Teen Pregnancy: The Controversy of America | Teen Ink

Teen Pregnancy: The Controversy of America

December 4, 2014
By TubaLady DIAMOND, Athens, Michigan
TubaLady DIAMOND, Athens, Michigan
89 articles 2 photos 49 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I know how it feels to be completely alone and helpless, and the last thing you want to hear in that situation is, 'It's going to be OK. ' The only thing that seems to really help is that someone else who has felt that low expressing those feelings"

Americans take great pride in their leadership among nations. Such a distinction becomes embarrassing however when the title is claimed for the highest teenage pregnancy rate of any developed nation with nearly one million pregnancies each year. There has been extensive research on the phenomenon of teenage pregnancy which has yielded important information about pregnancy rates and risk factors. Researchers concur that pregnancy is a time of dramatic transition. A first time pregnancy propels the mother from the status of woman to mother. While these changes are noteworthy for the adult woman confronting pregnancy, their effect is frequently magnified when the expecting mother is an adolescent. Adolescent childbearing has become a prominent social issue because of the broad social and economic consequences. The conventional wisdom has it that an epidemic of teen pregnancy is today ruining the lives of young women and their children and perpetuating poverty in America. In polite circles, people speak regretfully of "babies having babies." Other Americans are more blunt. "I don't mind paying to help people in need," one angry radio talk show host told Michael Katz, a historian of poverty, "but I don't want my tax dollars to pay for the sexual pleasure of adolescents who won't use birth control." And that’s exactly it! One of the main reasons teen pregnancy is still floating around is because many teenagers are too embarrassed to use contraception. It’s a fact of life people; you have unprotected sex, you can—and will—get pregnant. By stating that teen childbearing ruins the lives of the mothers and their babies, Americans have imagined that the persistence of poverty and other social problems can be traced to youngsters who are too impulsive or too ignorant to postpone sexual activity, to use contraception, or failing all that, especially if they are white, to give their babies up for adoption to "better" parents. Defining the problem this way, many Americans, including those in a position to influence public policy, have come to believe that one attractive avenue to reducing poverty and other social ills is to reduce teen birth rates. Their remedy is to persuade teenagers to postpone childbearing, either by convincing them of the virtues of chastity (a strategy conservatives prefer) or by making sex education and contraception more freely available (the strategy liberals prefer). While many teenage parents manage very well, they and their children are more likely to suffer health, emotional and economic problems. As the vast majority of teenage pregnancies are unplanned, strategy focuses on giving young people the knowledge, skills and confidence to make positive and informed choices about sexual activity and parenthood. But what about the benefits—and I use that term loosely—of teen childbearing?

Teenage pregnancy is not the symbol of a broken society, as claimed by many politicians, but can be a positive force for good. For one, early motherhood provides girls from the poorest neighborhoods a path away from delinquency and drugs and toward a better life, one new study shows. It partly confirms what earlier qualitative studies have demonstrated for decades: For poor teen girls, pregnancy has an upside. Motherhood for women under 20 significantly reduced delinquency, and marijuana and alcohol use. Being a teen mom also creates a role of responsibility for the mother, whether she chooses to accept it or not. Early motherhood gives underprivileged teenagers something to look forward to, and unconditional love for those who didn’t receive it growing up. When a teen girl decides to bear a child, of course, she limits her partying and libidinal playtime and invites respect as the creator and nurturer of a new life. That could be what a “bad” or rebellious teen craves — to fulfill an unconscious dream of goodness — and settle down one day, if not with the baby’s father, then with another man. Teenage childbirth does not often result from ignorance or low expectations, it is rarely a catastrophe for young women, and teenage parenting does not particularly cause poor outcomes for mothers and their children. Many teen moms see their pregnancy as an opportunity to turn their life around and clean up their act.

In a medial position, I see both the benefits and the downfalls of teen pregnancy. As a humanist—someone who sees at least a little good in all people and their actions—I believe to give pregnant and parenting teens the second chance they deserve and desire. Obviously most teens aren’t planning to get pregnant; it just happens. On the other hand, it doesn’t “just happen”. First of all, they have to be having sex— which to me is a big no-no if you aren’t married— and they have to have a reason for not using contraception, whether it be embarrassment, ignorance, or otherwise. In the book Young, Poor, and Pregnant by Judith S. Musick, Musick talks about adolescents’ want for a child. “If adolescents did not want babies, they would not have them. But they do want them. Indeed, many seem to fear infertility, craving pregnancy and motherhood” (Musick, 109). I believe it’s perfectly fine to want a baby at any age—I’ve wanted children since I was eleven—but acting on that desire and making it a reality at a young age is not a good idea. Honestly, you’ll love your child just as much when you’re thirty as you would have when you were sixteen. A good example of a bad situation of a “benefit” of teen pregnancy is this: When my aunt was in high school, she wanted to drop out, but her mother wouldn’t let her. Therefore, she got pregnant so she could drop out. That was the “benefit” part. The bad part of the situation was that my aunt was left without a high school education and was somebody’s mother for the rest of her life, whether she wanted it or not. (Not that being a mother is bad.) Another negative aspect of teen pregnancy is that girls born to teen moms are more likely to become teen moms; it’s a cycle. Also, boys born to teenagers are more likely to end up in prison; so, just maybe, bringing down teen pregnancy rates could bring down crime rates. A positive quote from a teen mom is: “I would have liked to stay home while I was pregnant, but I had come this far and I was determined to graduate with my class. Those who drop out because of pregnancy miss out.” But because of the negative stigma of teen pregnancy, most girls are ashamed of themselves and afraid of being judged. One teen mom says, “When I first started showing, I was afraid to go out in public because I was ashamed of myself. I didn’t want anything to do with being pregnant…” Another said, “I stopped going to my regular high school when I was three months pregnant. I didn’t want anybody to know, so I didn’t go anywhere.” Here’s the oxymoron, though: Even with the negative stigma of teenage motherhood, teens are still getting pregnant at an alarming rate. Here’s what I have to say about that: If we stopped putting such a negative label on pregnant and parenting teens, but educated them on what it’s like to actually be a young parent still in school, then maybe—just maybe—teenage birthrates will go down. On a similar note, I would like to point out a flaw in humanity. We as people are trying to lower teen birthrates and pregnancies, yet when a girl does get pregnant, we just throw them under the bus. That’s not right! Like I said before, those children—yes, children, because that’s what they are— and their babies need that second chance they so desire and deserve. Just because these girls made a mistake doesn’t make them horrible people; it just makes them vulnerable. So, all in all, teen pregnancy isn’t altogether a bad thing, but it certainly isn’t the best thing to happen to a young girl. The rest is up to you.

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