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Bristol Palin on teen pregnancy: 'Learn from my example'

May 6, 2009 |  7:55 am

It was almost as if Bristol Palin, the 19-year-old daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was showing her mom how to make a serious entry onto the national stage. No fireworks, no red-meat rhetoric to fire up the true believers.

Instead, in interviews on the morning shows -- on NBC's "Today" show accompanied by her father, First Dude Todd Palin, and her 4-month-old son, Tripp -- the unwed teen mother talked quietly and poignantly about how her life has changed since she had a baby. She pitched abstinence if possible and protection if not. This despite the fact that her mother, tapped in August as Republican John McCain's vice presidential candidate, was a strong proponent of abstinence education. [Updated at 3:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said Sarah Palin supported "abstinence-only education." In fact, the governor has said she supports sex education courses that discuss contraception as well as abstinence.]

The single mother -- who hasn't married the baby's father, spotlight-seeking Levi Johnston -- is now the teen ambassador for the Candie's Foundation to prevent teenage pregnancy. According to the foundation, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate -- about 750,000 a year -- is the highest in the industrialized world, twice as high as in England and Canada and eight times as high as Japan's.

And, says Candie's, which is in the business of selling what its officials call "frankly sexy shoes," warns that teen fathers rarely marry the mothers of their children and that the sons of teen couples are twice as likely to end up in prison.

Bristol says she loves her son, adding that he's "not a mistake, he's a blessing." Still, she said, her life has been thrown into a tempest of diapers, sleepless nights and milk bottles. Her goal: to save even one teenage girl from an unexpected pregnancy with unintended consequences.

"I'm trying to tell them that this is a 24-hour-a-day job," she said. "It's not like an accessory on your hip, it's hard work."

As for her father, Todd Palin said he is "very proud" of Bristol. "You can never turn back the clock," he observed.

-- Johanna Neuman

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