Discouraging Teen Pregnancies

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The British Health Service attempted to run an ad campaign by disseminating a convincingly real cell-phone video of a schoolgirl giving birth on the soccer field. You Tube banned the video but you can still see it via this article on Salon.com’s Broadsheet. I’m assuming it’s designed to scare the hell out of teenagers who might be having or contemplating a sexual relationship. The idea is that teens will think it’s real and send it to each other by cell-phone, thus discouraging them from having sex (presumably because it would be too embarrassing to give birth at school with everyone watching).

I don’t know what will work, short of making it illegal, to discourage teens from having babies. Maybe we should take the baby away from the underage mother and put it up for adoption without her permission. Or how about forcing the fathers to pay child support? (Oh, yeah, that’s been tried.)

The bottom line is, women (and girls) getting pregnant when they didn’t mean to has been happening from time immemorial. And the answer to their dilemma is not to limit their access to contraception, like some faith-based organizations propose we do. (Either because they think giving them access encourages sexual behavior or because they think that almost all contraception causes abortion–both misguided notions.)

The only thing that will discourage teen pregnancies is to give women something more to look forward to than getting a man and having babies. I started my family after I dropped out of college to support my husband while he finished school. To be honest, I wanted something that was all mine, too, like his college degree was his. But since I assumed that he would be supporting the family, I didn’t feel the same impulse to finish school and start a career. And once I had kids, it looked too hard to go back to school. The money wasn’t there for one thing, and more importantly, the encouragement wasn’t there. From my husband or from society.

Girls need to be inculcated at an early age with the idea that they need to be able to support themselves and that they might as well do something they really like while they do so. Most of the teens who are having babies are not thinking that way. Or if they are, it’s because having the baby forces them to. But if they were excited about their futures, if they saw themselves really going somewhere, would they be as willing to risk it all by getting pregnant?

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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