Pregnancy rates among teenagers and young women in the United States rose steadily from the early 1970s to the early 1990s, increasing by about 21% among all women younger than 20 and 17% among women aged 20–24 during those two decades. At the same time, the birthrate among these women remained relatively unchanged until the late 1980s, when it began to rise. From 1973, when abortion was legalized, to 1990, the abortion rate rose substantially.
By 1990 or 1991, the pregnancy rate among teenagers and young women had begun a steady and consistent decline. A decrease in both birth and abortion rates among these women signaled that both intended and unintended pregnancy rates were declining among these age-groups. Recent research concluded that almost all of the decline in the pregnancy rate between 1995 and 2002 among 18–19-year-olds was attributable to increased contraceptive use.1 Among women aged 15–17, about one-quarter of the decline during the same period was attributable to reduced sexual activity and three-quarters to increased contraceptive use.
The problem is so much larger than one woman, and laying it all at her feet, feels very much like scapegoating to me. When it comes to teenage pregnancy, what is absolutely clear is that this is a societal problem, and filling teenage heads with ridiculous abstinence un-education, is not going to help the problem, neither is expecting schools to be defacto babysitters, because parents either don’t have the time, or care enough about the situation to behave in a proactive manner. The end result is that we have babies having babies, who are unprepared for the reality of parenthood, not to mention the fact that teenage bodies are not ready to give birth, thus leading to multiple interventions and complications.
To make matters worse, when these children are born by teenage mothers, there is little to no support in place. On every level society fails teenage girls and teenage mothers. We need to do something substantial, if we are going to change the current statistics. If it means having sex education classes, or handing out prescriptions for the pill and free condoms, then that is what needs to happen. The future of children is at risk, and blaming one person for a nationwide phenomenon is the equivalent of sticking one’s head in the sand like an ostrich pretending that the problem is not real.