Sarah Palin, the soon-to-be Republican candidate for Vice-President of the U.S., was chosen by John McCain supposedly to secure the more conservative elements of the party. She is described as a social conservative; one who has adopted and represents the more right wing positions on social ethics and morality. In other words, she is for family values and pro-life. It is within this background that the announcement of her unmarried teenage daughter's pregnancy is most interesting -- and may actually bring out a most interesting Torah perception.
The fact that Bristol Palin is both pregnant and will keep the baby presents a most interesting contradiction in the moral workings of what we may term "social conservatives." On one hand, she is a teenager pregnant out of wedlock. What does that say about her values? What does that say about her parents and how they raised her? This would seem to be a black mark against Gov. Palin -- her own teenage daughter has had sex. Yet watch what is happening to temper this and even turn it around to be a moral example for this political group. First, she is going to marry the father. What does that say? Well it says that, at least, her sexual encounter was not fully promiscuous, i.e. that she sleeps around. If she is going to marry the father, we can assume that there is a relationship -- and while that doesn't justify pre-marital relations, even to people in the right wing, it does temper it. But that is not the real point. The fact is that she is going to keep the baby. She is an example of pro-choice -- and now becomes an example of Gov. Palin's values.
In keeping the baby, Bristol Palin becomes a living example of the values of pro-life and an example of what her mother believes. She now becomes an example of proper upbringing, of being taught proper values. The Palin family now also becomes an example of what a family must do to ensure that a pregnant daughter keeps the baby. All the right things are being said. Of course it will be hard on the family, but this is what a loving family must do. Of course it will be hard on the daughter but doing the right thing can be hard -- and that is why it is most important for the family to stand with their daughter...and not chastise her for having had sex. The Bristol Palin pregnancy now becomes an example of pro-life. And watch the challenges of pro-choice advocates. Doesn't pro choice also mean respecting and supporting a woman who does decide to keep the baby?
So what would have seemed to be a moral black mark against Gov. Palin, now becomes a potential moral example. She is pro-life and is willing to accept the responsibilities that go with this opinion. The problem is that she is Catholic -- a devout Catholic from what I read -- so the fact that her teenage daughter slept with her boyfriend still does raise some questions. But what I find most interesting is that what is playing out is actually the moral standards that the Torah decries for non-Jews. There is no issur for Noahides to have pre-marital sex so from a Torah perspective there was nothing wrong with Bristol McCain having had sex. There is, though, a major issur for Noahides to have an abortion. For Noahides, abortion is clearly a category of murder. So Briston Palin keeping the baby is what the Torah would demand of her. What we are thus seeing in this life drama to observance of the Sheva Mitzvot Bnei Noach. The problem may be that the Palins don't even know that, and thus we can still wonder about what all these events mean about the value structure within the Palin home in terms of how Bristol Palin incorporated the values of her parents and how these values were imparted to her. How a child acts does not necessarily tell us about the parents but often it does. Bristol Palin presents a contradiction - which is often the case. What does that say about Gov. Palin, if anything?
Of course, Gov. Palin's response to Bristol's pregnancy, regardless of how she feels about Bristol having had sex, let's the nation evaluate her in terms of her behaviour -- and that will be part of the upcoming campaign, no doubt. But it is most interesting how we should look at all the events from our perspective, the Torah perspective. In the end, what is occurring is the observance of the Noahide Code to its full extent. There was nothing wrong with Bristol being pregnant from a halachic perspective. And again from a halachic perspective she is doing the right thing in keeping the baby. She is following the Sheva Mitzvot, period-- and her family is helping her do that even if they don't really know that. I find this most interesting.
Rabbi Ben Hecht