The November 3rd issue of the New Yorker has a great article that addresses the apparent contradiction in Evangelical culture highlighted by Bristol Palin's pregnancy. Why were Evangelicals so accepting of her pregnancy while affirming that premarital sex is a sin? Because abortion is a greater sin and her choice not to have one was something for them to celebrate. I see the situation differently. I see her pregnancy as a failure of abstinence-only rhetoric. I do not see her as a role model for other pregnant teenagers; her situation is one of privilege not shared by most pregnant teens. (She would still be able to go to college, if she so desired. The price of child care is not an issue she will have to contend with.)
The article can be summarized in the findings that American mainline Protestant and Jewish teenagers are more likely to view premarital sex as acceptable and are therefore more comfortable seeking protection and even prolonging their sexual debut. (Maybe they feel there's no urgency to have sex right now because they can make that choice later, even if it happens before they marry.) Evangelical teens are more likely to view premarital sex as a sin and yet are more likely to have it soon after they turn 16. Of course they've also had less exposure to sex education and either don't know how to protect themselves or are unwilling to seek it out because that would be admitting they will have premarital sex, just like other teenagers! Read the article here.