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All pregnant teens need the Palins' level of support

This election cycle has been the most interesting I have ever witnessed, what with its plot twists and character flaws and humanity.

The most recent shocker was Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain's pick for his running mate.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a former mayor and the mother of five, came out of nowhere to land at the top of his list.

Now, because that is what we do when presented with a puzzle or a challenge or the unknown, journalists all over the world are trying to figure out just who this woman is.

In their digging, however, Bristol Palin, the governor's 17-year-old daughter, was outed as yet another statistic in the number of teenage girls who are pregnant out of wedlock.

Palin and her husband, Todd, released a statement saying that they were proud to be future grandparents, that their daughter would marry the father of her unborn child, and that they love their daughter unconditionally.

It is what we all would hope all parents would say. We also would hope that all those who have rallied around the Palin family at this difficult juncture in their daughter's life would also rally as enthusiastically and unconditionally around the thousands and thousands of other unwed teenage mothers.

But we know that ain't so.

From the girl down the street to Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister, pregnant teens have been treated by some in this advanced society as gum on the soles of their shoes.

The rate of pregnancy for girls ages 15 to 19 rose 3 percent in 2006, the first increase in 15 years, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancies. The Center for Disease Control found that number to represent 41.9 births per 1,000 women in 2006.

Most of those pregnancies were unplanned, as, I would assume, were the pregnancies of Bristol Palin and Jamie Lynn Spears.

But where critics came out of the baseboards to criticize Spears' parents for their daughter's problem, I've heard only praise for Gov. Palin.

Let's spread that praise around more extensively. Let's call all young unwed mothers, regardless of their race or economic standing, a credit to the anti-abortion movement nationwide and characterize their parents as near-angels for having instilled those beliefs in their children.

They all need and deserve the love.

I hadn't heard much of that for unwed teens before the vice presidential nominee's daughter was found to be with child.

As I wrote in January, when news broke of Jamie Lynn Spears' pregnancy, the folks at the Florence Crittenton Home in Lexington have, for decades, supported pregnant girls as young as 11 through a difficult period in their lives.

The home is one of many nationwide established during the late 19th century or early 20th century to give young unwed mothers a place to give birth shielded from societal condemnation. The average age of residents just rose to 15.

This phenomena is not new. That doesn't make it acceptable either, however.

But while we are feeling warm and fuzzy about the Palins, as we should, we can show some love as well for the girls at Florence e_SDHpCrittenton Home.

Mary Venezia, executive director of the Florence Crittenton Home, 519 West Fourth Street, said she is in desperate need of infant toys, such as baby mirrors and other items that stimulate the seven babies who live at the home with their mothers.

Venezia needs disposable diapers and wipes, gift certificates with which she can buy formula, and chairs that glide instead of rock so that crawling toddlers won't be injured.

But most of all, Venezia said, almost in a whisper, she'd like someone to come and knock down a wall to enlarge the home's nursery.

"I have a nursery that is small and tiny and dark and crowded," she said. "We are busting at the seams back there. And we actually have a room next to it where a staff member works but would be willing to move."

The nursery, she said, is about 10 feet by 12 feet, and when all the workers and babies are there with the baby equipment, there is little room to maneuver. That room is where the babies stay while their mothers are in school.

And, if there is any icing to dribble over that cake, Venezia would love to have a four-passenger stroller, "so my babies can get out in the sun."

It's time we put our money where we say our beliefs are. If we want these girls to keep their babies, to give birth instead of having abortions, then we must offer them more than a pat on the head and a hallelujah.

"We keep growing," Venezia said. "I just need support from the community. We've been here since 1894, and we're the least-known organization in Lexington."

"Show the love here."

To help, call Venezia at (859) 252-8636.

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