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Bristol Palin, still not married, is pregnant again just weeks after announcing the end of her second engagement, and the internet is losing its mind. Both the schadenfreude squad and the hypocrisy police were out in full force Friday morning, spamming social media with slick memes thrown together so quickly you wonder if they had them ready to go in advance in a special “break glass in case of opportunity to mock social conservatives” file.
First of all, let’s set the record straight. Miss Palin, according to one viral talking point making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook, made $262,000 in a single year from speaking fees promoting abstinence after the birth of her first child, Tripp, with whom she became pregnant at the age of 17 – right around the time her mother, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, was running for Vice President.
Okay, everyone, clutch your pearls. Got ‘em? Let’s go. All together now: “How hypocritical! Why don’t you practice what you preach, Palin?”
Actually, she did. Some quotes:
Speaking to Greta Van Susteren in 2009: “But I think abstinence is, like – like, the – I don’t know how to put it – like, the main – everyone should be abstinent or whatever but it’s not realistic at all…. Because it’s more and more accepted now….[Y]ou should just wait 10 years and it’d just be so much easier.”
Speaking to Dr. Drew Pinsky in 2011: "[I’m not] an abstinence preacher …. I’m not out there saying don’t have sex. I hate that kind of stuff. Birth control needs to be used effectively each and every single time if you’re gonna be having sex. … I’m not advocating [abstinence] for everyone else.”
Bristol Palin: NOT an abstinence preacher. In fact, the speaking fees she made were from her role with the Candie’s Foundation’s “Pause Before You Play” campaign – an anti-teen pregnancy initiative sponsored by a charity that has honored Hillary Clinton, Katie Couric, Jane Fonda and Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall (none of whom are known as promoters of teen abstinence) as being particularly helpful to the cause. Palin was hired as a speaker not to promote abstinence, but to talk about the difficulties of being a teenage mother – something she was well-qualified to speak on, considering she was one.
I can hear the critics now: “But she’s still a hypocrite! Her whole shtick has been, ‘I’ve learned my lesson the hard way, don’t make my same mistake,’ And now, she’s gone and done it AGAIN!”
Yes, Bristol Palin has made a living, and a rather profitable one at that, discouraging others from making the same choices she once made. That’s a good thing for her and her child, since single teenage moms usually aren’t known for their earning power, but it also highlights the fact that the politically and financially well-connected rarely pay for their mistakes in quite the same way the rest of us do. (Heck, I’m well into my thirties and wasn’t a teenage mom, and I have never had a year that good, financially speaking.)
But let’s think critically for a moment here. First of all, Bristol is now 24 years old, not 17. She makes plenty of money, and until very recently, she was engaged to be married (she and her former fiancé broke it off in May, just days before their planned wedding). Is she in a perfect position to be having a baby? Of course not, but people rarely are. It still doesn’t make her a hypocrite.
Still, human nature being what it is, it’s not all that surprising that a conflation of political gotcha, celebrity obsession and old-fashioned sour grapes have made Bristol today’s recipient of the internet’s official “Kick Me” sign. Bristol herself seems to have expected it: “I know this [pregnancy] has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you,” she wrote in a
public announcement at Patheos, where she blogs about life and family. “But please respect Tripp’s and my privacy during this time. I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy. My little family always has, and always will come first.”
I find that statement kind of sad, and I think it highlights one of the problems with the conservative evangelical movement – you only get one shot at grace. The problem with the idea of “once saved, always saved” is that once you’re saved, you ought to know better, so every public sin is a shock and a source of scandal. Maybe I’m biased, but I think Bristol ought to consider joining the Catholic Church. We sort of expect this kind of thing to happen once in a while. People aren’t perfect. That’s why we have Confession.
But you know what? Kudos to Bristol for owning her choices. It would have been all too easy for her to spare herself the embarrassment and potential threat to her livelihood by aborting this child and sweeping the whole situation under the rug, like children of privilege have done for time immemorial. Like her mother before her – who can be counted among the small minority of women who chose not to abort after discovering their babies had Down Syndrome (I say this as no fan of Sarah Palin, but let’s give credit where credit is due, please) – she is living out her pro-life principles in a sacrificial way. This is going to cost her something.
“What sacrifice?” the critics will say. “She’s a spoiled rich kid. It’s not like she’s being consigned to a life of poverty.” Perhaps not. But tell Bristol there’s no sacrifice involved while she rocks that baby for its 2am feedings alone. Tell her she’s not sacrificing as she tries to do the job of three parents for two children, with only one body and soul to share with them. Tell her this isn’t costing her something as she watches the world take what should have been a joyful announcement – a new baby is always a blessing, even if imperfectly conceived – and use it to tear her family down in a vicious and public manner.
Bristol Palin says she doesn’t want any sympathy. Well, I’m sorry, Bristol, but you’ve got mine. Not for your pregnancy – congratulations on your beautiful new blessing! – but for the way you’re being treated over it. You’re doing the right thing. Ignore the haters, and focus on what matters: the two precious children God has entrusted to you, because He knows you have what it takes to help them thrive.