, Bristol Palin, was - and probably still is - considered a “Baby Girl” to her Momma, Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Wink, wink. Golly gee. It’s got to be just a little disconcerting or sometimes a bit confusing to cuddle a grandchild named Tripp and your own baby, named Trig, while your teenager tries to get a little shut-eye before you have to drop her off at the schoolhouse door.

“I wish I had waited 10 years so I could have a job, an education and be prepared and have my own house and stuff,” the younger Palin told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren earlier this week when delicately asked about being “an engaged young mother.”

Miss Palin said that while she is “excited to be a mom” and doesn’t regret having Tripp, the hard but “rewarding” work of young motherhood - like getting up in the middle of the night to feed him - is “not glamorous.”

“It’s like I’m living for another person,” she said.

Welcome to parenthood.

But the real kicker came when Miss Palin charged that “abstinence is not realistic at all” for today’s teens. Wasn’t it her ultraconservative mother who staunchly supported abstinence-only education?

“Out of the mouth of babes,” was the pithy remark from a friend asking if I’d seen the interview.

Let me just say before getting too far off the track that, judging from Miss Palin’s 10-minute interview, this seemingly together teenager could teach young motherhood lessons to her peers and other unwed mothers. The contrast in maturity and levelheadedness alone, for example, is blinding between Miss Palin and Nadya Suleman, the 33-year-old “octo-mom” who claimed, in another television interview, that she plans to pay for the care of her 14 children, all under 7 years of age, in part, by using proceeds from federal student loans.

To her credit, Miss Palin stated that she, along with Tripp’s father, young Levi Johnston, would “like to be an advocate to prevent teen pregnancy because it’s not a situation you strive for.”

Brenda Rhodes Miller, founder and executive director of the nonpartisan D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said “abstinence-only education has been widely discredited, and organizations all across the country are calling for a halt to spending on abstinence-only education, and it looks like Bristol Palin agrees with them.”

Repeating her long-held advice, Mrs. Miller said there are only two ways to stop girls from becoming pregnant - “We tell them either don’t have sex or if you do, use contraceptives every single time.”

However, Mrs. Miller added, “The problem for us has been how to motivate D.C. teens to avoid pregnancy in the first place.”

Besides abstinence, her group’s list of ways to prevent teen pregnancy starts with helping parents talk to their children more effectively and frequently about sexual issues and values.

“Parents love their children, and they all want to protect their children,” Mrs. Miller said. “And the best way to protect them and keep them safe is to give them enough accurate information so they can’t be fooled and can make good decisions in every area of their lives.”

Miss Palin only bristled when asked how she felt about the pundits who criticized her during her mother’s campaign to become vice president. She insisted that the decision to have Tripp always remained with her, regardless of her “mom’s views” on abortion.

Telling her parents she was pregnant was “harder than labor,” she said, but it now seems that Miss Palin wasn’t the only Palin who kept a secret about her pregnancy.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that “Sarah Palin’s secret pregnancy with son Trig was almost uncovered when one of her daughters found the ultrasound images, according to a new book, but she managed to explain it away. The Alaska governor has said that she kept the pregnancy a secret even from her own family until weeks before his April birth because she was grappling with fears about raising a child with Down syndrome.” The new book is “Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin,” by Lorenzo Benet, an assistant editor at People magazine.

So much for a woman’s right to privacy upon which Roe v. Wade is based.

Talking about crossing the line of privacy. An AOL.com report about the Sun’s piece featuring Alfie, an English 12-year-old, fathering the baby of a 14-year-old girl, Chantelle, states that the London paper did not say whether any tests were conducted to prove the boy’s paternity. The question is whether the tabloid should have exposed and exploited this “tween.”

The AOL report includes troubling data that indicates the U.S. has higher teen-pregnancy rates than Britain, which has the highest rate in Europe. Last year, the British government announced it would start introducing sex education earlier in school.

As for Miss Palin, she told Ms. Van Susteren that she “is blessed” to have such a helpful and supportive family so she can continue her education. Not everybody does. Nor is she “the first and I won’t be the last” to be a teen mother. Therein lies the problem.

Miss Palin’s got it right that more teens need to hear stories like hers. And she’s right that adults can’t just stick their heads in the sand and pretend that their children, who are inundated by sexual messages in all forms of media, are not curious enough or do not feel too much pressure from their peers to experiment with risky sexual behavior.

For example, the results of a 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and analyzed by the D.C. Campaign for local advocates, indicated that D.C. teens were “exhibiting riskier behaviors compared to teens nationally and have shown an increase in three areas since the 2005” study. Those included having sex before age 13, a lower percentage of condom use, having sex with four or more partners and drinking alcohol or using drugs before the last sexual intercourse.

Now, maybe some of her peers will heed Miss Palin’s “have to grow-up-too-fast” message that “kids should just wait.”

When Ms. Van Susteren asked about using contraception, Miss Palin said she didn’t want to go into details, but added that “it is more acceptable now … among kids my age.”

We assume the teen mom means “it” seemed OK for teens even in conservative communities in Alaska to ignore their parents’ pleas about abstinence to prevent more babies from having babies.

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