People Bearing Glass Wombs Should Not Throw Policy Stones

I think Obama’s response to the news that Sarah Palin’s 17-year old daughter is perfect: to stress that a teenaged mom, with the support of her family, can still raise her child to be President.

… my mother had me when she was 18. How family deals with issues and teen-age children – that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics.

It sounds like Bristol Palin will have the family support to go through a challenging, life-changing event, and I hope that support helps her succeed at being a teenaged mom as well as Obama’s mother did.

That said, I think Nate’s question–asking why, if this is such a shameless event, the family and campaign hid that news over the weekend–is an important one.

I think it’s wonderful that Bristol Palin has chosen to have her baby, and I’m sure that she’ll make a wonderful mother.

But if it’s such a wonderful thing, let’s be out and proud about it — not try and change the subject. Let’s disclose this in the People magazine interview. Let’s not bury the news when there’s literally a hurricane bearing down on Louisiana. And let’s sure as hell not confuse the overheated rantings of the liberal blogosphere for the series of decisions made months ago by mother and by daughter that led to a 17-year-old child becoming pregnant.

The media ought to be more responsible than to take the McCain campaign’s spin at face value. If that irrelevant distraction about rumors in the blogosphere belongs in this — than certainly things like these do: What is Palin’s position on contraception? What is her position on sex education? Does she believe that sex outside of marriage is immoral? These questions are not remotely personal, but they’re certainly a part of the story.

Likewise, I agree with Anonymous Liberal’s point: this rumor got started not by liberal bloggers, but by Republicans in Alaska wondering why a 44-year woman carrying a high-risk child would delay medical attention for over 10 hours after she went into labor.

I know for a fact that is not true. The reason I know that is because I first heard the rumor within minutes of the media reporting that Palin had been tapped to be McCain’s VP. And I heard from friends from Alaska, not liberal bloggers. This rumor was already widespread in Alaska (and widely believed) and it had everything to do with the strange circumstances surrounding Trig’s birth, not partisan politics. In particular, the rumor was fostered by the exceptionally bizarre story of how Palin–a 44 year old woman with a high-risk pregnancy–boarded an eight hour commercial flight from Dallas to Anchorage after her water broke and she started having contractions. That’s a strange story, and if you doubt that, go ask any obstetrician or nurse midwife.

The news that Bristol is pregnant doesn’t answer any of the real underlying questions here (questions asked by Republicans in Alaska long before Democrats on blogs asked): why did Sarah Palin endanger her child and herself to even travel to the energy meeting in Texas, much less return home after she went into labor?

The answer is, ultimately, that’s a decision that Palin and her doctors made. But that’s precisely the decision that Palin would deny other women, the ability to make reproductive choice decisions based solely on the expert advice of her doctor.

Similarly, the Palins are making much of the fact that Bristol made a "decision to have her baby"–suggesting that she, their daughter, is entitled to a choice that Governor Palin thinks other women should not have.

And finally, Sarah Palin is demanding that the press "respect our daughter and Levi’s privacy." Frankly, I agree–the press should leave Bristol alone. She’s going to have a tough enough time in the coming months and years without the focus of a Presidential campaign. But there, too, Palin is asking something for her daughter she would deny other women. In both her radical stance opposing abortion in cases of rape and in her refusal to teach teenagers anything but how to say "no," she’s inserting the government into other women’s private acts, their reproductive choices. She’s advocating a far right policy that she would not apply to her own family.

Frankly, in both Governor Palin’s decision to make that risky trip to Texas and in Bristols "decision" to have her baby, the Palin women prove themselves to be pro choice.

For themselves.

But Governor Palin seems to believe only she, the governor, and her own family are entitled to make their own reproductive choices. That’s what John McCain picked as his running mate: a woman who believes she and her family are entitled to make their own reproductive choices. But not you and I.

  1. spoonful says:

    Great insight to see how this anti-choice woman is pro choice for herself only. I love it when there’s such balance in the world.

  2. BooRadley says:

    I agree that Obama and the Democrats should respect Bristol’s privacy.

    I am, however, very open to other possibilities from liberal blogs. The legacy media allows the GOP to simultaneously spend tax dollars to support “abstinence education,” cut government subsidies for birth control, proclaim themselves viciously in support of forced child birth, even in cases of rape and incest; at the same time they SCREAM bloody murder about any support for low income Americans.

    I’ll gladly defer to you and Jane on this, but I hope you’ll consider your options here and perhaps explore appropriate ways of covering the story.

  3. masaccio says:

    Palin apparently thinks her daughter should have a choice about carrying the child; Cheney protects his lesbian daughter, but wouldn’t protect anyone else’s.

    She shoots moose; he shoots old men and caged birds.

    Both of them think that executive power means you can do as you wish.

    Why change the R model? It’s worked so well for all of us.

  4. klynn says:

    Spot on. Spot on.

    Beautiful insight.

    Thank you, thank you and again, thank you!

    The phenomenal Ms. EW gets to the heart of the issue.

  5. lemondloulou says:

    What bugs me about this is 1) How craven is Sarah Palin that she is willing to tell THE WORLD that her 17-year old daughter is pregnant out of wedlock? 2) If it’s true that McCain knew about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy before he announced her mother as his running mate, what kind of man does that make him?
    Poor Bristol Palin. NOBODY is looking out for her. Certainly not her mother. And certainly not John McCain. These two expect us to look up to them as leaders?

    • klynn says:

      “If it’s true that McCain knew about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy before he announced her mother as his running mate, what kind of man does that make him?

      Poor Bristol Palin. NOBODY is looking out for her. Certainly not her mother. And certainly not John McCain. These two expect us to look up to them as leaders?”

      This has been the thought repeated with every conversation I have had today. Many believe this point alone will kill the youth vote.

  6. masaccio says:

    CNN headline: “Evangelicals rally behind Palin after pregnancy news”. And here’s the money quote from the loathsome James Dobson:

    “We have always encouraged the parents to love and support their children and always advised the girls to see their pregnancies through, even though there will of course be challenges along the way. That is what the Palins are doing, and they should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances.

    I want everyone to note my self-restraint in abjuring the snark.

  7. WilliamOckham says:

    You ask:

    why did Sarah Palin endanger her child and herself to even travel to the energy meeting in Texas, much less return home after she went into labor?

    Perhaps the answer is here:

    In April Sarah Palin was with Rick Perry and others in Grapevine for an energy forum held by the Republican Governor’s Association. She stood out.

    The governor from Alaskan was pregnant.

    I remember Gov. Palin because she was so frank about her desire to be John McCain’s running mate.

    I asked Perry about being on the ticket, knowing he would give his stock answer involving having the best job in the world.

    When Palin was asked about the prospect of running with McCain, she said she was interested in the job. That’s not common for politicians. They are generally coy when answering those types of questions.

    Anyway, Palin said nice things about McCain and went on about the glory of the GOP.

    The writer goes on to say that none of that got reported because Gov. Blow Dry Perry announced that he was going to run for re-election in 2010.

    Another thing about that meeting was that Perry brought in the big-money Texas donors to give money to Republican National Governors Association. So Palin got a chance to meet some of the richest, most reactionary people in the country.

  8. WilliamOckham says:

    Oh, and one more thing before I call it a night. Please do not implicate Palin’s doctors in the decision to fly back to Alaska. Neither I nor my wife (who is a practicing M.D. and mother of five) believe that she consulted her doctors about that flight. There’s just no way they would have agreed to that.

    • emptywheel says:

      Agree. But she did say she called her doctor. For now–until this, too, gets proven to be a transparent lie, I’m going to pretend the assertion is not ridiculous on its face.

  9. MrWhy says:

    I thought Obama’s response was pitch perfect. He understands what is relevant to the campaign, and what should be private, and tells the press to focus on what’s important.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I agree that Obama handled it with civility and decency.
      But that blogpost Wm Ockham located is mighty, mighty interesting.

      Having encountered grandmothers aged 32, 33, and 35 in Alaska, a teen pregnancy doesn’t surprise me.

      This is, unfortunately, still the case in many places other than Alaska. We tend to forget that one of the fundamental shifts of the 20th c in the US has been the average extended lifespan — another fundamental shift is the result of birth control. Much of our politics plays out in a society still grappling with these fundamental shifts.

      I think that Barak Obama handled this very well.

      This whole substory suggests that McCain did not think very carefully before selecting a running mate, and that his decision was extremely superficial and ‘market driven’. The fact remains that his policies would seem to increase the number of teenage pregnancies, rather than reduce them. In addition, it certainly seems that his militarized view of the world, and willingness to offer tax cuts to the wealthy would not help create a society that would be very well equipped for young parents or young children.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I agree. The Dems should use the Palin stories as a platform to make age-appropriate, accurate sexuality education more available. The statistics are clear: that is the fastest way to reduce unwanted pregnancies among teens. Just Say No! works about as well with teen sex as it does with drug use, alcohol abuse or driving the speed limit.

        The Dems should also take Palin’s stories to their logical conclusion. Ms. Palin’s daughter and everyone like her should have been able to choose to terminate her pregnancy. The hoi polloi haven’t the choices available to Governor’s daughters about what to do after their baby is born, something many so-called christians couldn’t give a hoot about. (Indeed, the choice to obtain adequate medical care during pregnancy is often unavailable, too.)

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Let me get this straight. A state governor — with all the status, resources, and ready, paid access to medical care that implies — who was nearly nine months pregnant, flew on a commercial flight for over eight hours to attend meetings, presumably about oil exploration, development, or distribution. Her water broke during the trip. Nevertheless, she chose to board an eight-hour commercial flight to return to Alaska “to have her baby”. She was forty-four, implying that the pregnancy was high-risk for her and her child.

    The folks whose votes Ms. Palin is courting would call that intentionally wrongful conduct. Had the baby died, they would have tried her for murder. Had there been complications resulting in long term impairment of the child’s health, they would have tried her for battery and sought to deny the use of any state insurance funds to pay for her or the child’s treatment. Those are the policies her followers advocate.

    For obvious medical reasons, airline rules would have prohibited boarding Ms. Palin on a commercial aircraft. She must have lied at least twice, when boarding her outbound and return flights, about known, material facts relating to her safety and potentially the safety or traveling convenience of her airlines, their crew and her fellow passengers. The disarray, attempted emergency medical treatment, probable forced landing at an alternative airport, and so on, would have been eminently foreseeable and avoidable consequences of Ms. Palin’s dangerous, selfish choice.

    Ms. Palin chose not to consider the needs or safety of others, herself and her child included. She chose instead personal convenience, behavior John McCain knows well. This episode demonstrates that Ms. Palin has neither the judgment, priority nor temperament to be chief executive of any organization, let alone of the United States of America.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      For obvious medical reasons, airline rules would have prohibited boarding Ms. Palin on a commercial aircraft

      I have to admit that I don’t understand how this occurred, either. This is one of the things that really does not make sense with me. I don’t get it.

    • chrisc says:

      Let me get this straight.

      You have it almost straight- just a few additions

      A state governor — with all the status, resources, and ready, paid access to medical care that implies — who was nearly nine months pregnant, flew on a commercial flight for over eight hours to attend meetings, presumably about oil exploration, development, or distribution. Her water broke during the trip.

      but she stayed and delivered her 30 minute speech.

      Nevertheless, she chose to board an eight-hour commercial flight to return to Alaska “to have her baby”.

      And then, supposedly, she drove 50 miles from the airport to her home.
      And 3 days after delivering the baby, she was back on the job in a tight fitting suit.

      This is about as realistic a model as Barbie, IMHO of course.
      Nevertheless, I like EWs approach. Let’s just lovingly squeeze the hypocrisy outta this before the truth prevails.

      Thanks to Marcy, I’ve been checking out Meghan McCain’s blog every once in awhile.
      This one went up yesterday before the whispering reached critical mass. Check out the pics. I think they had in mind that Palin’s darling girls and baby boy would tug at everyone’s heart strings.

      There is a photo of a group shot for People Magazine. It would be nice if the press did leave the pregnant teen daughter alone. But when the campaign is promoting her appearance (holding a baby), is that going to be possible?

      Note also that in the People Mag shots,only one McCain child is at the photo shoot- Meghan. I’ve never seen a warm, fuzzy McCain family photo shoot during this campaign. Has anyone else?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        That’s not a description of “super mom” or of an informed, responsible adult, much less of a caring, compassionate one. It’s the description of someone whose ambition is more important than her health or the health or welfare of those around her (for which she is morally and legally responsible).

        It’s the description of someone who places imagery above substance, over actual achievement or real-world consequences. We’ve had eight years of that, thanks very much. What’s it called when someone does the same thing over and over again, but expects a different result?

        • chrisc says:

          I agree. If Sarah was really the pregnant one, she endangered the baby for her own ambition.
          I also think she is endangering the psychological health of her pregnant 17 yr old daughter for her own ambition.
          The kid comes from a small town in Alaska and now the whole world knows she is a unwed pregnant teen. The public disclosure is likely to be devastating.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ms. Palin’s seventeen year-old daughter will have her baby. Ms. Palin and her daughter are careful to use the language of choice in describing that event. For that to be true, the alternative of terminating the pregnancy would have to have been available. Otherwise, it’s not “a choice”, but forced carrying to term.

    Thankfully for Ms. Palin’s daughter, her family and friends are supportive and generous, as may be true of her partner. Tens of thousands of young women are not so lucky — including those forced to have sex by fathers, brothers, and friends with date-rape drugs — and have far fewer choices about what to do next, and far fewer resources to take advantage of them.

    If we’re to talk about choice, however, there’s also the choice Ms. Palin’s daughter made to have pre-marital sex — one replicated countless times. And the choice not to take adequate steps to avoid pregnancy — sadly, also replicated countless times. (That is, unless Ms. Palin’s family, school and church denied her knowledge about her body and the choices she will make with it.)

    Much of this is private family business. What is public, however, as with the Cheney family’s lesbian daughter, are the hypocrisies, if any, between Ms. Palin’s public policies and private acts.

  12. dugsdale says:

    Excuse me while I scoff at the claim that “Bristol made a decision to have her baby.” Given the mom’s radical views, I’m sure Bristol knew the lay of the land. Claiming she “made a choice” is ridiculous. There was no choice.

    Also, slightly off topic (but only slightly), when I read last night that the GOP was sending a dozen lawyers to Alaska for some emergency post-nomination vetting, the first thing I thought of was what happened to Bush the Lesser’s Air National Guard records. Didn’t the GOP send some operatives to “vet” those records too? They sure did disappear, didn’t they?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Let me guess, the Visitors included experts in digital and physical shredding of records that not all would agree are free to be destroyed without violating the law or best governmental or health care practice. Just a guess, mind, just a guess.

    • bobschacht says:

      Perhaps those lawyers are going to Alaska to make sure the public record is vacuumed clean of any records that might contradict the Official Palin Story.

      I hope some people are making quick, immediate emergency FOIA requests.

      Bob in HI

      • bobschacht says:

        “Does she understand what the function of the press is?”

        Of course. The function of the press is to do as they are told. They are not to be curious, or suspicious. And they must never, ever, think for themselves.

        Bob in HI

  13. 4jkb4ia says:

    Thanks, EW. I will try to make very clear that the Palin-was-not-pregnant rumor might as well have been planted by Rove for all its sleaziness and ability to distract from the substantive things you pointed out in the first post. It was never any better than gossipmongering.

  14. alank says:

    A very key point to be made public about this rather private matter is precisely the one made by EW. It would be instructive to discuss the Roe v. Wade ruling on privacy in support of it.

  15. Dismayed says:

    I dunno. I think Barak was indeed pitch perfect.

    BUT – This Palin story is goofy as a football bat. Daughter out of school for 8 months, mom suddenly pregnant after no sign whatsoever for seven months, Then suddenly after announcing she is pregnant she starts to show most remarkably, only not in the hands or face, unlike photos of previous pregnancies, photos timed about right show the daughter with a nice little dome on her belly. Then, when the photos hit the web. They announce, behold, the daughter is pregnant. That on top of the almost impossible 8 hour flight while already in labor on her 4th (5th?) child.

    This isn’t about the daughter, this is about the mother, this is about wondering if this woman is some sort of sociopath.

    No question the progressive blogs need to tone it down a bit, and stay focused on the issues and the fantastic candidates we have, but this should be quietly worked, until some difinative is arrived at.

    I think it’s driving the right wing nuts that Obama didn’t take the bait, but no matter what the truth of this is, we see a personality that’s capable of very extreem behavior to satisfy motivations that don’t belong in Mayberry.

    The right wing just gets weirder and wierder all the time, any way you look at it.

  16. yonodeler says:

    I wonder whether Sarah Palin’s daughter was asked for permission to announce her pregnancy and, if so, what her response was.

    Fortunately the girl is nearing the age of legal majority, and will soon be able to make more of her own decisions.

    I must wonder how the interested adults would have behaved if the age at which impregnation occurred had been younger by one, or by two, or by three or more years. I must wonder how they would have behaved if the impregnator had definitely not been a committed boyfriend.

  17. FrankProbst says:

    I confess that I really don’t understand any of the grown-ups in this situation, especially Palin. She tells the press her unwed teen daughter is pregnant, and then asks the press to leave the story alone? Does she understand what the function of the press is?

    And did she think to talk to the father of baby first? Because his plan to marry your daughter may change when he finds out his future mother-in-law is talking to the world about him.

  18. Boston1775 says:

    The Female Evangelical Archetype
    – played out for us in two of its phases
    – we are the chorus

    Yes, this evangelical archetype will show the world that in this culture (and in their minds it’s God’s culture) women put children in their fetal forms first. Always. The thrill in their voices as they gush about this on talk radio is palpable.

    If you find your right wing stations and listen, you’ll hear them gush, condescend toward liberals and wonder, Gee, how will Sarah do all of this. She’s so NORMAL. (This was the meme put out by the host and they took it and ran with it.)

    I actually heard one woman say Sarah must be one special woman: five kids, one with special needs and teenagers, one of them having a baby herself. It’s amazing that four months after giving birth she’s been plucked out (a trained ear hears BY GOD) to have the second most important job in the world. The woman went on to say, “Sometimes, I’m overwhelmed and I only have two kids.”

    wait for it

    “Sarah must be very special to have been given this opportunity.”

    And off we go on another evangelical ride. Perfectly orchestrated. Last time, God called W, this time He’s called the amazing Sarah.

    They’ve suspended the power of disbelief again.

    We better be one brilliant chorus.

  19. Boston1775 says:

    We’d better be one brilliant chorus.


    As EW has written, they get to choose.
    The thing is, they are sure that they didn’t choose this, God did.
    God is in control.
    God brought Sarah safely back to Alaska to give birth to her precious baby.
    God has brought forth Bristol as an example for the world.
    They are His vessels for His plan.

  20. Boston1775 says:

    At some time, I am going to demand respect for my own views on teenage pregnancies, teen age marriages because of pregnancy and their track records. I am going to demand respect for my skepticism that they know God so well that they can make national and state laws for Him; they know Him that well.

    I am going to continue to demand that faith based initiative money stop going to their faith, and I’ll back it up by saying that it doesn’t belong in any faith. I have tried to track the money that has gone to evangelicals and compare it to other faiths. Because of President Bush’s executive order to start this faith based initiative, the bookkeeping for this money is not overseen by Congress in an organized way.

    Millions upon millions of US tax dollars have gone for this faith based, anti-science, teen bootcamp, God infused sexual identity healing, abstinence only, pray your way to healing ministry. And these ministries are held in big buildings built by tax dollars. Each of these tax supported ministries needs to be accounted for.


    Because in their minds, God chose to give them this money. God chose these programs. God annointed these ministers.
    Ministers of youth
    Ministers of education
    Ministers of drug education and healing
    Ministers of women’s issues

    And they get paid with tax dollars.

  21. DefendOurConstitution says:

    As a person of faith, I believe that God helps those who help themselves. The Palins are certainly availing themselves of the choices they have in order to chose the outcomes they want. No, I don’t see anything divine in the Palins’ choice issues – purely a case of “do as I say and not as I do.”

  22. Quzi says:

    The answer is, ultimately, that’s a decision that Palin and her doctors made. But that’s precisely the decision that Palin would deny other women, the ability to make reproductive choice decisions based solely on the expert advice of her doctor.

    Similarly, the Palins are making much of the fact that Bristol made a “decision to have her baby”–suggesting that she, their daughter, is entitled to a choice that Governor Palin thinks other women should not have

    EW you have hit it out of the park again. Amen. Palin’s hpocricy in policy and her “private life” are glaring!

  23. philintn says:

    As a matter of fact, that’s the way it worked years ago. Both my mother and grandmother were nurses all of their careers and that dates back to the 40’s. They would discuss women of low means coming in septic and dying in the hospital from back-ally abortions. Yet the girls in our small town who were from the affluent families, would have the procedure done at a doctors office and only the occasional rumor would let anyone know better. With that said, neither one of them would condone going back to the banned abortion days……

  24. hackworth says:

    Pro-life=forced birth. There is no choice to be made WRT keeping or aborting the baby for Bristol Palin. The Palin Family and the MSM should not be permitted to imply that there was ever a decision to consider.

    If you are pro-life, you don’t get to pretend that you have the option of terminating a pregnancy – ever – for any reason – rape or incest included. Bristol Palin can not be admired for her grit in deciding to keep the baby.

  25. lllphd says:

    absolutely sterling ew, ew! thanks so much for another nail on the head.

    just one point i’d add (and apologies if someone has already mentioned it; no time today to review comments, dang it!):
    regarding the public scrutiny palin is requesting be removed from her daughter, i’d have to say that she herself brought that on by agreeing to be placed on the repug ticket.

    what self-respecting and child-loving mother would consider putting her child through the inevitable feeding frenzy that her own ambitious grab at fame will bring?? this could have easily been kept a relatively manageable (as could be expected even within the confines of alaska) crisis for bristol had palin declined the offer. instead of putting her child first, she chose her own greed for power. consistent with her choice to fly to DC and dallas in her 8th month with a risky pregnancy (…in the first place; thanks for placing that question in the mix); what astoundingly myopic and selfish decisions!!.

    actually, just one more thing. there seems to be this free pass because, one would presume, the father will marry bristol. mccain’s campaign clearly did NOT vet this kid! huffpo has pics and links to his mypage, where he says he’s a f**kin’ redneck and he does not want kids. bad enough, but my question is this: if bristol is five months along, what exactly are they waiting for with these asserted wedding plans? they’ve known for all this time, and the boy does not want kids, yet now there’s talk of a wedding?

    ya gotta wonder just how much that little event is gonna cost, and i’m not talking about the festivities; i’m talking about the payoff. (some very industrious reporter needs to keep on top of that intriguing question.)

    sweet jesus, what a nightmare for this poor young woman!

  26. Mauimom says:

    I think one reason “lefty bloggers” find it difficult to just “let this go” [and I’m not apologizing for entries that are over the edge], is that the Sarah Palins of the world make it their mission to stick their noses in ALL of our lives, to tell us what we can [and mostly CAN’T] do, to insist that their views be codified into laws that govern us all, and then they don’t want us to take a look at their own little “family laboratory” where the experiment of following their POV has played out??

    What, they’re against science? /s