Tag Archives: teen pregnancy

Denied an Abortion – What Now? A Study on the Effects of Unwanted Motherhood

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 3.05.08 PMIt may have been one spontaneous night with an ex, never to be replicated; or perhaps a traumatic moment of violence and sexual abuse. She could be unemployed, ill, very young, or already a bit creaky in the joints. Maybe she has other kids at home and a partner in active duty, in prison, in the hospital, or deceased. And in the midst of working, paying bills, job hunting, taking care of children, doing homework, or whatever her daily responsibilities include, the tender belly and light periods get pushed to the back of her mind – until it’s too late.

Whatever their reasons, these are the women who discover their pregnancies late in the game, determine their best course of action is abortion, and upon medical inspection are turned away from the procedures they desperately want or need. How do these women, the ones forced into motherhood, fare and what are the effects of their denied abortions?

This question provides the foundation for an ongoing study, called “The Turnaway Study” run by Diana Greene Foster, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. Researching abortion clinics around the country, Foster’s study aims to determine the differing effects, if any, between women who seek late-term abortions and get them versus women who seek late-term abortions but are denied them, most often due to timing. (Individual states’ and clinic’s limits vary, but tend to fall sometime in the second trimester.) Such effects might range from the psychological and emotional, to socioeconomic factors, to long-term physical health. In essence, is there any statistical evidence to prove that women are any better or worse off for keeping a baby, even if they wholeheartedly wanted to terminate the pregnancy?

This study lands in public discourse at a time when pro-life advocates preach the many dangers to women’s mental and physical health resulting from abortion. It isn’t a hard line of reasoning to follow, especially given the hormones that are already being released in early pregnancy. But, as noted in a thorough article published in the New York Times, the psychological and health effects of carrying a pregnancy to term – and then, of course, raising a child – can be just as overwhelming, if not more so.

Based on Foster’s study, women in the turnaway group suffered greater health effects, including increased hypertension rates and chronic pelvic pain, as well as socioeconomic effects that left them below the poverty line three times more often than the women who received abortions. Both groups, however, Lang points out, began with similar life circumstances.

Only 6.6 percent of near-limit patients in the study and 5.6 percent of turnaways finished college (nearly 30 percent of adult American women have a bachelor’s degree). One in 10 were on welfare, and approximately 80 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic living needs. A majority, in both groups, already had at least one child.

These are interesting statistics on several counts. First of all, women seeking abortions later in their terms share a baseline social disadvantage that includes less education, lower income, and, now, pregnancy on top of their other responsibilities. In being forced into motherhood by denial of an abortion, these women experience all the physical strains of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the often-overwhelming financial burden of another mouth to feed. No one sets out to someday get an abortion, but when it comes down to it, some women feel this is their best option – and the results of Foster’s study might give us cause to concur.

Both Foster and Lang are mindful of the politically-charged nature of this research, though. Foster does not consider herself a pro-choice pioneer, but rather a concerned ob-gyn, interested in determining what is best for women’s health.

The purpose of Foster’s study is not to set policy by suggesting new or uniform gestational limits. She notes, however, that there are ways to reduce the number of women seeking abortion at an advanced gestational age by improving access to reproductive health care. But Foster sees herself as a scientist, not an advocate. She did not set out, she says, to disprove that abortion is harmful. “If abortion hurts women,” she says, “I definitely want to know.”

Truth be told, there is no pro-abortion movement. Nobody “supports” abortion, of course, because ultimately we would hope to live in a world in which people who want to have children do, and those who don’t, don’t. The point is rather that women know what is best for them and their families, and childbearing may not factor into that at the moment.

It’s a delicate topic, though, and one that certainly warrants further discussion. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

A Reality TV Show That Actually Educates Teenagers? MTV’s ‘Teen Mom’ Becoming Effective Educational Tool For High Schools

While teen pregnancies have dropped by about 40 percent between 1990 and 2004, the United States stil has the highest number of teen pregnancies in the industrialized world. Every time some teen-pregnancy-related news rear their head on the media internet landscapet–be it Bristol Palin, Juno, Jamie Lynn Spears, or Forever 21’s newly launched maternity line–the raging debate between comprehensive and abstinence-only sex education is revived with little progress in a discussion towards a real solution .

Here is another idea for educating high school students on the consequences of unprotected sex: sit them down for an episode of MTV’s reality shows Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant.

Both shows, which follow a small group of teen moms from pregnancy to parenthood, have become a hit among the teenage demographic, according to this recent NPR article

Liz Gately, vice president of series production at MTV, says that when producer Lauren Dolgen pitched an idea for a reality series based on teen parenthood, she thought it could be the catalyst for an intense national conversation.

The fact that nobody in the series was preaching to the teen audience and that teens were dispensing wisdom borne of their own experience made 16 and Pregnant a hit when it debuted in 2009. Teen Mom followed a year later, continuing the saga of four of the young mothers featured on 16 and Pregnant.

"This show doesn’t preach; it doesn’t teach," Gately says. "It just shows ‘this could happen to you,’ " and that there are often unforeseen consequences to being sexually active at a young age.

The shows’ ability to connect with teenagers have caught the attention of national organizations that want to use these reality TV shows as teaching tools for high school students. The Kaiser Family Foundation has even funded reproduction of the series so different organizations, non-profits and schools can incorporate the TV episodes within their programs for educational outreach.

As Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant illustrate so clearly without adult preachiness or ulterior political agenda, teen pregnancy is not a glamorous situation to be in, and can happen to any sexually active teenager. Tell it like it is, and let the teenagers reach their own conclusions.

And if more and more teenagers are paying attention to this kind of message delivery, then the rest of us adults too old for the MTV demographic better start taking notes. 

Scotland Starts Making Contraceptives Available To Girls As Young As Thirteen

And in today’s News To Divide Parental Units, Scottish doctors are starting to suggest long-term contraceptives to girls as young as thirteen.

Girls as young as 13 can be given the long-lasting contraceptives without their parents’ knowledge, provided the GP has no concerns about child abuse or exploitation. Dr Louise Melvin, a Glasgow-based medic and author of the guidance, said: “We wanted to highlight the fact that long-acting contraceptives are cost-effective and more likely to reduce unintended pregnancy, to promote choice and appropriate use of contraception. “The contraceptive pill is good for some people, but for individuals who are not good at taking a pill, long-acting methods are better.”


And while there are the parents that are for this, of course, we have some really pissed off parents and conservative party members as well. Norman Wells, director of Family and Youth Concern, said: “It is also treating the law on the age on consent [age 16] with contempt and denying girls the protection it offers… It is grossly irresponsible for health professionals to show more interest in injecting girls as young as 13 with contraceptives than in discouraging them from having sex. The indiscriminate promotion of contraception will merely encourage sexual experimentation among young people and further fuel the sexual health crisis.”

I think Norman Wells needs to get real. I know I’m not an expert or a parent, but I graduated high school six years ago, which in the scheme of things isn’t that long ago. While I was in high school, there were a couple things I learned, one of which was kids do not give a damn about the law of consent. Sorry but it’s true, just like kids don’t give a damn about drinking ages or cigarette smoking ages. Kids are going to do exactly what they want to do and telling them they can’t only makes it more enticing.  We’ve all been teenagers and no matter how much of an angel you were, you cannot say there wasn’t something in your lifetime your parents said you couldn’t do or you couldn’t have that made you want it so much more. 

For me, it was soda. My mom was seriously anti-soda, for good reasons I was too young to understand and my mom didn’t really explain. It’s was just bad for me. I wasn’t allowed to drink it and we never had it in our home. Whenever I was at a friend’s house who had Coke, I’d drink as many as I could because I was never allowed to. It was such a forbidden fruit that I turned into a fiend when it was at my disposal. When I moved out to college, many people procure the Freshman Fifteen from beer- mine was from soda.


Now let’s compare this to how my mother treated sex.

When giving the birds and the bees speech, it came with a "you’re going on birth control" clause. At sixteen, when I received this speech, I had just gotten my first kiss and the thought of sex was mind boggling to me. The thought that my mother was telling me that "things happened" and I should just "be ready for anything", was even more mind boggling. I met this speech with God knows how many "[scoff] MOM!"s. That year I was put on birth control.

Did I run off and have sex right after?

Good gracious, no!

My mother taught me that sex was meant to be shared with someone I loved and although she couldn’t control who I loved or my decisions with my sexuality, she could help me control my safety. The fact she treated me like an adult with a realistic view on the world made me respect her opinion and value what she had to say, rather than sneer at the naivety of the conservative talking heads that tried to tell me to just say NO NO NO! 

I think making contraceptives available to girls is a great idea and the ends justify the means, especially with the current rise of teen pregnancy. Obviously just telling kids to say no isn’t working, so we must restructure our tactics and help meet them in the real world they live in. The key to sex education working is good parenting. Parents should be realistic and open with their kids. With good parenting, it doesn’t matter when kids get contraceptives because they will have a solid base of values and morals to build upon, rather than just trying to rip a part a set of impractical, black and white rules "old people" are trying to place on them. 

Do you think thirteen is too young for girls to start using contraceptives? What do you think the key to sex education and the prevention of teen pregnancy is?

Photo: CC Flickr//Andres Rueda

What’s Up With Forever 21’s New Maternity Line?

Forever 21, which was my go-to clothing line store for disposable fashion during my teen and college years, is now under fire for launching a new maternity line. Not only are they under fire for launching a new maternity line that ensures that young girls can have a swollen belly and look fashionable, they have launched their new maternity line in five states, three of them which carry the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. Mmm-hmmm.

I won’t go as far to say that the new maternity line is encouraging girls to get knocked up, just as how I won’t say that American Apparel porn star models will make all high school girls want to strip their clothes in front of a camera for cash. But I am wary of the idea that for some girls, the dangers and harsh realities of teen pregnancy will be extremely diluted when cheap and fashionable maternity wear is showing up next to cheap and fashionable halter tops and one-pieces.

That being said, I can’t blame Forever 21 nor hold them responsible for the very few teen girls that would dare get knocked up just to look cute in their pre-mom rags. They’re out to make more money, and all the overreactive internet controversy over their maternity line is, at the end of the day, just more publicity for their business. Telling your teenage daugther (or all teenage girls, for that matter) to stop shopping at Forever 21 will not make a difference in her likelihood of becoming the next Juno in your neighborhood.

So if we are all so worried about teen pregnancy as a society, how can we more effectively direct our anger and our energy for effective change?

How about demanding more comprehensive sex education for high school? Or demanding more movies, books and T.V. shows that depict the teen pregnancy plight in a more realistic light? 

At the end of the day, Forever 21 won’t make teen pregnancy rates skyrocket out of the roof, nor will our collective gasp of "SCANDAL!" towards their maternity lines make teen pregnancy rates any lower.

Bristol Palin’s Less Than Convincing Statement On Her Abstinence Advocacy

Today, Fox released an exclusive interview with Bristol Palin. In the interview she described breaking the news to her parents was "harder than labor". I’ve never had to tell my parents I’m pregnant nor have I given labor so I can’t say too much on that front although I can say her statement on her role as an advocate of abstinence sounds a lot more like "Take the pill!" than "Just say no!"

“Abstinence is practical and very realistic for some people, but others don’t choose that path. For me, sex education was in school, and there are always people telling you that there are consequences to sex and blah blah, but you don’t really realize it until you’re in a situation where you are pregnant,” said Palin, who recently became a Teen Abstinence Ambassador for the Candie’s Foundation fighting teen pregnancy. 

Fox News

Yeahhh, this is about the least convincing thing I’ve ever heard in terms of staying abstinent because yes, she is right. Others don’t choose that path. In fact, half don’t! In a January 2010 statistic, the Guttmacher Institute shows that 46% of teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 have had sex, which seems to make pushing solely abstinence from sex pretty obsolete. The same study shows that 83% of sexually active females and 91% of sexually active males used contraceptives, a vast improvement from the last study done where the numbers were only at about 75%. 

These numbers make me feel like we’d be better off continuing to push abstinence AND contraceptives. Of course abstinence is the ideal choice but the realistic one is contraceptives and not addressing that just seems ignorant in these times. Granted, I’m more than a couple years out of high school but from my perspective, some politically famous young mother up on the soapbox preaching about keeping your pants on feels almost insulting, especially when she doesn’t seem to believe it’s really the answer for everyone either.

Do you think Bristol Palin is a good abstinence advocate?

I think she is a great advocate for the efforts to stop teen pregnancy, no doubt, but her campaign should not just be about "saying no". It should deal with the fact that there is going to come a time when you don’t say no and that you should be safe and prepared for when that time comes. 

MTV Intends to Further Educate on Teen Pregnancy?

Less than a year after Bristol Palin’s pregnancy came to light, MTV’s 16 and Pregnant plans to explore the lives of six teenage girls, their families, and how they’re coping with pregnancy at such a young age.

Much like MTV’s True Life series, it appears that 16 and Pregnant will not be pulling any punches, following the teenagers through birth, adoption, finaicial hardship and social alienation. At least MTV’s heart is in the right place. They spend 23 hours a day making young people want to have sex and the other one showing them the consequences if they do.

Kids aren’t stupid, however, and the show definitely has a chance to tell the stories that Juno doesn’t quite cover. Causecast will be watching and following up. What does the Intent community think? Will 16 and Pregnant have a positive impact on confused and struggling teens?

Bristol Palin and “Unrealistic Abstinence”

Bristol Palin, the 18-year old mother of a two-month old son and the daughter of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, spoke out about the inefficacy of abstinence only to prevent teen pregnancy. In an interview yesterday, Bristol said "everyone should be abstinent but it’s not realistic… [sex] is more and more accepted among kids my age."

Last week news broke of 13-year old Alfie who fathered a child with one sexual and unprotected forray. I’m a strong believer in birth control and sex education. I challenge the viewpoint that learning about sex, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases incites or condones sex. Reading about how one criminal robbed a bank, does not send me running for my ski mask and belaying device.

Knowledge and transperency are always the best choices. Our task should be helping young adults understand their options and consequences of their decisions. Telling teenagers "no" is unrealistic. Whether or not they should be engaging in sex is moot when it comes to teen pregnancy. The sex has been had. Why was it unprotected? 

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