I live in one of the poorest counties in this nation. Teen pregnancy occurs at an alarming rate here. People tell me in my rural community about some of our local high school young women who are actively trying to get pregnant, and they are not even in committed relationships. It seems that any old dad will do for some of these young lasses.
Moreover, in my community I’ve heard too many stories of teen pregnancy further complicated by the abuse of synthetic marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. How do they justify these activities while pregnant to those who inquire? They are all legal activities so therefore they don’t see the danger they are imposing on their own bodies or those of their fetuses. Moreover, many justify the practice of using dangerous substances while pregnant by retorting that their mothers did the same and every thing worked out okay.
How, I wonder, can we claim that the young people in our nation are remotely educated when so many of them cannot prevent an unwanted pregnancy, are actively seeking pregnancy as single young teenagers, or are abusing substances that harm their fetuses when they do become pregnant? When teen pregnancy occurs, parents must take some responsibility, but local schools and community have also failed. Isn’t learning how to control one’s fertility as important in the grand scheme of life as the skill of, say, arithmetic?
Moreover, with the luxury that young people have today in their ability to find any kind of information on the internet, why can’t more young people learn the basic facts about pregnancy (having one and preventing one), even when their parents or schools are not providing that useful information to them? I suppose along with their ability to learn on the internet, they also have the unfortunate ability to purchase substances like synthetic marijuana and to hear testimonials about how harmless the product is and to get step by step instruction on how to smoke it.
Teenagers learn most by example. When a teenager’s parent or community members are modeling unhealthy habits of continuing to have children when they don’t want or can’t afford more, and of abusing substances during pregnancy, who are they to break that pattern? Additionally, with popular television shows that pay pregnant teenagers gobs of money to reveal the banal routines of their lives to a camera, how can teens get the message that being pregnant at 13 or 14 or even seventeen, is not fashionable?
Call me old fashioned, but teen pregnancy will never be fashionable to me.
I did, however have one glimmer of hope when I recently spent time with a lovely local ten year old girl who is raised by multiple family members who fill in for her young mom who is continually in and out of drug rehab. She was talking excitedly about her new cousin that she can’t see because he is premature and in an incubator for a few months (his teenage mother, her aunt, reportedly smoked the synthetic marajuana, “Spice” during her pregnancy).
“You don’t want a baby for a long time, right?” I boldly ask her.
“Oh, no,”she quickly retorts. “Not for a very long time.” My heart soars.
“I’m going to be a singer,” she proudly exclaims.
“You can be anything you want, you know,” I say as I brush aside her pretty blond hair. She is a happy, sharp-witted, and outgoing child despite the difficult environment in which she lives, and she has an earthy beauty. I can well see her on stage.
“Yeah, I know,” she concludes and reverts back to the drawing she’s making of me, her mom, her aunt and new cousin in the plastic box. Way to go, I think. Good for you.