Teen Pregnancy—What Should a Girl Do?
Teen pregnancy and abortion are problems of global dimensions. The following discussion is therefore designed to help any youth facing the dilemma of unwed parenthood, while at the same time highlighting the tragic consequences that result from premarital sex.
“I WAS 15 and pregnant,” said Ann. “I didn’t know what to do—get an abortion, put the baby up for adoption, or what.” Ann was just one of over a million teenage girls in the United States who got pregnant that year.
While in a few tragic cases a girl becomes pregnant because of rape, teen pregnancy is usually the result of willing participation in premarital s3x. In any event, a pregnancy confronts an unwed girl with several agonizing choices: Should she get married? Should she put the child up for adoption? Is abortion the answer? Granted, it takes two to make a baby, and by all rights the father of the child should carry his load of responsibility. But more often than not, it is the girl (perhaps with her parents’ help) who is left to make those tough choices. And what she decides will have a lasting effect on the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of her and the child she carries.
‘Should We Get Married?’
Many might feel that marrying the father of the child would be the perfect solution. After all, it would spare the girl and her family public embarrassment, and it would allow for the child to be raised by two parents. But marriage is not a cure-all. Furthermore, rushing into marriage could actually compound the girl’s problems. Since the boy and the girl are still in “the bloom of youth,” they simply may not have the emotional maturity needed to make a marriage work. Likely the boy is not unsuitable as a marriage mate.
Dr. Arthur Elster further observes: “Premature parenthood frequently causes these fathers to drop out of school, and so places them at a considerable vocational disadvantage.” The ensuing economic difficulties can destroy a marriage. Indeed, some studies claim a divorce rate of from 50 percent to 75 percent among marriages precipitated by a premarital pregnancy!
Marriage is a serious step and should not be rushed into. After giving the matter consideration, all concerned may agree that marriage would be unwise, that the girl would fare better raising the child at home with the assistance of her family than in a problem-ridden marriage.
One young girl said: ‘I want to do so much with my life, and a baby wouldn’t fit in.’ Abortion is thus the choice of nearly half a million girls each year in the United States alone. But is it right or even just to abort a child’s life because it doesn’t ‘fit in’ with one’s personal plans?
The book Growing Into Love offers another argument against abortion: “Although the consequences of conception are simplified by having an abortion, the experience of terminating a pregnancy is usually very upsetting and disturbing. . . . A teenager. . . may believe that the fetus is just that—a fetus . . . But no amount of legalistic explanations let her forget, deep within herself, that the fetus she conceived had a potential for life.”
One youth named Linda found this to be true. Fearing that having her baby would bring shame on her family, she had an abortion. After the operation, though, she recalls: “I started shaking so badly that I couldn’t control it. And I started crying, and all of a sudden it all hit me, exactly what I had done. I had taken the life of my unborn child, another human being!” What does Linda now think of abortion? “It was the worst mistake of my whole life.”
‘I Can’t Give Him the Best’
Some unwed mothers choose to give up their baby for adoption. They often feel like Heather, a girl quoted in Seventeen magazine, who said: “I have enough trouble handling myself sometimes, let alone a little baby. I’m really crazy about kids, and I love babies, but I knew that I couldn’t give this baby the best.”
It is true that giving a child up for adoption is better than ending his life by abortion. And admittedly, the prospect of raising an infant by herself may seem overwhelming to a young and inexperienced girl. As one unwed mother said!: “You take on a big, big responsibility that’s very lonely and trying and that requires a lot of sacrifice.” In most circumstances, it would be best for the girl to raise the child herself.
Ann, mentioned at the outset, therefore made a wise choice—though not the easiest. “I decided to keep the baby,” she says. “My parents helped me and still do.” Granted, being a single mother is tough. But it is not impossible, and many young mothers become competent parents. Adoptive parents might be able to provide better materially.
Remember, too, that while a single parent may not be able to give her child the best materially, she can give him something far more important: love. “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull [“the finest meat,” Today’s English Version] and hatred along with it” so says an ancient proverb.
Of course, much needless suffering can be prevented if one avoids the sin of fornication in the first place. But if a girl has erred in this regard, she need not conclude that her life is over. By acting wisely, she can avoid compounding her error and make the very best of her situation.
Driven by fear—or selfish indifference—some boys who have fathered a child out of wedlock try to evade their responsibilities entirely. Said one boy whose girlfriend became pregnant: “I just told her, ‘See ya’ ’round.’”
Fortunately, the majority of boys seem to want at least some involvement with their offspring. When marriage seems inadvisable (as is often the case), most offer to help out financially. Some even offer to share in the day-to-day care of the infant. But such efforts often prove short-lived, foiled by the boy’s limited wage-earning ability and his acute lack of the patience and skills needed to meet the demands of a small infant.
Also, the girl’s parents sometimes bitterly oppose letting the boy have any further dealings with their daughter, fearing that this could result in more sexual misconduct—or a premature marriage. They may deny him any share in the decisions to be made regarding the child, perhaps forcing him to stand by helplessly as the child is aborted or put up for adoption, ending any chance of his ever sharing in the life of the child he has fathered. On the other hand, a boy may indeed be allowed to develop an attachment to his child—only to have that bond cruelly severed when the girl marries and another man takes over the role of father.
Unquestionably, then, unwed fathers also pay a price for their irresponsible conduct. One 16-year-old unwed father says: “There are a lot of feelings you just can’t deal with. It’s like you pray to get back to where you were before, but there’s no way you can.”—“’Teen” magazine, November 1984.