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How My 7-Year-Old Learned About Pre-Marital Sex from John McCain

I wholly believe in educating my child about contraception. But given that he is 7, I could have waited a few years for that particular talk.
 
 
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Ok, yes, you can credit or fault me as a mother for allowing my 7- year-old to suffer under the blissful ignorance of believing that one needs to be married before one gets pregnant. Or you can credit or fault me for answering my child's matter-of-fact questions about how babies are made even though he is only 7. But all credit and fault goes to John McCain and Sarah Palin for exposing all children who have a TV to the news that Palin's unmarried teenage daughter is indeed 5 months pregnant.

Seeing this "Breaking News" on TV when trying to catch news of Gustav and the Republican Convention, my son immediately asks me "But how can she be pregnant if she isn't married?" and "Does a girl get pregnant every time she has sex with a boy?" Thus ensues the revelation that sex is possible before marriage, and how condoms and birth control pills can prevent pregnancy and HIV. I wholly believe in educating my child about contraception. But given that he is indeed 7, I could easily have waited another year or two for him to be older for that particular conversation. I sorta liked the sweet illusion of the "sex is for grown-ups in committed relationships" thing ... don't most parents of elementary-age children?

I don't judge the Palins for having a pregnant teen daughter. I do think that it reinforces the need for frank sex education and the distribution of condoms in middle and high schools. I do think that the "Breaking News" of this unfortunate pregnancy points to the need of options for teens beyond the highly un-contraceptive "promise ring" that is the rage with certain Christian families these days, promising God the purity of their children until after that ring is replaced with a wedding ring. But I don't judge the child or her parents for the current situation, all too familiar to many families nation-wide. Each year a million girls under the age of 20 become pregnant in the U.S.

But the hypocrisy of so-called Conservatives in touting this circumstance as proof of family values, of conservative values, really roils me. The AP recently reported that John McCain not only has opposed federal spending on teen-prevention programs, he has also voted to oppose education and federal spending on contraceptives. Palin's own record shows the same at the state level. The idea that once a teenager, deprived of an education which teaches contraception, finds herself pregnant, is then expected to allow the embryo to come to term, to then either give it away or marry the father regardless of who, what or how he is doesn't rank among my values. To celebrate such practices as values to which we all should aspire, strikes me as worse than Palin's corruption charges and her petition to sue the government in order to keep polar bears off of the endangered species list.

How many times have we heard the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly decrying the flash of a bra-strap from 15-year-old Mylie Cyrus or the danger that sex education in Middle School will expose our children to too much information about sex too young? Well, Senator McCain and Governor Palin, I just wanted you to know that this particular mother would have preferred to wait a bit before having to explain to my 7-year-old that a latex covering over a penis should be worn to keep the semen from fertilizing the egg during sex if teenagers, such as the one broadcast all over the news yesterday, decide to engage in such activity before being mature enough to actually parent a baby.

In a way though, McCain and Palin have done us all a favor as they now have removed the chastity belt which hampered honest discussion on sex education in schools and realistic, effective ways to prevent teen-pregnancy and STDs. Maybe my 7-year-old could have held on a bit longer to his innocent notions of Trojans simply as Greek Warriors; but the McCain/Palin ticket has only reinforced the idea that pre-pubescent children and teens here and around the globe deserve nothing less than a government-provided box of the wonderful little things, complete with classroom sex-education courses.

Now we're talking values.

Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus . She directs the Institute's Cities for Progress project.

 
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