CNN correspondent Kyra Phillips used a report on the "hometown reaction" to the news of Sarah Palin's pregnant teenaged daughter during today's "American Morning" to highlight the need for sex-education in schools. Phillips noted, "But to some, the 17-year-old's pregnancy is a political issue. Her mother supports strong family values and teaching abstinence, but not sex education in schools. Abortion rights activists say they won't comment on Bristol's case, but it does underscore the need for teaching teenagers about sex."
After a positive sound bite from Barack Obama and another from a Republican Alaskan state senator, Phillips allowed the anti-abstinence bias to shine through.
When asked by Phillips, "why not support abstinence-only?" Geran Tarr of the Alliance for Reproductive Justice stated, "It doesn't educate teenagers about how to prevent STD transmission." No proponents of abstinence-only education appeared during the segment to counter Tarr's claim and Phillips herself failed to challenge Tarr on his assertion. Instead, Phillips again stressed the need for sex education by stating, "Alaska has one of the highest teenage rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the country although the rate of teenage pregnancies has dropped sharply."
The transcript of the segment that aired at 6:18 AM appears below:
KIRAN CHETRY: Well, personal news blending with presidential politics. Senator John McCain's running mate announcing that her teenage daughter is pregnant. Sarah Palin says that her daughter has their family's unconditional love and support in her decision to keep the baby and marry the father. The Obama camp says the matter is off the table as a campaign issue. CNN's Kyra Phillips is in Anchorage, Alaska with hometown reaction and what if anything it could mean for the Republican ticket.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, we were sent here to investigate the background of Governor Sarah Palin. And I can tell you in less than a day on the ground, politics turned personal. 17-year-old Bristol is Governor Palin's oldest daughter -- a high school senior. She's been seen at campaign events in the last few days holding her baby brother, Trig. What we didn't know then, she's five months pregnant.
The father's name is Levi and they intend to marry. The parents issued this statement. "We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support." Prominent Republicans in Alaska and beyond have been just as supportive.
FRED DYSON (R), ALASKA STATE SENATE: She's a human being like everybody else and it certainly doesn't mean that your kids are. To me it makes them more human. And my guess is that's how the public is going to react.
PHILLIPS: Aides to Senator John McCain say he was aware of Bristol's pregnancy even before he chose her mother for his running mate and didn't even consider it relevant. Nor does Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said before and I will repeat again, I think people's families are off limits. And people's children are especially off limits.
PHILLIPS: But to some, the 17-year-old's pregnancy is a political issue. Her mother supports strong family values and teaching abstinence, but not sex education in schools. Abortion rights activists say they won't comment on Bristol's case, but it does underscore the need for teaching teenagers about sex.
GERAN TARR, ALLIANCE FOR REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE: Even in the best of circumstances with the best family and a loving family where they've probably had the conversation that this type of thing can happen unexpectedly.
PHILLIPS: Why not support abstinence only?
TARR: It doesn't educate teenagers about how to prevent STD transmission.
PHILLIPS: According to Tarr, Alaska has one of the highest teenage rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the country although the rate of teenage pregnancies has dropped sharply. We asked a man who knows Governor Palin well. Can she juggle being a mom and vice president of the United States?
DYSON: She's a very capable person and very bright and tough, and without being abrasive. And I don't know whether she can do it or not. Time will tell.
PHILLIPS: Now the unknown. Will the revelation of Bristol's pregnancy impact the McCain campaign, if at all? And investigation number two, "Troopergate." Did Governor Palin use her political power to try and fire her former brother-in-law? The McCain camp is still adamant that she's done nothing wrong. John, Kiran.
ROBERTS: Kyra Phillips reporting for us this morning from Anchorage, Alaska. Kyra, thanks so much.