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This article is from the In-Depth Report Science and the U.S. Election

Sarah Palin dishes on health and science: What does she really think?

Public fascination with Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, extends to her views on the environment, evolution and abortion, and that curiosity has only grown since media access to her has tightened in the month since Sen. John McCain picked the Alaska governor as his running mate.

We have a bit more clarity now, after CBS Evening News anchor, Katie Couric, grilled Palin on last night's broadcast. Although Couric wasn't able to nail down Palin's positions as concretely as she (and voters) may have liked, she brought out some of the candidate's reasoning on controversial science topics.

Palin has advocated opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling—something McCain has said he opposes. The Arizona senator (who sat in on some of the interview) brushed off their difference of opinion before Palin downplayed ANWR's potential as an energy source: "ANWR is a 2,000-acre plot that's in the midst of 21 million acres," she said, according to an unedited transcript of the interview. "That's not where the supply of domestic energy sources is, though, necessarily. I mean, that's not the be-all, end-all. Offshore is where the supply of energy is. And we'll tap into that."

Palin added that she was "on board with the alternative fuel" and "tapping into the nuclear, the clean coal to biomass, geothermal, tides, waves—all those things that we have as alternative energy sources." McCain has called for caps on carbon dioxide emissions, which are linked to global warming, but he's wavered on whether they should be mandatory or voluntary; Palin wouldn't say which kind of cap she supported.

Palin acknowledged that climate change is "real, we need to do something about it." But she stopped short of attributing global warming to human activities, a point that gets at how society should address the problem. "I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on changes in climate, because the world's weather patterns…are cyclical," Palin said. "Human beings certainly are contributing to pollution today. And to some adverse effects on the environment."

Palin has come under criticism for suggesting that creationism be taught alongside evolution in schools, and she didn't back away from that position last night, exactly. Noting that she's the daughter of a science teacher, Palin said that evolution "should be taught as an accepted principle." But curricula "are best left to the local school districts," she said. "[I] don’t have a problem at all with kids debating all sides of theories," she added.

Palin leans conservative on issues of reproductive health: She has said she backs legal abortion only if a woman's life is in danger, and that she supports abstinence-only education in schools.

Last night, Couric asked Palin why abortion should be illegal for a teen rape victim. Palin didn't directly address the legality of the procedure itself; rather, she said a woman shouldn’t be punished for getting an abortion. "If you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an…abortion, absolutely not," Palin said. "That's nothing I would ever support."

"Life starts at the moment of conception," Palin added later. And while she said she's "all for contraception. And I'm all for any preventative measures that are legal and safe and should be taken," she also said that one of them, the morning-after pill, wasn't for her.

On that point, we may have gotten a little too much information: "Personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception," Palin said.

 

 

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