On the one hand, she was touted by some as a new spokesperson against teen pregnancy. After all, she stated that she would have preferred waiting to give birth until she was much older. But that was the weaker hand being played, regardless of what Palin intended. As a pretty, intelligent, poised and smiling teenager on national television with a cute baby, Palin has, perhaps unwittingly, become a spokesperson for teen pregnancy.
Palin told Van Susteren that her baby brings "so much joy," she doesn't regret giving birth to him at all. She just wishes he had entered her life about ten years later. She, like Jamie Lynn Spears, is helping paint a picture of teen mothers as happy, strong and confident young women, enjoying the limelight and making the best of things with the support of their loving families.
Palin looked as well-kempt and well-rested as she was well-spoken. There was no desperation in her voice. She shed no tears of panic or guilt. She hasn't sworn off sex. She hasn't sworn off unprotected sex. By all appearances, she genuinely loves her baby and is committed to him. Just like Spears.
So what's the problem? Why would American teenaged girls, who are desperately seeking something genuine to cling to in their lives, something more to believe in than their friends' Facebook profiles, take Palin's life story as a cautionary tale? Why wouldn't they see it, instead, as an antidote to the meaninglessness of ceaseless instant messaging, the interpersonal black hole of cyberspace, the emptiness of hooking up with one sexual partner after another, often beginning in seventh grade, if not sooner?
In a world where the stock market is crashing, major industries are dissolving, drugs are rampant and the government desperately needs to regain credibility, the gaze of an infant looking back into one's eyes can be the kind of humanity that teenagers intuit will anchor them to something genuine.
For millions of American girls, Palin and Spears are, whether they like it or not, defining the leading edge of what I believe is a new social, cultural moment in America in which girl-women aged 15 through 17 are actually losing their fear of motherhood and entertaining the concept of having babies as a matter of free choice and free will.
This is just the beginning of the example Palin and Spears are setting. There will be countless very cute photographs of their babies. Magazines will cover these girls as they take their children to their first day of nursery school. There will be coverage of their love affairs, engagements and weddings. If they hold themselves together and life brings them joy (which I sincerely hope it does), they will be glamorized for their boldness, their commitment to their kids and their inevitable personal achievements.
Teenagers are not going to look at Palin or Spears and think how horrifying it would be to bethem. More than likely, they are going to look at these trailblazers and be envious - whether consciously or unconsciously. These "girl-women" look like they have it all.
All we need now to seal the deal and create even more of a groundswell in favor of early childbirth is a special bailout plan for young, unwed mothers. Maybe a free General Motors Hybrid SUV and government-insured mortgage would do the trick?
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at livingthetruth.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. Dr. Ablow can be reached at email@example.com.