Thursday, August 5, 2010

What’s wrong with pregnant teens?

Cross posted from

There is obviously a stigma attached to being a pregnant teenager.

My question is, why?

What is it about teenagers that makes us so upset when they get pregnant?

Some people might say that it’s because having a baby ruins a woman’s life- her change to fulfill her potential in the future. But then why aren’t we upset at 24 year olds having babies? They still have most of their lives ahead of them too. Or what if the young mother wants nothing more than to be a stay at home mom? Not everyone is on a track which takes them to college and then a PhD.

Other people might look down on her for not using birth control. But this is just an assumption. Perhaps she was using birth control- maybe birth control and condoms!- but happened to be a part of the statistic that contraceptives fail. Or perhaps she was raped. Can you imagine how hurtful it would be to have everyone assume you had consensual unprotected sex, when you were actually raped?

Another idea is that people look down on young people for having sex in the first place. Perhaps they would look down upon every sexually active teenager, but only the pregnant girls are physically affected in a way that gives off their sexual status. Is this a position the prochoice community wants to be in? Looking down on people for choosing to have sex?

Perhaps you’re thinking “Well, kids shouldn’t be having sex!” Most people would agree with that. But what age does “kids” cover? 19 year olds? 16 year olds? 14 year olds? I don’t have an answer for that. I do have a personal belief about how young is “too young” for sex. But my personal belief isn’t going to stop kids from having sex. Kids who are told they can’t, or shouldn’t, have sex, will continue to have sex- they just wont speak up about it, wont get protection, wont get tested.

Which brings us full circle back to young, pregnant girls.

So why do we think teen pregnancy is a bad thing? And if it really is a bad thing, how can we show that while still treating pregnant teenagers with respect and dignity?


  1. I'm going to have to think about that.

  2. I think sex is the whole problem. Historically limiting contraceptives and family planning options especially for unmarried women has been all about using those limitations as a means to promote the abstinence only ideology. A pregnancy is a very easy way to tell whether a woman or teenager has had sex (be it consensual and protected or forced or whatever else) and the common public reaction is "TEENAGERS! SEX! NOOOOOOOO!" I think the theory among some is if we demonize sex and pregnant teenagers enough we can stop kids from having sex. Ever. It doesn't seem to have worked in the past, nor is it working now, but hope springs eternal for some I suppose.

  3. Actually, some kids who are told they should wait to have sex actually don't have sex. Smart kids with caring guardians who don't just hand their teenagers a handful of contraceptives and say, "you're going to do it anyway, so here ya go!". They are the other percentage, albeit small, that don't have unplanned pregnancies and wind up being highly successful and well adjusted in the majority of cases (statistically speaking - and I'm not saying teen pregnancy precludes being successful and well adjusted, either). Abstinence DOES work.People who say it doesn't are so afraid some 'religion' is going to get interjected into the discourse, or that teaching responsible behavior is oppressing the teenager in some way, that they throw the baby out with the bathwater. It's called SELF - CONTROL! And it's not a character flaw, people. This can be taught without mistreating pregnant teens. After a teenager is pregnant, the discourse is about an entirely different subject.

  4. and, like sex, teen pregnancy in and of itself is not a BAD thing. Untimely, unplanned, difficult situation, overcoming hardship, need for perserverance, time for unconditional love, etc., but not insurmountable or tragic. Miracle of life rarely is - unless all the influential voices are telling you it is. Not to be compared with a trusted voice telling you it's better to wait to have a sex until you are prepared to accept the subsequent results.

  5. Anonymous, as a smart ex-teen with parents who expected her to stay abstinent until she was 30 and never received contraceptives- I can tell you the teen is going to have sex anyway.

  6. Don't be a sap. I didn't say all teens would remain abstinent. Do you not see that I am able to string some thoughts together? Therefore I hope you can conclued I'm not totally ignorant. Teens will continue to have sex, like all two year olds will keep trying to stick their finger in the electric outlet until a parent teaches them it is a BAD CHOICE. Not because the parent wants to spoil their fun, and not until they find out for themselves it is a bad idea.

    Yes, every once in a while in spite of a good parent's best efforts, their two year old, or their teen, will succeed in doing the wrong thing. There are also countless teens who have parents who resign the game for whatever reason. These are the other gozillion kids who will keep having sex. But if sensibly talking abstinence to your kids might actually influence their thinking,why would you be against it? No method is 100%, but you have to ask yourself, in this age of readily available contraception, why has teen pregnancy increased, and back in the day when abstinence was the cultural expectation, and there was no available birth control, it was fairly non-existent? Answer: Permissive culture. No boundaries for sexual activity. The "don't ruin the fun - they're going to do it anyway, so why bother talking about it" mentality.
    (Oh.....that's right, I forgot! It's so much better now because back then we were all oppressed by old white men and were never free to express ourselves, blah,blah,blah)

    And please -- I'm not a religious wing-nut hack. I raised four kids aannnnnddddd(wait for it.....) I actually talked to them about the pros and cons of having pre-marital/pre-"adult" sex. I actually talked to them about how it is better to wait. I actually talked to them about the biblical basis for making the right decision. I actually bothered to provide them with some education. I actually monitored who they were with, what they did, and where they went. I didn't provide them with contraceptives. Guess what? All of my happily married children (all of them 5+ years) didn't have sex when they were teenagers or before they were married. Didn't have unplanned pregnancies. Are all successful. Did not come from a life of money and overpriviledge (actually were below poverty level for much of their upbringing). Had a parent that had to work full time. Abstinence DOES work. PARENTING works.

    Obviously (duh), teens will continue to have sex. So let's all throw up our hands and leave them alone, eh? Let's not offend their teen sensibilities and give them good advice along with good education - let's just give them contraceptives and tell them to go with the urge - to hell with responsible behavior and self control - if it feels good, do it. Much easier, yes? And when they are pregnant, let's drive them to the abortion clinic, because that's a lot easier, too, right? Let's remove all traces of negative consequences for poor decision making, and let them wing it on their own. Don't discipline teens anymore, that would insult their dignity, just be ready to bail them out, because it really isn't their fault. After all, everyone is doing it.

    Sorry, I loved my kids more than that. I think they're glad I did.

  7. I am not at all against parents encouraging their children to be abstinent. I do think you and everyone should recognize the difference between encouraging abstinence while accepting that basically everyone will have sex eventually.. and assuming "not my kid!" and never even considering your child could have sex.

    Comprehensive sex education includes abstinence education.

    Teen pregnancy has gone up lately thanks to Bush's abstinence only education programs. If you believe that teen pregnancy didn't exist in the past (or happened in smaller numbers), then you've been tricked. Teens got pregnant "back in the day"- but since that wasn't allowed, they were sent off to maternity homes and had their babies stolen from them. A lack of "permissible culture" didn't stop them from getting pregnant, it just hid their condition away.

    I'm curious how you know that your children didn't have sex before marriage. It would be wonderful to hear of a parent/child relationship that was so open you knew 100%. But I doubt that's possible. For a while, my parents also thought I wasn't having sex... even though I was.

    I've never said "kids will have sex so just leave them alone" or that parents shouldn't parent their kids. I also didn't say anything about you being ignorant. I'm not quite sure why you're saying those things. Please don't make strawman arguments.

  8. National Vital Statistics Report:

    5.3 per 1000 births to unmarried women in 1960
    38.6 per 1000 in 2004

    Just a rough estimate makes that about a sevenfold increase, right? I'd be interested to hear where you get your statistics. Sorry, passing out birth control isn't working. Not to mention the other unintended consequenses of recreational sex (STD's, psychological issues, physical harm).

    REALLY! :D Blaming it on Bush??? ROFLOL!!! Your joking, right?? I get this perverse little image of a George Bush devil sitting on the teenager's shoulder saying 'have sex'....'have sex'....(sorry, I digress) If I live to be 100, I'll bet people will still be blaming George Bush for various shit on the planet (actually, this is exactly the kind of mindset I'm referring to.....don't accept responsibility for your own actions, or teach your children to do so.....blame someone else - good strategy).

    As I told you, all of my children are adults. They all know that I did not abstain from sex when I was a teenager. They all know about sex. They all told me they abstained until after marriage, and I have no cause to disbelieve them. Conversely, they have no cause to lie to me, because at this point it doesn't matter. It is a wonderful thing to have that kind of open relationship with your children, and we all enjoy it. Trust me - the relationship is possible, and worth the effort.

    I know you never said that - I was discussing the particular mindset that would dismiss counseling a teenager to practice abstinence. Your response was mildly condescening. I also never said all kids will abstain, obviously they won't. I do know this - abstinence is the one and only 100% effective way to not get pregnant - or do you disagree?

  9. WOW. It seems like the above commenter is being intentionally obtuse.

    Does the NVSR statistic that you cite take into account how many women in the 1960s were forced into marriage by the shame and stigma of unwed motherhood? Does it even look at the age of the women having children, as more and more women are voluntarily choosing single parenthood now that they are able to be economically independent. As someone who was unmarried well into my 20s, "unmarried" does not equal "teen."

    George Bush certainly wasn't a devil telling teens "have sex" - but he was silencing the message of "use effective contraception" and making it harder for them to figure out what to do AFTER they have decided to have sex. You acknowledged that kids will continue to have sex. Not your perfect angels, but other people's kids. Why would you want to keep information about contraception and STD prevention from them? You gave your kids the information you thought they needed and (you think) they all made the choice you hoped they would make. That's great! Now had they NOT, wouldn't you have preferred that they be safe instead of engaging in even MORE unsafe behavior in misguided efforts to protect themselves like the kids who get information that doesn't include contraceptive education?

    Everyone acknowledges that not having sex is the only way to completely avoid pregnancy. Nobody denies this. I think you have a serious misconception of what comprehensive sex education looks like. I don't know a single parent who teaches their children about sex by "not spoiling the fun" - that's a straw man. I would venture that most every parent starts from a position that sex should be between people who are committed to and respectful of one another in a way that most teens probably aren't able to be.

    In short, sex ed is not about WHETHER to have sex. It's about what happens if you do. the WHETHER part of the conversation is up to PARENTS, and that decision will take place regardless of whether or not kids have the "what if you do" component. Making sure they have that component is crucial to ensuring that they don't needlessly suffer.

    Unless, of course, what you're really arguing is that teenagers (and disproportionately girls, of course), deserve to SUFFER for experimenting with sex. Is that what you're trying to say?

  10. um, sorry if that posted like 10 times. I got a message saying it didn't post. You can delete any repeats and this too...

  11. part 1 to previous anon.

    Ok. I provided a statistic. You provide me with one that says women were forced to do things they didn't want to do, and how that translates into a sevenfold increase in the VS research. I realize that unwed does not necessarily mean teenage, but it encompasses that sub-group. And what's wrong with the stigma? From a biblical standpoint (blogger i.d.'s herself as a 'Christian') pre-marital sex is two ways about it. This message happened to be instilled in kids pre 'sexual revolution' and it had an obvious effect. It also affected the number of other unintended consequences aside from pregnancy, i.e. STD's, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, and so on. Go dig up some statistics on those things. They have all increased due to de-stigmatization of the consequences of (in biblical terms) fornication. Obviously there is some carry over from the oppresive days of teaching moral behavior, otherwise the blogger's original post is bullshit. Obviously there are some negative consequences to the behavior, othewise we wouldn't need all the PSA's on STD's and safe sex.

    Please put up as a quotation, the place where I said I want to keep all information about sex and STD's away from all kids (WHO is using a straw man?). I'm just pointing out how idiotic it is to be anti-abstinence, since it's the only foolproof method. Please put up a quotation where I said my kids were perfect angels. They weren't. But because I bothered to have a little control over them (yeah, don't hyperventilate, I said control), they wound up avoiding the stigma, and avoiding consequences that would have perhaps negatively impacted their lives. You know why I did this? Because MY behavior impacted MY life in a negative way and I wanted something better for them. Jeez! Isn't this what parents are supposed to want? As for what would have happened after they had sex, if they had sex, which they didn't (and yes, I do know) - they were taught that they had to be accountable for their actions. If that meant unplanned teen pregnancy, then (for my girls) that meant, with all my love and support and help, she would be raising my grandchild. For my boys it meant (with all my love help and support) that they would be involved in the raising, financial, and physical care of my grandchild (as much as the MOB would permit). I guess if you consider a baby 'punishment' that's your business. I see it as another cultural shift that encourages child abuse, neglect, abortion, etc. If the unintended consequence was an STD, there would be treatment. If something worse happened (rape, date rape, physical abuse) then we would lovingly work through that. But as you know, contraceptives don't prevent those things.

  12. part 2 to previous anon

    It seems to me that we should be teaching our girls that their value and self worth is not found in their sexual performance, or what some 'boyfriend' or 'hook up' thinks they should be doing. We should be teaching our boys to respect women and their inherant worth as human beings, not as objects of sexual satisfaction.

    You want to hear something incredible one of my 'friends' said to me when our kids were very young? She said, "When [my daughter] turns 13, I'm putting her on birth control. I was having sex when I was thirteen, and I don't expect her to be any better". DON'T EXPECT HER TO BE ANY BETTER!? REALLY? I held to the expectation that I would do whatever was necessary to make sure my kids did better. And because you obviously didn't read my posts, what I did worked, and my children all still love me, and each other.

    Go read my post again, and try to understand what it says (or not). Here's one thing it DIDN'T say. It DID NOT say that I neglected to educate my children about sex and contraception. And in an effort to help you with accountability, here's some advice - Quit blaming George Bush. And I have really good kids. Get over it, 'cause I'm not sorry, and I can't do anything about your kids, and I really don't care if you give them contraceptives. What a suprise! You would be like all the other parents who don't want to be bothered with the business of parenting. Yay for you.

  13. part 3

    and in case you can't grab on to nuances, subtleties, or things implicit -

    Even had my kids engaged in the behavior I counselled against, I still love them, and I still think they are good kids. Even GREAT kids.

  14. Anon, you said:

    "It DID NOT say that I neglected to educate my children about sex and contraception."

    If you taught your kids about sex and contraceptives and encouraged abstinence, then you taught them comprehensive sex education.

  15. ...and your point is? Out of all the things I taught them, which method was the ONLY method that prevented pregnancy, STD's and avoidance of dangerous consequences? (hint - it starts with an 'A' and ends in 'b-s-t-i-n-e-n-c-e') And teaching them about sex and contraceptives is not equal to providing them with contraceptives and giving them permission to have sex. They did not have my permission to have sex as long as they remained minors, living under my parental authority, and they understood that I would not facilitate the means to avoid the consequences of disobedience. That was the hard line. The loving instruction was about doing the right thing, and how doing the right thing always is the best choice. In addition, they had assurance that I would always love them, no matter what. That does NOT, however, mean I would support decisions contrary to my beliefs and values.

    Your post was about treating pregnant teenagers with love and respect. I agree whole-heartedly with you. After the fact is no time to start hating on a teen who is seeing the pregnancy through. It is also no time to start talking about how having a baby is going to 'ruin' her life. If she loves and wants to keep her baby, she should be supported and encouraged to respond to her child as a loving parent, not encouraged to bear resentment because her 'life is ruined'. If she, out of love, wants to place her baby for adoption, she should be supported and encouraged in that. No one should coerce her based on their own selfish ideas of convenience, or what would be the easiest way out of a bad situation. Encouraging animosity toward her unborn child, as I posted before, only foments the resentment that precedes child abuse, neglect, abortion, etc....

  16. PS. It's worthy to note.....When my children became independent adults I found it very interesting, and was happy to learn, that they all made the choice to abstain until marriage, even without me living in the same house breathing my oppressive message down their necks. So far they report no adverse effects from being virgins when they got married.

  17. Comprehensive sex education is teaching kids about sex and contraceptives and abstinence. It is not handing them contraceptives and giving them permission to have sex.

    I'm not saying abstinence doesn't work. But it seems that you have provided us with a wonderful example of comprehensive sex education working!

  18. What worked was abstinence. My children did not experience unplanned teen pregnancies, STD's, and so on, because they did not have sex. Comprehensive sex education does not prevent teen pregnancy. Just ask a pregnant teenager.

    "Why are you pregnant????Didn't you have comprehensive sex education??????"

    pregnant teen - "Why yes, yes I did. I can't figure out why in the world I got pregnant. Do you think it's because I had sex?"

    Anyway, you're right. What I taught my children (abstinence) worked. I did not teach abstinence in the context of 'birth control', but in the context of what was right, what glorified and honored God (and settle down here if you don't believe in God - at least you can teach your kids about respect for parental authority), and what demonstrated respect for their parent. What I taught them about the different methods of contraception was the failure rates, side effects and health concerns, and how they did not prevent STD's. I didn't teach them that just in case they might have sex,to make sure they had some on hand, or where they could get them. They did not have permission to have sex.

    I agree with your definition of comprehensive sex education (using my methodology, of course). One of the key components is parental authority. Unfortunately, our schools and quite a few parents don't agree with your definition, because they gladly provide contraceptives and permission (outright, and by default). I was constantly refuting the teaching of contrary values that the school was spewing to my kids - and getting contraceptives was as easy as walking to the nurse's office, no parental notification or consent involved.

    Anyway....thanks for acknowledging that which is successful.

  19. Teaching comprehensive sex education in school is in no way "permission" to have sex. While I don't think teenagers will look for "permission," teaching them how to avoid STDs and pregnancy isn't going to encourage them to have sex any more than being silent on the issue will.

    As for parental notification or consent for contraceptives... once your kids are mid/older teens, they don't need your consent for medical information or items. So I don't see what the complaint is there.

  20. Really?? You know how I hate the "o" [obtuse] word, but ..... Really????

    No, Teens who want to break the rules/do the wrong thing are not going to seek permission(approval) to break the rules. When they know they are going to do something wrong however, they will look for ways to conceal the consequences, or justify their behavior. Contraception does encourage sex. It has a specific purpose for a specific action. What else would it encourage - a game of cards? My ability to obtain contraceptives without my parents knowing, encouraged me to have sex, and to continue having sex. Why? Because I had no fear of consequences. That's what my school based 'comprehensive sex education' conveyed to me. Do you realize how wrong they were? Do you realize what a false sense of security they gave me?

    "As for parental notification or consent for contraceptives... once your kids are mid/older teens, they don't need your consent for medical information or items." --- once again, Really??? You don't see what the complaint is? This IS the complaint. It is wrong for any adult to take away a parents duty and responsiblity to their own child with total disregard for the rules and values of their household. Especially when dispensing contraceptives indicates potential engagement in very risky behavior.

    Please re-read my posts and explain to me where you were led to believe I was ever silent on the "issue". Let me help you if you don't want to re-read. I wasn't.

  21. ...and encouraging sex through contraception distribution implies approval/permission to a teen who is looking for justification.

  22. I'm pro-choice but would prefer they had the
    72-hour pill, I think someone said the B pill.
    It prevents conception...period. I'm pro-choice
    that a) no unwanted baby in a womb for 9 months
    hated for being there and b) the woman can go on
    with her life. Depending on her situation,
    it can RUIN her life, and if she didn't understand about pregnancy, never taught, didn't learn it, and if the people in her life would then put her down, everyone loses.
    Children are unwanted in this world, but
    the fetus is wanted. This doesn't make sense to me.

  23. I am going to assume that the second last anonymous is different from the most recent.

    Unfortunately, you seem to make a LOT of assumptions, then turn around and accuse others of doing the same. Please, get that chip off your shoulder.

    For one thing, the OP was enTIREly about abstinence-only vs comprehensive sex-ed. Which means that you are arguing FOR the latter, while saying you are arguing for the former. WAY to GO. For another, you dismiss other people's experiences, then get defensive when you asSUME other people are dismissing yours?

    Believe me, I was given comprehensive sex ed. It was actually one of the reasons why I turned aWAY from having sex. Being denied something would have made me want to figure out what the big fuss was about even MORE. Or are you seriously suggesting that you didn't know that kids will generally do the OPPosite of what their parents tell them? As YOU like to put it, REALLY??? How is that for 'obtuse'? Not realizing what actual encouragement looks like, that is....

  24. I am a pro-choice Mormon, and I must say your blog is a breath of fresh air! Thank you so much, this is great, it's always wonderful to hear from someone who doesn't think my views are of the devil.

  25. Thanks! Glad to hear you enjoy my blog.

  26. The high school where I attended had a pregnancy rate of 1/10 girls....and we had full sex education.

    Despite believing in full sex ed with teachings about contraception and such, I think it really depends on how the parents weigh the positives with the negatives.

    As an almost 19-year-old college virgin who has received PLENTY of sex Ed from my parents, what they did that I think is different from many parents is instead of focusing on the negatives of sex (you'll be pregnant/the boy won't love you/etc) they focused on the positives of waiting to be in a committed relationship. They also taught me self-respect--and I believe so many young men and women make decisions they regret because they don't have respect for themselves and a simple "you're so amazing--I will love you forever if we do this" is all it takes to push them to making regrettable decisions.

  27. ^I'm a new anonymous poster so
    nobody gets confused.

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