Progressive Revival

Progressive Revival

Teen pregnancy: Is there a faith-based program?

Whether Sarah Palin’s family, or Sarah Palin herself, should be an subject of commentary and scruitny has itself become a much-debated topic. But let us agree that the issues raised by her candidacy, notably the revelation of her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy, may be a “teachable moment,” as they say. But what can we learn?

In today’s New York Times, op-ed columnist and graphics czar Charles Blow has a column. “Let’s Talk About Sex,” with an accompanying table that, well, graphically sets out the “crisis” (though some may object to that word for a variety of reasons). Clearly the United States, despite our enthsiastic embrace of faith, is doing poorly in teaching children to avoid early sex or pregnancy–or abortion. As Blow writes:


“…A 2001 Unicef report said that the United States teenage birthrate was higher than any other member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. tied Hungary for the most abortions. This was in spite of the fact that girls in the U.S. were not the most sexually active. Denmark held that title. But, its teenage birthrate was one-sixth of ours, and its teenage abortion rate was half of ours.”

Blow’s solution is less abstinence-only teaching (as studies show it is ineffective) and more frank talk about sex and greater access to contraception. “If there is a shame here, it’s a national shame — a failure of our puritanical society to accept and deal with the facts. Teenagers have sex. How often and how safely depends on how much knowledge and support they have. Crossing our fingers that they won’t cross the line is not an intelligent strategy.”

Doesn’t seem as though that is a prescription that will be welcomed a good many parents. Is there a better way? Policy or preaching? And first off, should this be a topic/target of public discussion?

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posted September 6, 2008 at 12:14 pm

When a very Catholic community has teenage girls trying to get pregnant, when the Gov of Alaska’s teen age daughter is pregnant and where a Nation of “Prosperity” has the highest rate of teen pregnancies and abortions combined, for the faith based people to say that we are not to take EVERT step to change that is just plain sticking our heads in the sand,
Maybe if we returned to the old policy of shame and guilt, we would do better. STD is at its highest in America, Aid/HIV is still a major problem and we are not teaching sexual responsibility or taking the problem seriously enough.
Abstinence only has never worked, never will work and as long as we pretend that “Just say no to sex” is the answer, we will still have thousands of teenagers getting pregnant each year.
Lets call it as it is. These babies are bastards and if we called them such, maybe the stigma would make these kids wake up to the fact they are taking to many chances. If we called these young people fornicators instead of troubled teens maybe they will think twice.
Instead we coddle them and say that it is all right. It is not all right, it is wrong, very wrong and a burden on everybody when these children are not prepared to care for themselves and yet they try to bring another life into the world.

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Reader John

posted September 6, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Would you consider it a public policy success if 100% of teens were fornicating provide they all were using condoms at every encounter?
Sometimes it seems to me that my side is trying to get fornication rates back down to former levels while others – presumably, people of good will, but I have trouble attributing both good will and intelligence to them – would indeed be happy with the outcome I described.
I’m not ready to concede that current sexual activity patterns are inevitable.

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kathy mccarty

posted September 8, 2008 at 12:03 am

Sometimes even teaching and advocating abstinence and safer sex if the teen can’t be abstinent just is not enough. I know–I tried that very hard, tried to model sexual responsibility myself, and well… my 18 year-old daughter is pregnant. Am I happy about it? Of course not. Do I believe that she has sinned? Yes, but so have I, in many ways. We are both forgiven children of God. And her baby is not a “bastard”–the circumstances of his or her conception are not his/her fault. This baby is a very much loved and wanted child of God and a blessing.

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Ama McGleason

posted September 8, 2008 at 12:18 pm

I think teen pregnancy is a interesting topic. I do not think teens should be shamed like in the “Scarlet Letter.”

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posted September 8, 2008 at 12:20 pm


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Warren Cheswick

posted September 8, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Teen pregnancy is only stigmatized because of conservative religion, including conservative & Evangelical Christianity. The post-pubescent desire for sexual gratification inherent in both male and female is a natural phenomenon. The rules that call certain kinds of sexual activity “fornication” (i.e.: immoral) are a social construct and an appeal to convention, not nature. There are many societies around the world where a 16 year old becoming pregnant would be a cause for celebration – merely a perfectly healthy and natural experience. Part of the reason our society has such “rules” is a desire to protect teens from older predators. But part of it is also a direct result of our society’s religious core values, values that are only “right” because somewhere along the way people started saying they were “right.”
People often forget that our sexual mores have been heavily influenced by both Puritanism and English Victorianism.

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David Poole

posted September 8, 2008 at 10:58 pm

What you’ve said about Teen Pregnancy is likewise true of murder, which is also a natural phenomenon. So are lying, selfishness, and theft (just check any toddler for verification), and, for that matter, eating too many Big Macs. People unable to control themselves are destructive to themselves and others. I’m certainly glad my parents didn’t believe that foolishness you’re typing.
And, by the way folks, abstinance is worth any struggle. I married a virgin. So did my wife. It’s worth the wait. It’s worth doing what God has instructed.

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Warren Cheswick

posted September 9, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Au contraire, David. If you read my previous post and took from it that I’m suggesting that it is good for society to have people who can’t control themselves, then you have missed the point. I’ll say it again. Sexuality is natural. Social mores like monogamy, virginity until marriage, or postponement of marriage until the 20’s are social constructs. They vary from culture to culture, and are always based on convention. The fact that you believe it’s right to abstain from sex until marriage yet many other Americans think that’s the most ludicrous position imaginable only proves this point. In our society – both constructs are permissible (which makes sense, since we live in a republic where people have individual freedoms).
Appetite in all its physical forms, including the natural desire for sexual gratification are not equivalent to the crimes you have listed. You might have a case for selfishness, if you are referring to the right of nature, which is self-preservation. But even that is different. Murder and lying and stealing are all done for a particular end, to gain a particular end, and are unique to particular cases. They might seem instinctual in some humans or at various times, but they are not *necessarily* instinctual in all humans in all cases like the physical appetites are. All normal humans will seek sexual gratification and bodily pleasure, but not all humans will murder when given the opportunity, nor will they all lie or steal every time when given the opportunity. So you will hear a human being talk about how much he/she needs to find a sexual partner, but you will never hear a human being say, “Man, I haven’t lied in 2 weeks – I gotta go find someone to lie to (no pun intended) or I’m just gonna explode!”
But anyway, the point is that the human desire for sex is much more powerful than any social construct you list, including your opinion that remaining a virgin until marriage is “God’s instruction.” That is a social construction created by human beings to bring a certain kind of stability into family relationships (and for other reasons, too – all of which have a definite legitimacy), but the natural phenomenon of sexual hunger will always trump that. This explains why even kids of good, God-fearing, conservative, Republican civic leaders sneak off and engage in sexual encounters that they have been taught are immoral and sinful. And again, it’s only wrong if your culture believes it’s wrong. Just like I said in the above post, in some cultures, there’s no such thing as “teen pregnancy, as we understand it.” It’s just pregnancy.

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