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[Opinion] Teen Pregnancy

Posted September. 04, 2008 09:27,   


Teen pregnancy has become a hot issue in the U.S. presidential race after Republican candidate John McCain`s running mate Sarah Palin announced that her 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant. Palin, who decided to have a baby with Down’s syndrome, reaffirmed her conservative values, saying she is proud of her daughter’s decision to have her baby. The pregnancy is stirring huge controversy because the U.S. election has long served as an arena where conflicting values clash, such as gun control and abortion.

Progressive media such as the New York Times have put the McCain Camp and Palin’s qualifications under criticism. The daily said the McCain camp had kept the pregnancy secret and that upon disclosure, it hurriedly emphasized her daughter`s upcoming marriage to the baby’s father. The newspaper implicitly criticized Palin’s raising of her children, suggesting she, who says she values family and life more than anything else, failed to prevent her teenage daughter from getting pregnant. Some have mentioned the possibility of Palin’s withdrawal from the race.

Palin is not necessarily on the defensive, however. Other dailies including the Los Angeles Times said the majority of American voters sympathize with Palin. Forty percent of American teenagers have sex before age 14 and more than half of teenage girls between 15 and 19 have sex more than once, according to reports. Despite the widespread use of contraceptives, 750,000 teens get pregnant every year. The box office hit "Juno” featuring a pregnant teen illustrates the generosity of Americans toward teen pregnancy.

That said, the pregnancy of Palin’s daughter will influence female voters. McCain picked Palin as his running mate to offset his old age and win over women voters. That strategy has worked to a certain degree. Even Hillary Clinton praised his decision, saying, “We should be proud of Palin’s nomination for vice president.” Given that women’s support for the Democratic Party comes from its pro-choice stance, it is unclear how many Clinton supporters will back the pro-life Palin. The U.S. presidential election largely hinges on women voters who either support abortion or accept teenage pregnancy.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)