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Teenage Pregnancy: Is it a growing epidemic? by: Emily Owen
Teen pregnancy is an enormous problem and spreading in America. According to Guttmacher Institute the latest U.S. teen pregnancy rates revealed show that there are about 72 pregnancies per 1000 women aged 15-19 and the teenage birthrate in 2006 was about 50 births per 1000 women. That is 4% higher than in 2005 ( U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and abortions ). There are at least 5 TV shows featuring teen pregnancies, or teen mothers including "Teen Mom", and "Sixteen and Pregnant". Changing the channel can’t be done without seeing an add from one of the teen shows or an above the influence add, saying to use protection or not have sex at all. Not only is adolescent pregnancy prevalent on TV but also in the news stands. The stars of these TV shows are now on the covers of people magazine, OK magazine, and even teen magazines like Seventeen and Teen Vogue which is highly glamorizing the subject. The covers say things like, Amber lost 12 pounds in two weeks! or Macy’s new makeover and new man! Most teenagers don’t deal with makeovers or being on the cover of national magazines for losing weight and shouldn’t be encouraged to get pregnant to get a reward like being on a magazine cover or TV show based on their lives. It is so accepted in this society that some high schools are now equipped with nurseries for the teens to drop off their children while they finish class. (Harrison High School Nursery, whsv.com ) It is a good, and positive thing that they will be able to
finish school; on the other hand, it also means the school has too many teen pregnancies and that the school isn’t teaching effective sex education well if they need an entire nursery and need to hire a teacher for the nursery. Today’s society has so many options, there shouldn’t be any teen pregnancies. From free birth control at planned parenthood, to a new form of birth control called Plan B or The morning After pill, so if any form of birth control was forgotten, there can be no chance of being pregnant. Of course the most effective form of birth control would be abstinence. With all of the education, resources, and campaigns one would think the current generation of teenagers would have a better decision making skills and know there are so many options for them to use, rather than just acting on a whim. According to Unicef The United States has the highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the world, with the U.K. as a close second (Teenage Birth Rate [most recent] by Country, nationmaster.com). Both societies are very media based. This could be one reason why their teen pregnancy rates are so high, but ours especially. Society is so revolved around famous people, that the local news stations even air celebrity news. There are bad influences everywhere, suggestive songs all over the radio, and awful articles, websites, pictures, and videos streaming all over the Internet. One of the most controversial songs on the radio is glamorizing sex as a teen, which could obviously lead to teen pregnancy. The lyrics are “Let’s go all the way tonight, no regrets, just
love... you make me feel like I’m living a teenage dream” (Katy Perry, Teenage dream). This is the perfect example of society’s main stream icons expressing ideas that shouldn’t be in kids' ideals or accepted by kids. There are also those icons in society that mean well, but are not helping much. Bristol Palin is one of them. In a recent interview, she said, “While it was unrealistic to expect teens to refrain from sex, they should at least follow careful contraception practices. Abstinence is realistic, and [Not having sex] is the safest choice.” (Bristol Palin Talks about ten pregnancy, politics.usnews.com) But what media doesn’t realize is that her being on the covers of magazines as well as the other teen moms she is also glamorizing teen pregnancy, and her recent appearance on "Dancing With the Stars" is also a great example of glamorization. I don't think she should be known as a star for being the pregnant teenage daughter of the governer of Alaska. Not only is the media glamorizing teen pregnancy with all of its television shows and magazine covers, but our government is holding back our progress as well. When President Bush was in office, he gave $100 million dollars to fund abstinence-only programs, which means only programs that told teens to not have sex were being funded with that money. The new budget passed in 2010 by President Obama gives $50 million in funds for states to use for teen pregnancy prevention programs (Obama budget eliminates funding, health.usnews.com), which will fund any pregnancy prevention organization, including those
that encourage the use of contraceptives, instead of only funding abstinence-only programs. This is good because as much as adults try to stop teens from having sex, they won’t. Although the government is beginning to get on the right track with funding, the government isn't funding enough. We spend billions of dollars a year paying for teenage pregnancies, but we only use millions on prevention programs (Teen Pregnancy Statistics, pregnantteenhelp.org). So while millions of teenagers are having babies paid for by the government, We are losing funding to prevent the reckless mistakes teens make that cause the U.S. to lose so much money a year. Teens don’t think before they act, which is another reason why our country has so many cases of teen pregnancy. As most teens will agree, there is no sense of responsibility. Teens like to do stupid things like drink obscene amounts at parties, smoke things they shouldn’t just because they were told not to, and ultimately defy everything they’ve been taught, including having sex. They often think of themselves as invincible, and that nothing bad could happen to them. This is obviously untrue. When they have sex they don’t think about the consequences that could arise if they do become pregnant. Not only is it risky for the baby’s sake but Their own futures as well. They don’t know that teen mothers are more likely to receive late or no prenatal care, which is why teens are more likely to have low-birth-weight babies. ( guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-ATSRH.html , childbearing) They also
don’t understand that low birth weight could kill a baby. Not only are the babies at risk but the mother’s futures are too. Two out of three teen mom’s will not graduate from high school, and are more likely to end up in the poverty bracket. (Teen Pregnancy Statistics, pregnantteenhelp.org) This puts both the mother and the child at risk of not having food or a vehicle or a house. They could end up being homeless, hungry, and jobless, and all because of one stupid mistake. What most teens don't realize are the effects that they will make on their children. If a single teen mom has to raise her baby on food stamps and minimum wage, the food she feeds her child won't be the best. Most mothers at a young age don't know what foods are best for her baby. Her baby could be malnourished and dehydrated and she wouldn't know it. Because she didn't get the chance to graduate high school, she would have an awful time searching for jobs, never knowing what it would pay or if she would get it because the job she applied for might not accept high school drop outs. If she has a boyfriend or a father figure for the baby, it will also be hard, but it will be helpful. According to and experiment funded by The Ford Foundation, 400 teen fathers were surveyed in a two year period. 82% reported having daily contact with their children; 74% said they contributed to the child's financial support. Almost 90% maintained a relationship. (Teenage Fathers, time.com).
Teenage mothers also don't understand what impact they will make on they're ancestors and family. The women of our country, and even of the world have fought for such a long time for equal opportunities for women. Women throughout time have fought so incredibly hard for us to be able to go to college and see the world, and get an education, because they couldn't. They were frowned upon, laughed at and even hurt to try and make us a better future. When today's generation wastes their futures on a boy, and throw their education out the window because they became pregnant, it disappoints the women of the past that risked their lives to give every girl the opportunity she has today. College's depend on finished high school classes, and a diploma, which two thirds of pregnant teenagers don't have. The fight that was fought for these girls was hard, and most of the girls don't acknowledge that there was ever a time when they couldn't go to college, or have a career other than a mother or a teacher. It used to be a good thing to be a mother at a young age, and it was expected of young women to be married and have a baby as a teenager, and now that girls have a choice they choose the way they're ancestors tried to keep them from. Teen pregnancy has been so stressed lately that more people have been realizing the problems our society faces. Ten percent of all U.S. births are to teens (U.S. Teenager Pregnancies, births and abortions, guttmacher.org) but only 21 states and The District of
Columbia allow all minors to consent to contraceptive services without a parent’s involvement, and only two require consent. ( U.S. Teenager Pregnancies, births and abortions, guttmacher.org). That means, in over half the states, there are limited ways for teens to obtain adequate birth control. If there is no birth control, how do they expect teen pregnancy rates to go down. Some states think that not selling contraceptives to minors will stop them from having sex, but this is unfortunately and ultimately untrue. This could be another factor of our once again rising teen pregnancy rate. Although, not all teens are too irresponsible to practice abstinence, the ones that do not practice abstinence need to learn how to stay protected. There is an organization called true love waits. They exercise abstinence through rings. They use "purity rings" and express their views of their religion through their abstinence. They believe that god will be happier and ultimately help their way to heaven more if they stay abstinent (lifeway.com/tlw/students/) . This is a great help towards the fight against teen pregnancy and the people that help spread the word about this great organization are helping reduce the number of teen pregnancies, and aren't ever alone in their striving to be better followers of their faith. The abstinence-only approach is a good start to teaching pregnancy prevention, but what goes along with the carelessness of
teenagers is defiance. Teens will never stop having sex, and they need to learn how not to get pregnant so they aren't able to become pregnant. We need more programs for middle school age children through high school, teaching them about what can happen if they have unprotected sex. In some middle schools there is a small course on STD's but there is not a thorough discussion on what ultimately could happen. There is also a course in most high schools about sex education, but it should be less brief. Teens need to know they have options and that if they ever do make a mistake, they aren't alone. They need to know that there is a place that will give them free birth control so if anything does happen, they will be sure of their safety and to understand that whenever they do have sex, it's giving a little piece of yourself away, and that abstinence is their best bet to never be heartbroken severely , get pregnant or any diseases. Sarah Owen, a mother of a two year old, at 22 years old, knows what it is like to be a pregnant teenager, and all the struggles that are faced. She was nineteen when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter Olivia. Although it was planned,she does somewhat regret having her daughter at such a young age. She married her boyfriend at the time, and later divorced him for infidelity on his part. When asked if she could change her decision to have Olivia, she said “Yes and no. Yes because I like that I can be a current young mom and relate to her in that way, but I don’t like being financially unstable.”
She says she lost all of her friends, because she sees that she needed to be a responsible parent. “They still party, and I don’t, but I’m glad I don’t. It’s not cool.” Although she had a rough patch, things are looking up for her now. She is currently attending Aveda Cosmetology Institute and training to be a hairstylist. She has a boyfriend of about a year and Olivia is healthy and happy. Although this is a story that ends well, some teens, aren’t as lucky. The younger they get, the more severe the stories become, and not everyone has a grandmother or a mom willing to help with thier babies. Not all parents are as supportive, and caring. All in all teenage pregnancy is on the rise. It is 4% higher than in 2005 ( U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and abortions ) America has plenty of ways to prevent this epidemic, and we know the consequences, but it still begins to grow. America has the highest pregnancy rate in the world, and a lot that has to do with it is the overglamorization of teen pregnancy. From the reality television shows, to the pregnant girls on television getting paid millions of dollars for being on the show. The magazine covers will keep growing with teenage stars having a pregnancy scare, or being pregnant. If we could educate the generation of teenagers more on ways to prevent pregnancy, and the consequences that could unveil if teens aren't cautious. If we could show teens that their futures could be ruined by dropping out of high school and giving their all to try and provide for their kids. Teens as a
whole will never stop having sex, but if we could get a majority to exercise abstinence, we might be able to stop the growing epidemic. America needs teens to be more aware of the past and to respect boundaries set by their parents and guardians for a reason. Parents aren't trying to make anyone angry or trying to stop anyone 's fun. They know what's best and are looking out for their kid's best interest. They don't want their daughter to end up heartbroken, and jobless with a two week old, and they don't want their son supporting a family on minimum wage, struggling to even get food for himself. Teens need to realize they don't own the world, and it shouldn't matter if they're favorite television show about teen moms is casting. Being a pregnant teen isn't glamorous and it shouldn't be portrayed that way. Along with the severe pain one would experience, physically and mentally and the risk for the child, there should not be any teen pregnancies. What can teens do? They can educate themselves, make better decisions, and try their hardest, to either be safe, or not have sex at all.