Abstain from Palin

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Bristol Palin and her Dancing with the Stars co-contestant, Jersey Shore’s the Situation, are in a new commercial promoting abstinence. I cannot tell you how happy it made me to type that sentence.

Bristol’s postpartum pro-abstinence stance is not new. Just last year she appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America saying, “Regardless of what I did personally, I just think that abstinence is the only … 100 percent foolproof way to prevent pregnancy.”

Bristol is correct, of course. I personally believe that all teens should be taught abstinence as an alternative to sex, just as I believe that all teens should be taught safe sex and the proper use of contraception.

However, I do not believe that Bristol is the best spokesperson.

Back in the 1990’s, it was popular to use young recovering addicts in drug abuse prevention programs to offer real-life cautionary tales to teens. On the surface, it seemed like a great idea: these speakers talked with authority, they could relate to their young audiences, and they were real.

It turns out that these programs had an effect opposite of what was intended.

Instead of a cautionary tale, many teens inferred from these speakers that they too could abuse drugs, recover, and become the center of attention.

These programs actually increased drug abuse.

Similarly, I am worried that too many teens will look at Bristol and see a young woman whose unplanned pregnancy as a teenager made her famous, landed her a spot on Dancing with the Stars, and afforded her the… opportunity… to hang out with the Situation.

If you have a child who is entering adolescence, talk with him or her. Do not assume that he or she knows how you feel about premarital sex. Make it explicit. Make sure he or she understands the real consequences of teenage pregnancy – like poor educational outcomes for the baby and unhealthy and unhappy relationships for the parents – and make sure that you are your child’s role model, not Bristol.

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