Dear Bristol Palin,
Our lives couldn’t look more different. You grew up in Alaska, I grew up in Mississippi. We both grew up as Christians; you became a vocal advocate for Christianity and the pro-life movement while I am a liberal, agnostic student who is outspokenly pro-choice. You’ve cultivated a career out of encouraging abstinence while I gave my junior class lessons in sexual education.
When I first heard about your second pregnancy, my first reaction was unkind smugness. I’ve long seen you as a person who encourages a sex-ed practice which is flawed. I’ve seen you as a woman who does little to actually curtail teen pregnancy and makes a fortune off of it.
Ultimately, however, that smugness is unkind.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re about to be humiliated on a national scale. I’m sorry you’re going to have to live through the hardship of a public pregnancy again. I’m sorry you feel like a disappointment to your friends, family and fans. I’m sorry that you’ll suffer emotional anguish from what should be a joyous experience for you.
I’m not a believer, and I don’t believe having sex out of wedlock is immoral. As long as the sex is safe, sane, and consensual, I generally don’t care what happens in people’s bedrooms. I don’t see your pregnancy as your personal failure or a great disappointment.
While we disagree very strongly on many issues, I see you as a beautiful young mother who obviously adores her son. You’ve made a living for yourself, and you can still have a bright future. If we had more similar beliefs, perhaps this wouldn’t bring you as much shame as your letter portrayed.
You’ve built a passionate faith community around you, and a brief look on your Facebook page shows how they support you. I hope you find comfort in your faith during this hard time.
In the future, I’d encourage you to be kinder in your admonishments of other celebrities and of behaviors you find sinful. While I assume you never intended to have a second pregnancy out of wedlock, the nation has seen the man behind the curtain. According to your faith, you are a sinner.
If I got pregnant right now as a college senior, I would have an abortion. I value my personal and professional lives far too much to give them up for a child. My desire to remain childless for now is why I’m on birth control and will soon get an IUD. We disagree fundamentally on when life begins, but I respect your dedication and allegiance to the pro-life standard.
You’ve made your living by encouraging a behavior even you could not manage. Teenagers in the United States get pregnant every day, and abstinence-only education isn’t stopping them. I want to prevent abortions because I’d prefer if women don’t have unintended pregnancies—I’d rather they use effective and safe family planning methods. You want to stop abortions because you believe they are murder. We can accomplish both our goals by advocating for smart family planning. The pill is 99% effective when used correctly. Abstinence is 100% effective if used correctly, but, as you’ve lived through, it’s not often used correctly.
I wish you, your son, and your new baby well in the future. I hope you learn from this experience. And maybe you’ll learn to not wag your fingers at others. As your Bible says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).
Photo by Gage Skidmore