Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bristol Palin's Pregnancy

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has me on his organization's mailing list. I'm glad that I'm on that list, because his newsletter keeps me informed with regard to the many important issues facing our nation, from a perspective informed both by biblical morality and common sense (or what used to be regarded as common sense, at any rate).

Recently, Democrats have repeatedly attacked Bristol Palin's mother, Sarah, on account of recent revelations concerning Bristol's pregnancy. They have speciously insinuated that Bristol's pregnancy is evidence that Sarah would be a poor Vice President.

I found Tony Perkins' comment about Bristol Palin's pregnancy to be enlightened and appropriate. He said, "While marrying at an early age or single parenthood is not an optimal family structure, discarding life simply because it is the convenient thing to do ... only encourages a culture where all life is seen as disposable."

Yes, of course, it would have been better if Bristol Palin had exercised better self-control and abstained from sex until marriage. No politically conservative Christian in his or her right mind would disagree. But Bristol's lack of self-control is not her mother's fault, nor (contrary to the insinuations recently made by many liberals) is it an indication that abstinence-only programs "don't work".

No matter how conscientious parents might be, there is no foolproof way of guaranteeing that children will make wise choices. To blame Sarah for Bristol's sexual sin is therefore ludicrous.

As for the idea that the only valid response to a problem is a response which has a 100% success rate, I would simply point out that no such response exists when it comes to the issue of teenage pregnancy. But that doesn't mean that some responses aren't better than others.

Saying that Bristol's pregnancy proves that abstinence-only programs are ineffective is comparable to saying that alcohol rehabilitation programs are a waste of time because they don't always work, or that education is a waste of time because some kids still drop out of school, or that the criminal justice system is a waste of time because some people continue to commit crimes. Such claims are evidence of mind-boggling stupidity.

Even the best education and prevention programs have failure rates, because people still have free will, and they can ignore the good advice which is presented to them. It's absurd for liberals to imply that we should therefore just give up on the idea that we can substantially reduce teen pregnancies by teaching good values to our children.

The same fatalistic, defeatist assumptions can be found in other hare-brained liberal schemes, such as their plans to distribute condoms to high school students or their plans to give clean needles to junkies.

To hear their rhetoric with regard to issues pertaining to personal morality, one would have to conclude that liberals think that people are lemmings. We are not. (Well, at least I'm not!) People are not animals; or, at least, people are not mere animals. We are not irrevocably bound by instincts we do not understand and cannot control. We have free will. If that were not the case, then any type of criminal justice system would be intrinsically unjust. But it's legitimate to hold people accountable for their actions.

Most liberals understand intuitively that that's the case. Otherwise, how can one explain the myriad regulations which they would impose on business owners? Very few liberals are anarchists. They may disagree with conservatives about what aspects of behavior should and shouldn't be regulated, but most of them agree that it's legitimate to hold people accountable for their actions.

Yes, it's true that our choices are influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, family upbringing, economics, political structures and so on and so forth. But none of those things are capable of depriving us of the ability to choose, nor are they sufficient for the purpose of excusing us for making bad choices.

Abstinence-only programs which teach proper, non-dysfunctional behavior are the right solution, even though they are not guaranteed to "work" 100% of the time, because the alternative is to just throw in the towel and give up. When we do that, we forfeit the right to complain when things predictably start going down the toilet.

We are never guaranteed success when we do our best to minimize societal problems by encouraging people to do the right thing, but we must do our best nevertheless.

Sarah Palin undoubtedly wishes that Bristol had made better choices in life with regard to her sexual activities. Nevertheless, like me and like millions of other Americans, Sarah Palin is a principled person who knows that the unborn child currently residing in her daughter's womb is not to blame for Bristol's choices. Sarah knows that Bristol's unborn child has divinely endowed fundamental rights equal to the rights with which all other human beings are endowed.

To see the "unwanted" unborn child as a "punishment" (as Barack Obama does) and to punish the unborn child for the sins of his or her mother by sending Bristol to the local abortion clinic would only make things much worse than they already are. It would be unjust from the standpoint of the unborn child's right to life, and it would be unfair to Bristol as well, because it would only encourage her to continue to make irresponsible choices in the future.

In short, I am extremely glad that John McCain chose a running mate with the wisdom of Sarah Palin. I hope that voters will exhibit comparable wisdom when they visit the polls on election day.

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