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Stop the Teen-Pregnancy Blame Game!

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Dr. Michelle Golland: The MTV shows "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" don't glamorize teen pregnancy. Giving these young mothers covers on magazines with a quote like, "I'm Broke" certainly isn't glamorous, either.

Teen Pregnancy

OK, I get the argument that the teen moms are held out on the cover and given a pretty makeover, and that that might somehow make young girls think it is cool to get pregnant at 16, struggle to receive a GED, never go to college and fight with a "loser" babydaddy about going out drinking with his other hoodlum friends ...!

What I really think is that these shows should be shown to every eighth-grade boy and girl in the United States. If they were, then maybe, just maybe, we could bring our teen-pregnancy rate down. These reality shows give Generation Y a sad glimpse into the real truth about being a teen mother: It is a stressful, difficult and life-changing experience that can 100 percent be avoided with proper sex education.

When it comes to teen pregnancy, we are constantly in a blame-game scenario -- but we never actually deal with the problem effectively. Teen pregnancy is a public-health issue and must be dealt with as such. Once we as a country accept that fact and stop looking at teen sexuality through a lens distorted by politics and religion, we just might stem the tide of this epidemic. Teenagers are going to be curious about sex, and many of them are sexually active. We must prepare them sufficiently to deal with their hormones and sexual feelings in a healthy and safe manner.

As a country and as parents, we are failing our children. We are failing to adequately protect them from themselves. Why are we not questioning the reason why the United States has the highest teen-pregnancy rate in the industrialized world? We live in a country where a third of girls get pregnant before the age of 20! 

The shows on MTV are only viable because pregnancy has already become a disastrous mainstream experience for many teenagers. We adults have failed our teens because we can't agree on how to deal with this issue without religious or political points of view. The people who are being hurt by our lack of an educated, reasonable and measured response are our children.

France, Germany, Sweden and Canada do a far better job preventing teen pregnancy. Per every 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, teen pregnancy rates are as follows:
United States: 72.2
France: 25.7
Germany: 18.8
Canada: 16.3

The estimated public cost for teen pregnancy in the United States is between $6 and $9.1 billion a year! Eighty percent of teen moms are on some form of public assistance. Seven out of ten teen mothers are unlikely to receive prenatal care, which of course has huge negative health impacts on the children. 

Besides those health risks, kids born to teen mothers are also at greater risk for emotional and physical abuse, especially if there is no family support. These kids are at higher risk of emotional and academic problems later in life as well. Another startling statistic: Baby boys of teen mothers are at an increased risk for incarceration later in their lives, while girls born to teens are more likely to become teen moms themselves.

Here are some ways to improve adolescent sexual health:

  • Use sound research as the basis for public-health policies about reproduction and teen pregnancy. Political and religious groups should have LITTLE influence on this.
  • Express a national desire to reduce the number of abortions and prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Ensure consistent sex education and easy access to contraception and condoms.
  • Have the government support massive, consistent, long-term public-education campaigns via the Internet, television, films, radio, billboards, pharmacies and health-care providers. The media should be a respected partner in these campaigns.
  • Start sex education in public schools in late elementary education, and have it be comprehensive and consistent over the course of children's schooling all the way through twelfth grade. Educators should provide accurate and complete information on contraception options, as well as on abstinence and all health-related issues. Emotional issues and relational issues should be discussed as well.

We must stop with the hysterical responses in the media and address the real issues about teen pregnancy in our country. The ramifications are far greater than the simple argument that some parents don't want their kids taught about sex at school. It shouldn't be about blaming MTV or the movie "Juno." Teen pregnancy is a public-health concern and must be addressed by governmental agencies and public schools. 

While we in the United States have spent years playing the blame game, our neighbors in Canada have been decreasing their teen pregnancy rate, keeping thousands upon thousands of unwanted and neglected children from being brought into this world with one strike against them already. Can't we do the same?

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22 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous September 20, 2010, 6:47 AM

Those countries you cite very likely teach children about contraception. America doesn’t. America teaches abstinenece. Still, I never realised before - ONE THIRD; says a lot for abstinence doesn’t it…

Rita September 20, 2010, 12:15 PM

They’re not broke anymore since the magazines paid them for their pictures and interviews.

It still makes me sad, though.

Whitney September 20, 2010, 1:36 PM

I believe that their should be ways to get birth control through school and I am not talking about the pill. The pill is easily forgotten many pregnant teens were “on” the pill. While I was in highschool their were many girls that were embrassed to ask anyone about birth control ecspecially their parents but they were still having sex to the point that they were having kids. I did not tell my mom I was having sex in highschool I told her I was having period problems knowing I would get put on BC by the doctor but many kids don’t do anything. && I think it is sad. Very few teenagers practice abstineince and the ones who do are great and very strong individuals. Schools need to do more about contraception and say abstineince is best but if not at least try to prevent.

Faith September 20, 2010, 1:38 PM

How about parents take a more active role in teaching their children about sex and its consequences? That would lead to better educated youth and maybe we wouldn’t need a public-education campaign about sex.

cyndi September 20, 2010, 2:18 PM

What you haven’t mentioned is that those countries you cite as being “advanced” because their teen pregnancy rate is lower also have revolving door abortion on demand. Guess it depends what you want or care about….

renee September 20, 2010, 6:04 PM

we need to make birth control easier for teens to get,educate earlier and stop accepting teen pregnancy,everyone acts like its no big its like a disease between girl clicks and we award them with lots of taxer payer supplied welfare etc. we need to stop galmorizing teen pregnancy.also the girls on the magizines get $,and make over etc for their stories…boohoo for them

Anonymous September 20, 2010, 9:15 PM

I live in Canada and at the age of 16 I had an abortion. It was free and I got a friends mother to sign the papers as you have to be 18 without parent consent.I’m married to that father and can’t imangine life without that option. I have watched friends in their mid 20’s have abortion. When your a teeenager then its a 1 time deal, but when your in your 20’s and its your 2nd abortion come on!

Mary Green September 26, 2010, 5:25 PM

Come on what? Not out of the question or a health risk.

You only walk in your shoes. Not your neighbors.

Accidents happen. What these women need is education, jobs, goals to focus their futures. Not a boyfriend until they are ready to commit.

Make a living first. THEN commit. Don’t let a partner detour your career w/ ownership or unwanted pregnancy.

Nash September 26, 2010, 11:02 PM

I really agree with Mary Green. Think about your future first before having commitment to anyone who don’t own you.

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Fashion Trends October 12, 2010, 4:39 PM


Jess December 6, 2010, 11:48 AM

I think these shows are a good hing fo other teeneagers to see the struggles that these young mothers, and a few fathers, go through. I was 23 when I had my son, but I can still relate to these girls. I know how hard it has been for me, so I can only imagine if I were 16 and pregnant.
Like someone else metioned, kids are going to be curious and no one can keep them from experimenting. That is why it is so important for teens to be educated about their choices when it comes to sex and protection. Many teens are going to do it…they just need to be aware of the consequences and how to be safe.

Anonymous December 14, 2010, 1:03 PM

I’m 19 live in the UK and we got basic sex ed aged 9 or so in primary school, and it developed each year until we were 17 and covered both all kinds of contraception, and the emotional ramifications of your actions. Sometimes accidents happen, one of my friends is 18 and has a two year old daughter but she works hard and she makes it work. The greater majority of my friends have really good sex lives which they enjoy responsibly.

Flor Pozo January 22, 2011, 9:29 AM

my ideas precisely

uk immigration  February 10, 2011, 8:13 PM

Very nice info and right to the point. I am not sure if this is actually the best place to ask but do you folks have any ideea where to employ some professional writers? Thanks :)

Mark Bruna March 29, 2011, 6:38 PM

Good article and right to the point. I am not sure if this is in fact the best place to ask but do you people have any ideea where to hire some professional writers? Thanks in advance :)

Celestine Edelstein March 30, 2011, 5:58 AM

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Eddie E. George March 31, 2011, 3:03 AM

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Jacob O. Horner April 9, 2011, 1:34 PM


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