The Rebranding of Bristol Palin

In a clear bid to help Mama rise higher in the Republican Party, Bristol Palin spent yesterday in New York City to help promote Teen Pregnancy Awareness Day. I would not have such a jaundiced eye about her proclamation had she not been singing a different tune just last February when she said that abstinence was "not realistic at all." Yesterday, a different songbook was invoked as she was saying that "abstinence is the only way you can effectively, 100 percent foolproof way you can prevent pregnancy". There is also a fool-proof way to lose weight and that is not to eat -- but it is also not realistic.



Two issues are at hand here. Why is Bristol Palin becoming the spokesperson for teen pregnancy? Who asked her to become so public? Why did she have a change of heart? The other issue is does abstinence really work? You do not have to be a professor of political science to know why Bristol has been made the poster girl for abstinence. Team Sarah bumper stickers abound. Governor Palin and Mitt Romney have already staked out their territory and words are flying between them and their camps. It doesn't look good for a future presidential hopeful to have a daughter who had a child and did not marry the dad. They had to rebrand Bristol Palin so that she fits into the conservative base. Very, very smart marketing.

Issue two is the overall question of abstinence. Abstinence education is not working. I recently questioned a YMCA executive director about their abstinence education program and the response I got was " there is money for these programs so we do them." Yes, the leftover Bush legacy is that there is abstinence education money all around the country that can help keep the lights on at schools and community centers. That's a fine recommendation! The major problem is that abstinence only education does not work.

Two studies have been mandated by Congress as a follow up to the the Title V funds which were used to fund programs in 49 states. (California did not participate). They found that the abstinence education group had the same outcome as the group that received education. The use of condoms? Same outcome. The folks who advocate abstinence education say that the government did not study enough groups. There can be hundreds of studies but that does not change the problem -- and that problem is teen hormones. We were all young once and we all know how active they can be. Young people just don't believe adults. They also don't believe the likes of Bristol Palin who changed what she said in just three months. They will believe realistic education that discusses all alternatives. It might not work but that is the only chance we have right now. Bristol Palin's change of heart isn't going to change the behavior of today's teens and the abstinence education crowd knows it.