But it will be an issue, and it should be. Here’s why: Public policy questions are implicated. Sarah Palin, as a candidate for governor of Alaska, expressed her opposition to comprehensive sex education in public schools. She told the Eagle Forum she would support only “abstinence based” sex education and remarked, “The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.”And recall what born again evangelical Christian Jimmy Carter had to say about the "pro-life" forces Palin represents (as reported by Gary Wills):
Of all the components of President George W. Bush’s “faith-based” initiative, none has failed more miserably than abstinence-based education. Many of the programs are thinly veiled religious dogma. Study after study has shown them to be ineffective.
Carter is opposed to abortion, as what he calls a tragedy "brought about by a combination of human errors." But the "pro-life" forces compound rather than reduce the errors. The most common abortions, and the most common reasons cited for undergoing them, are caused by economic pressure compounded by ignorance.Update: From Mother Jones
Yet the anti-life movement that calls itself pro-life protects ignorance by opposing family planning, sex education, and informed use of contraceptives, tactics that not only increase the likelihood of abortion but tragedies like AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The rigid system of the "pro-life" movement makes poverty harsher as well, with low minimum wages, opposition to maternity leaves, and lack of health services and insurance. In combination, these policies make ideal conditions for promoting abortion, as one can see from the contrast with countries that do have sex education and medical insurance. Carter writes:Canadian and European young people are about equally active sexually, but, deprived of proper sex education, American girls are five times as likely to have a baby as French girls, seven times as likely to have an abortion, and seventy times as likely to have gonorrhea as girls in the Netherlands. Also, the incidence of HIV/ AIDS among American teenagers is five times that of the same age group in Germany.... It has long been known that there are fewer abortions in nations where prospective mothers have access to contraceptives, the assurance that they and their babies will have good health care, and at least enough income to meet their basic needs.
It would also be taking a narrow view of things, however, to forget that the Palins are a two-income family: The mother is a public servant, the father is a union worker, and they no doubt have excellent private health insurance. Both Bristol and Sarah Palin have the luxury of exercising true reproductive choice, and continuing with pregnancies that would have devastated—financially and emotionally—many an ordinary family. A recent Gates Foundation survey found that one-third of female teenage dropouts cited pregnancy as the reason they couldn't stay in school. Another survey studied women in their 30s who were once teenage moms and found that only 3 percent of them completed a college degree. Just in Alaska, families with Down syndrome children—half of whom have congenital heart defects in addition to some degree of mental retardation, hearing, and vision problems—report long wait lists for subsidized medical care and special education programs.
If John McCain wins the election and Palin becomes the kind of vice president who exerts any influence over policy, she will no doubt do what she can to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal again. That's her calling and her base; that's the reason she has, as campaign talking points would have it, "energized" the conservatives who eluded the maverick McCain. But what I wonder is this: Can we also expect that she will fight for longer maternity leaves and subsidized child care? Will she fight for programs that assist parents in raising disabled children, and force private insurance companies to pay for their care? Will she make it possible for a working-class college student to provide her child with a solid education in a safe neighborhood, and finish her education herself?