Before I jump into the PSA itself, I want to address the "She's promoting abstinence-only! Abstinence-only doesn't work!" issue that still has some people's pants in a bunch.
Bristol has made it pretty clear that abstinence is a choice she has now made for herself. She encourages others to make that same decision since it's the one way you can 100% guarantee you won't end up being a teen parent, but that does not equal some push demanding that abstinence-only programs be taught in all high schools. Is she not allowed to make a personal choice and encourage others to consider the same?
It mirrors the panic over the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad. An inspiring story that might in some remote way persuade women to choose life is taken as an immediate threat to abortion rights everywhere.
Honestly, Lefties. Overreaction, much?
In the MTV interview excerpt below, Bristol gives her take on the slogan "pause before you play." -
Pause before you play can mean anything to anybody. It could be pause and get a condom, or it could be pause and think about your future.Yeah. She's definitely telling everyone to be abstinent with those condoms. (eye roll)
By the way, the idea that Sarah Palin is a staunch advocate of abstinence-only education is yet another media-driven myth:
Some reporters insisted that I favored abstinence-only sex education in public schools. "And see?" they said. "It didn't even work for her own daughter."I have seen others take Bristol's PSA to mean that it's only not okay to be a pregnant teenager if you're poor. I can see how the PSA could be misconstrued, but the message to me is obvious.
The media got that wrong too. The only time I had commented on sex education was in answer to a gubernatorial candidate question asking whether I supported abstinence education versus "explicit" sex education in public schools...
Given the choice, I answered that I would support abstinence education over "explicit" sex ed. I never said I didn't support contraception; I did. I also explained about being a longtime subscriber to the philosophy of Feminists for Life, a group of pro-life feminists who do not oppose contraception.
- Going Rogue, 237-238
One criticism of Bristol's situation came from the early hand-wringing of the Left that a high-profile teen mom would in some way "glamorize" teen pregnancy. I mean, come on, Bristol seems like a strong, independent young woman who's part of a successful family and has an adorable little boy who usually seems to fall into an angelic sleep just in time for the cameras to capture him. How hard can it be, right?
So the PSA's message is, "Okay, what if I wasn't famous?" (as most teenagers are not). "Do you really think the life of teen moms is 'glamorous'? Do you think my life is glamorous? This is the reality: it's a ton of hard work. Don't get caught up in the image or the fantasy TV version of what it might be like."
"I hope that other young girls and even young guys see that having a child isn't glamorous at all, that it shouldn't be glorified. I think that other TV shows do glamorize sex and make it seem like there are no consequences to it, but there's tremendous consequences, and people need to start talking about those consequences."Bristol is in a better situation than most teen moms, and she knows it. This also means she's in a position to do more good from that position than most, and she's doing a fantastic job of wielding that "double-edged sword":
Charita Goshay offers the following perspective:
Bristol was criticized from all sides as a hypocrite because she took up the cause of helping prevent teen pregnancy. Critics couldn't understand how she could love her precious son, Tripp, with all her heart, and still wish that he had been born ten years later.
She wanted teens to know that though they had choices to make about contraception, the only surefire way of preventing pregnancy is to not have sex. This pragmatic position was attacked by both the right and the left - the left because abstinence seems to be a dirty word and the right because even mentioning the word "contraception" "sends a mixed message."
Bristol wasn't trying to draft a national sex-ed policy. She just wanted to help her peers. She simply told teens what she has told her sisters: "Don't make the same mistake I did. Wait."
- Going Rogue, 371
Bristol could have chosen to stay out of the spotlight after the election. It certainly would have meant less criticism. But she decided to put herself out there at the risk of being mocked by tolerant Leftists who have led entirely perfect lives and whose own morals leave absolutely nothing to be desired. All in the hopes that a few other teenagers might stop and think of the consequences.
Bristol Palin is arguably the world’s most famous teen mother, so her willingness to use her experience to educate others about the difficulties of unexpected parenthood has merit...
Avoiding sex and unplanned parenthood is not something kids will necessarily hear when their parents preach it — Palin herself is proof of that — but the message might get through when it comes from someone who’s been there, doing that.
In one public service announcement, Palin states: “It could mean pause and go get a condom, or pause and think about your life. And it could even be pause and wait for marriage.” That may not be exactly what abstinence-only advocates want to hear, but it’s realistic for a generation that has been weaned on sexual imagery....
If Bristol Palin can make just one teen stop and think long enough about the lifelong consequences of an irresponsible moment, her effort is worth it.
And you gotta admire that.
You can view Bristol's PSA, as well as some behind-the-scenes footage and interview here.
Another MTV clip here.