What’s wrong with pregnant teens?

5 Aug

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?

15 Responses to “What’s wrong with pregnant teens?”

  1. Dee August 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    Easy, it’s the fact that a teen getting pregnant means that other people become parents-by-default.

    I have a sister. She’s not a teen (she’s in her 20s), but she doesn’t earn enough money to take care of a baby. If she were to get pregnant, I would be extremely annoyed b/c the expectation would be that my mom or myself would have to help out financially and as caretakers. You know what? I don’t want to be a caretaker for a child, any child. My sister getting pregnant would make a parent like a forced pregnancy would make me a parent, and I wouldn’t stand for it (I would move out), but I know my mom would be roped into caring for a child she didn’t plan for.

    To answer your question, I don’t care that girls or boys are having sex, but if they’re not using birth control, they’d better be prepared to take care of medical bills, abortions, or child care. That’s why teen pregnancy (or any pregnancy by dependent adults) is an issue for me.

    For most people, I think it’s a religious issue, but not for me.

  2. InsaneArtGurl August 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    I think my biggest concern about teen pregnancy (having been a teenage mother myself) is whether or not the young women who get pregnant as teenagers and choose to become mothers realize the gravity of their decision for themselves and their child. Teen pregnancy is so glamorized in our society, that I fear for young women who might be doing it because it’s “cool” and signing themselves up for something they might not be able to handle. This is one of the main reasons I support totally comprehensive sexual education in schools.

    I think it’s also important to note that choosing to have a child as a teenager does not *necessarily* derail the woman from going to college and pursuing the career of her choice. It’s really freaking hard and it might mean a longer time table, but it’s not impossible.

    Also, having a child as a teenager does NOT necessarily mean others unwillingly becomes parents as well. I find that statement a VERY insulting generalization. It’s very, very sad that these young women are often judged and marginalized as not “real” mothers or as foisting their child on to others just because that’s *sometimes* the case. I think anyone who spent an appreciable amount of time with teen/young mothers would realize the majority of these women work their asses off and don’t presume anything about childcare or financial assistance from their families.

    We need to respect and support a woman’s decision regarding her reproductive health regardless of whether or not we agree with it. Passing negative judgments on young and teenage mothers contradicts this completely.

  3. Emily August 5, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    Ideally, teenagers shouldn’t be reproducing. It takes a huge toll on the woman, the father, the child, and anyone who is involved in raising the child. This is especially the case with the health of the pregnant woman and the baby. The best people can do is encourage teens to use contraception if they choose to have sex. But teens are going to have sex anyway, and they’re going to get pregnant. Of course, there’s a happy medium between shaming a pregnant teen and celebrating it, and I don’t think a lot of people understand that. It’s a fact of life, and we just have to teach teens to be really careful and help out the babies and teen parents. There’s no reason to punish the babies because the parents weren’t careful.

  4. Dee August 6, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    InsaneArtGurl states: “Also, having a child as a teenager does NOT necessarily mean others unwillingly becomes parents as well. I find that statement a VERY insulting generalization. It’s very, very sad that these young women are often judged and marginalized as not “real” mothers or as foisting their child on to others just because that’s *sometimes* the case. I think anyone who spent an appreciable amount of time with teen/young mothers would realize the majority of these women work their asses off and don’t presume anything about childcare or financial assistance from their families.”

    I don’t doubt for a second that teen moms work their asses off to raise their children, but the fact that they have to work (and sometimes attend school) means that other people are brought into the care of the child. I also didn’t make a statement about teens in general, but about my family. In my family, both nuclear and extended, family members find themselves having to help out financially/as caretakers for children that are not theirs.

    “We need to respect and support a woman’s decision regarding her reproductive health regardless of whether or not we agree with it. Passing negative judgments on young and teenage mothers contradicts this completely.”

    The pro-choice movement is about choice and bodily autonomy, which is why I would never tell a woman (teen or not) what to do with her body, but I also won’t have my choice (to remain childfree) taken away by anyone, and I have a lot of sympathy for those who are put in that situation.

  5. thiswoman August 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    I’m uncomfortable with the implication that there is something “wrong” with teenagers getting pregnant. Anytime people start talking about who should and shouldn’t have children the hair on the back of my neck stands up, and I start to wonder who gives us the right to determine who should have children.

    All women face challenges when they become pregnant. Teenagers face greater challenges because they often lack access to resources. I’ve been trying to find an interview I read by Alice Walker where she comments on teen pregnancy, but I can’t put my hands on it. She basically says that teenagers make great parents – they just need help. And if we stopped wringing our hands about it and started to think about how to help, ALL MOTHERS would have a chance to be successful.

    @Dee – so essentially, only women who you determine capable of taking care of their children without any assistance should have children?

  6. EAMD August 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Teen pregnancy upsets me because it reflects so many failures of the system. True, some teenagers and young women choose to get pregnant and are excited about their pregnancies, but most teen pregnancies are unplanned and half of teens were using contraceptives when they got pregnant. No contraceptive method is perfect, but a failure rate of 50% indicates to me that too many of these young women are not being taught enough about their bodies or about contraception. That’s a failure of the education system, the political system, and a social system which frowns upon young women taking control of their sexualities.

    And on the flip side, half of these teens weren’t using contraception at all. Like I said, surely some of them wanted and were ready to get pregnant–but you can’t convince me that figure is half of teen girls. I think it’s more likely lack of knowledge about contraceptives and their effectiveness, lack of availability and accessibility, lack of empowerment to use them or insist their partners use them. Systemic failure.

    Speaking of partners, there’s also increasing evidence that reproductive coercion is a major factor in teenage pregnancies. Another particularly upsetting failure of a patriarchal system.

    This got long, but I just want to conclude by saying it’s possible (and, in my opinion, important) to be frustrated with and to fight against the factors that contribute to teenage pregnancy without stigmatizing or criticizing teenagers who become pregnant. There is some overlap between the two, but systemic failure cannot be conflated with individual responsibility.

  7. Dee August 6, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    I’ve stated-repeatedly- that I would not take away any woman’s choice, teen or not. I would NEVER legislate that abortions should be compulsory for any group. I would not, however, stick around to face the consequences of her choice. If she wants a child, let her have a child, just let it not be expected that I (or her unwilling relatives) will help her take care of it.

    I have two sisters, one independent and one not. The older, independent one had two children. I’ve never been asked for help of any kind nor babysitting. In the case of the other, I would be. Neither of the two are teens, btw. The fact that we all have a Choice (or should have one) doesn’t mean that we always make the best choice for ourselves or the child. Nevertheless,
    I would never dictate choices to anyone. I would simply excersize my choice to walk away. It’s either that, or become a parental aid, and i’ve gone out of my way to remain childless.

  8. S.L August 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    Because they’re kids themselves in a lot of cases. We don’t let kids drive before they’re 16 in most places for a reason. Maybe we don’t need to treat pregnant teens like crap (not exactly a deterrent from what I’ve seen) but we shouldn’t exactly celebrate it either. I hate seeing this normalized.

  9. Jenni August 7, 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    How do we show it, we give them ways out without laying guilt in on them. We make sure that birth control and abortion is available to more than just those with money and resources. We fight for the rights of teens to get birth control and abortions without parental consent. Not everyone is raised by June and Ward Cleaver, having dicks as parents should not trap you into birthing a child. We make the morning after pill available without prescription or parental signature. We don’t allow teenage girls to be prisoners of those around them, we give them the tools to make their own choices. I’m sure places like Seattle or New York may do a lot of this, but here in Mississippi we have the highest rate and these things are not done. It would be an excellent start.

  10. Emily August 15, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    “If she wants a child, let her have a child, just let it not be expected that I (or her unwilling relatives) will help her take care of it.”

    Dee, while I understand the frustration and believe it’s totally valid, it doesn’t really end up working out that way. If your sister ends up having a baby and needs help from you, and you don’t give it to her, your niece or nephew is the one who suffers most. You might think that you’re teaching your sister a lesson or making an example out of her, and that’s the thought process of many anti-choicers and on-the-fencers. That is, if enough young women feel punished from having a baby, then other young women will learn vicariously not to have one (and guess who those examples often are: poor teens of color). But that’s also short-changing that kid — your family. So your feelings are rational, but not practical.

  11. anonomous February 13, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    i am a teen myself and im looking for a answer to this question that in words is simple enough but when you start to think about it its a challenging question. so yes there is the popular they are just kids reason but in reality how much more is expected of a teen today than what was expected of a teen 10 or 20 years ago?(honest question i do not know the answer) my mother was a teen parent and yes ended up a single mom but no i did not have to live in poverty growing up. my next question on this topic is why is it only in certaint cultures that teen pregnancy looked down apon? many cultures it is normal for teens to be married and have kids by the age of 15. another point i’d like to make is why does our body allow it if it shouldnt be done? i take the same opinion on this as i do drinking the person should know all of the possible outcomes of a situation and then must decide for themselfs and in the case of having a kid both father and mother should talk and understand what having a kids truely means. to finish this reply id like to say that i am 17 trying to finish high school to where i can get a job full time and support the new life me and my girlfried are expecting to bring into this world sometime in august. so am i a failure simply because i decided to have a kid now? either way i did not want to go to college i am working on several computer certifications and either way will be able to make enough money to support me and a family. so how have i screwed my life over? some one please explain to me what is wrong about what we are doing.

  12. Steph L February 16, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Since thisd topic seems to have been necro’d, I thought I would post this very good article. Sums up the problem with teen pregnancy pretty well (hard to believe there are actually people pretending like it isn’t).

    http://www.city-journal.org/2011/21_1_teen-pregnancy.html

  13. john November 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    I have two step kids and the oldest had a kid at 16 and her younger sister had her second kid a 17 sounds great doesn’t it. They thought because they had kids that they were going to get there free ride through life. You all know the great government pays out free checks, It called early retirement. I can misbehave in america and get a free ride through life.

    The youngest at 16 was living with her older boyfriend and we was paying his mom child support, so she can crawl in bed with him every night. This is how she became pregnant and had her second kid at seventeen .

    Why was we paying child support? well they claimed she was kicked out, but the real story was mom files unruly charges on her for not staying at home and this was what she has always done, living with boyfriends and drinking beer that the boyfriend always bought her and I am pretty sure the mother showed photos of them drinking together. Go figure.

    What happened to the oldest, well she is on disability today and had her 3rd kid at 21 and no she is not disabled.

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