Sad and Embarrassing

The NY Times reports that in the US the birth rate among teenagers has risen for the first time since1991.

The birth rate among teenagers 15 to 19 in the United States rose 3 percent in 2006, according to a report issued Wednesday, the first such increase since 1991.

The finding has “fueled a debate about whether the Bush administration’s abstinence-only sexual education efforts are working,” thank goodness.

It may be that the changes track a lessening of fear about aids; however, the US figures are out of line with the “developed” world’s.

Kristin A. Moore, a senior scholar at Child Trends, a nonprofit children’s research organization, said the increase in the teenage birth rate was particularly alarming because even the 2005 rate was far higher than that in other industrialized countries.

A spokesman from the conservative heritage foundation tells us that the teenagers wanted to get pregnant, but

Dr. Santelli of Columbia said that many abstinence-only educational efforts tended to emphasize that contraceptives often fail. “They scare kids about contraception,” he said

2 thoughts on “Sad and Embarrassing

  1. From the Article:

    “Robert Rector, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, said that blaming abstinence-only programs was “stupid.” Mr. Rector said that most young women who became pregnant were highly educated about contraceptives but wanted to have babies.”

    What a crock!

    My comments are anecdotal, but I have known hundreds of teen mothers over the past ten years. I have never once known a teen mother who was “highly educated” about contraceptives before she got pregnant. Neither, by the way, have I met a teen mother who had a sophisticated understanding of reproductive anatomy or pregnancy before getting pregnant. The types of girls who are knowledgeable of these things among the teen parent population, I suspect, are rare, particularly in the lower ages—13-16ish. Fathers of these children, too, have usually had extremely poor knowledge about such things, sometimes worse than the girls. (Here speaking especially of female anatomy, mechanisms of impregnation and methods to prevent pregnancy.) Nor, for that matter, have teen mothers I’ve known had any particularly good education overall.

    Have I met girls who got pregnant because they wanted to get pregnant? Sure, but they were few and far between. Again anecdotally, they usually wanted a child because they wanted someone to love, someone who would love them back, and because they thought becoming a mother was their only source of value. They rarely grasped the magnitude of the decision to have a child and romanticized that idea of having a baby. If they were older (like 18 or 19) they figured that’s what a woman does when she grows up—she has a baby.

    But many girls I’ve known did not want to get pregnant. They had abstinence-only or ‘emphasis on abstinence’ education at home and school. They had difficulty getting contraception and/or didn’t know if and where they could get free condoms, et cetera. If they needed parent permission for contraception they would *never* feel comfortable asking their parents for it. They felt premarital sex was probably immoral. They felt pressured or obligated by boys/men to have sex. They felt sex was for the enjoyment of men. They were scared to tell their families they were pregnant. They tried ways to end the pregnancy (like drinking castor oil), yet they believed abortions preformed at clinics were immoral and that putting a child up for adoption meant one didn’t care about the child. They were ashamed of being pregnant and, after that, ashamed of having a child.

    People don’t make pregnant girls and teen mothers feel that great. Yet the fathers get off guilt-free in many cases, as well as responsibility-free. And I’m not just talking about child support. Discussions of teen pregnancy often leave out discussions of the fathers of these children. “Teen pregnancy” and “teen parent” often only conjure the idea of a teen *mother* to many people. But raising these issues, of course, raises many other inequity issues as well.

    When I met her in the late 90’s, Hillary Clinton was one of the few politicians I met who seemed to take a genuine interest in what people who know about and work with teen mothers day-to-day were saying.

    Again, I stress that my comments are anecdotal and the teen mothers I’ve known may not be completely representative of the population, but hopefully my comments are not entirely useless because of this. I’d offer data, but I haven’t read quality up-to-date research on these things for a few years.

    I could go on, but I’d probably just become angry. So I’ll just say in summation: Bush can simply kiss my ass. Abstinence-only education is insanity.

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