Whether it is education, easier access to birth control, or the level of acceptance and communication in our society, we have seen a steady decline in teen pregnancy.
Thirty-six years ago, I was born to a teen mother. My grandparents were extremely supportive of her—disappointed, of course, but they made it clear they would support her in raising me or if she chose adoption. They also made it clear that abortion was not an option, to which my mom was very relieved.
I won’t pretend she had it easy. She attended school until she no longer was able, then she attended night school to make sure she would graduate. She went on to get a trade certificate in college. It may have been easier on her and her parents if she had dropped out and stayed hidden away, but she didn’t want that for herself or for me.
My mother faced many obstacles in her young life while raising a stubborn child. She worked hard and accepted help when offered. Teens aren’t equipped with the skills of parenting; it is trial and error and often takes a village to help. She tried to make it work with my dad and they even married for a short while. She was forced out of her childhood by becoming a young mother. She missed out on a lot of fun as a result. I often wonder if she resented me for that, but I know how much she loves me. Young mothers get a bad rap, but many are just trying to do the right thing and make ends meet.
In the last 25 years the rates of teen pregnancy have cut in half. Still, teen pregnancy is and should be on our radar. The majorities of the girls who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy often turn to abortion or become single mothers. A few choose the least common option, adoption.
Regardless of the route they take, these girls’ lives are forever changed and they often lack the support and guidance to make the most of their new life, which often leads to additional pregnancies while they are still in their teens or a life of poverty. The number of babies born through teen pregnancy is still alarming for many. Factoring female teens from the ages of 15-19, teens account for 273,105 pregnancies per year, a decline of over 51% since 1990 (hhs.gov).
While the average number of teens girls in this age group having babies is only 2.65%, it varies widely if it is broken down by ethnic group or economic standing. Location also seems to play a big role in skewing the numbers higher or lower. While the North East portion of the country seems to have very low teen pregnancy rates, the Midwest and South Central states have overwhelmingly larger numbers.
So what is really causing the decline in teen pregnancy? Researchers believe it can be contributed to abstinence, waiting longer before engaging in sexual intercourse, and the more common practice of using contraceptives. While 30% of teen pregnancies result in abortion, which is the lowest rate in history since abortion became legal, would that rate be even lower if adoption education was provided as an option to these girls prior to the procedure? There are many arguments that abortion vs. adoption is typically not an either-or option. Many people feel very strongly about one or both of these options. Adoption is an option that takes a very long emotional toll on any woman who makes that plan. Some girls simply aren’t prepared for that commitment.
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Because of the open-mindedness in society and the freedom of pregnant teens to still attend school or work without disruption, I was honestly surprised with the data that showed teen pregnancy was at an all-time low. I assumed the rates were higher; but maybe they are just not shunned as much as the previous counterparts were, which makes them more visible to us. With grants, educational opportunities and resources given to teen mothers, the cycle will continue to decrease, and one day we may find that the United States rates will go down even more. For example, our counterparts in Canada and the United Kingdom that see far less teen pregnancy.
What do you believe can be done to reduce teen pregnancy?