Teen pregnancy issue hits home for national candidate
"We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy," Gov. Palin said of the young couple. List and discuss issues journalists should consider when reporting on the families of public officials. What should be in-bounds and off-limits?
Look at campaign coverage or reports on last week's Republican convention. Is this topic handled in a fair, balanced way? Are varied views presented, including what teens say?
Sex educators see a "teaching moment" -- a chance to show why abstinence or contraception are important. Look for interviews, columns or reader comments exploring that angle.
Sex education and teen motherhood are in the spotlight because Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin's unmarried 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant. Bristol Palin plans to marry Alaska schoolmate Levi Johnston, 18, and raise their child, the family says. The news, which hit front pages a few days after presidential candidate John McCain picked Gov. Palin as a running mate, sparks a debate over privacy, media coverage and how to avoid pregnancy among those who can't drink alcohol legally.
McCain, and their party's campaign position - known as its platform - say children should be taught that abstinence until marriage is the only safe way to avoid pregnancy and disease. But after 15 years of decline, America's teen birth rate showed an increase in figures released this summer. About 750,000 U.S. teens become pregnant each year, giving our nation the second-highest rate among industrialized countries.
Gov. Palin acknowledges that the oldest of her four daughters now must "grow up faster than we had ever planned." The national candidate added: "Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child." This topic was in 2008 news before last week's headlines. In June, 17-year-old actress Jamie Lynn Spears gave birth to a daughter. And in early this year, the film Juno won an Oscar -- prompting critics to accuse Hollywood of glamorizing teen pregnancy. (The fictional mother let her baby be adopted.)
Candidate says: "We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support." - Sarah Palin and husband Todd in Sept. 1 statement
Columnist says: "This pregnancy brings home the debate of abstinence only versus sex education that includes abstinence and facts about contraception." - Muriam Marquez, Miami Herald
Editorial says: "How and what schools should teach teens about sex and contraception are issues that should be part of a national debate. A candidate's pregnant teenage daughter may indeed be a private family matter, but it also touches on broader issues that affect every family in America." - The Baltimore Sun
Front Page Talking Points is written by
Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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