Let's Have More Teen Pregnancy

Nature wants teens to have sex, but society wants them to wait for marriage. Which one is going to give?

This article originally appeared on National Review online.

True Love Waits. Wait Training. Worth Waiting For. The slogans of teen abstinence programs reveal a basic fact of human nature: teens, sex, and waiting aren't a natural combination.

Over the last 50 years, the wait has gotten longer. In 1950, the average first-time bride was just over 20; in 1998 she was five years older, and her husband was pushing 27. If that June groom had launched into puberty at 12, he'd been waiting more than half his life.

If he had been waiting, that is. Sex is the sugar coating on the drive to reproduce, and that drive is nearly overwhelming. It's supposed to be; it's the survival engine of the human race. Fighting it means fighting a basic bodily instinct, akin to fighting thirst.

Yet despite the conflict between liberals and conservatives on nearly every topic available, this is one point on which they firmly agree: young people absolutely must not have children. Though they disagree on means--conservatives advocate abstinence, liberals favor contraception--they shake hands on that common goal. The younger generation must not produce a younger generation.

But teen pregnancy, in itself, is not such a bad thing. By the age of 18, a young woman's body is well prepared for childbearing. Young men are equally qualified to do their part. Both may have better success at the enterprise than they would in later years, as some health risks--Cesarean section and Down syndrome, for example-- increase with passing years. (The dangers we associate with teen pregnancy, on the other hand, are behavioral, not biological: drug use, STD's, prior abortion, extreme youth, and lack of prenatal care.) A woman's fertility has already begun to decline at 25--one reason the population-control crowd promotes delayed childbearing. Early childbearing also rewards a woman's health with added protection against breast cancer.

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Younger moms and dads are likely be more nimble at child-rearing as well, less apt to be exhausted by toddlers' perpetual motion, less creaky-in-the-joints when it's time to swing from the monkey bars. I suspect that younger parents will also be more patient with boys-will-be-boys rambunction, and less likely than weary 40-somethings to beg pediatricians for drugs to control supposed pathology. Humans are designed to reproduce in their teens, and they're potentially very good at it. That's why they want to so much.

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Frederica Mathewes-Green
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