And Baby Makes Two


The McCain-Palin campaign says it’s for change, and it certainly delivered change with its abrupt abandonment of the long-standing conservative view of teen pregnancy. For decades, religious conservatives in the Republican Party pointed to teen pregnancy as a troubling sign of moral decay. But when the McCain-Palin campaign announced that Governor Sarah Palin’s unmarried seventeen-year-old daughter was pregnant, the party’s operatives went into a huddle and emerged with an expediently different view: Teen pregnancy is just one of the challenges of middle-class family life.

The Republican declaration drew swift and scornful charges of hypocrisy and political opportunism from the Left. It fell to socially liberal journalists to lecture Republicans on the problems associated with unmarried teen pregnancy. Columnist Joe Conason called upon the Palin camp to “stop pretending this is good news,” and went on to cite the standard social-science litany of problems associated with teen pregnancy: school drop-out, low-birth-weight babies, more infant illness, increased likelihood of failed marriages among the relatively few who wed.

As it happens, this flare-up in the political world occurs at a crucial moment for teen-pregnancy policy in the real world. Beginning in the early 1990s, the teen birth rate began to drop and continued to fall for the next fifteen years without an increase in abortion. The...

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About the Author

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of The Divorce Culture (Knopf), directs the Center for Thrift and Generosity at the Institute for American Values.