Every twenty-six seconds a teen becomes pregnant in the United States. The women who

tend to become teen mothers tend to be among the Black and Hispanic decent. Others tend to be

sexually assaulted or abused as children. Whether realized or not, teen pregnancy effects

everyone. It takes a toll on the taxpayers, the teens families, and the child. Teen pregnancy can

change the course of a person s life, as seen with Novalee Nation, in the book Where the Heart


Teens become pregnant for seemingly many reasons. 85% of White teens and 70% of

black teens said they had not wanted to have a baby at the time of conception (Luker, Pg. 153).

Statistics indicate, that most teen pregnancies are accidental. Other teens seem to think it will

solve their problems, While privileged people may see a detriment in a teenager becoming a

mother, these girls see it as a realistic improvement in their lives (Thompson, Pg. 45)

According to figures published by the Children s Defense Fund, 50 percent of all

teenagers between the ages of fifteen and nineteen have had intercourse, as have four out of five

twenty-year- olds. It seems clear that a lot of teens-50 percent at present- can t or won t

subscribe to the just say no philosophy. The only sure way to avoid teen pregnancy is to

abstain from sex.

Often pregnancy occurs not because teens can t obtain contraception, but because there

are powerful psychological factors at work. Only fourteen percent of teen couples use any form

of protection, the first time they have intercourse. Most couples wait until they have been

sexually active for nine months before they visit a birth control clinic. The major reason for a

visit to a clinic is for a pregnancy test. The danger is real: half of all unintended pregnancies

occur during the first six months after teens start having intercourse.

People often talk of getting swept away, or not knowing what they were doing, as if,

somehow, that guaranteed that they wouldn t get pregnant. Many teenagers talk about the issue

of spontaneity in a sexual relationship. To them, premeditated sex is wrong. Spontaneous sex,

in which a couple suddenly succumbs to overwhelming passion, is somehow viewed as

acceptable (Bode, Pg. 28). If a teenage girl walks into her first sexual encounter equipped with

a diaphragm and a tube of contraceptive gel, she feels guilty, as if she has planned her

rendezvous. She feels immoral. It is only later, when she is in a state of high panic over a

possible pregnancy, that she wishes that she s marched in with an oversupply of birth control


If a teenage girl doesn t expect to have sex, if she is actually swept away, One can

hardly expect her to have started taking the pill a month earlier, or for that matter to have

purchased a box of contraceptive sponges or a container of contraceptive foam (Guernsey, pg.

224). Frequently. birth control is not used by teenagers because of they way sexual intercourse

happens. It is often hurried, done in places that don t provide privacy or time to use many of the

effective methods. Mostly, birth control is not used because the passionate feelings are so urgent

that young people don t want to interrupt their lovemaking or because they are not comfortable

enough with sex or each other to discuss it.

However, lack of education or psychological factors are not the only reasons teens tend to

become pregnant. 15 percent want to have a baby in order to make their boyfriend stay, or so

they wont be lonely (Angel, Pg. 66) There is another reason teenagers are becoming pregnant

more than ever before- a reason that may surprise many people. The reason is that many teens

-both boys and girls- want to have babies. Many girls view a baby as a clear sign that they are

adults, and sometimes become pregnant to prove to their parents that they are too old to be

treated as children (Edelson Pg. 97). Some see a baby as someone who will provide

unconditional love that they lack from their families. For boys, fathering a child is often as sign

of manhood.

Unfortunately, it seems that those who will not use abstinence as their method of birth

control know very little about other methods . Study after study points out that only increased

use of contraception can reduce the number of teen pregnancies. So far, it dosn t seem to have

made any difference which political and religious authorities take a stand against teenagers

engaging in sex. The numbers indicate that however worried or guilty they may feel about it,

teenagers continue stumble into sexual relationships that can change the course of their lives.

Novalee Nation in Where the Heart Is, became pregnant accidentally. She had not

planned to be pregnant and when she was, she saw it as a chance to start her life over. Novalee

also wanted to make for her baby, the life she had never had. Undereducated and naive, Novalee

was unaware of the many methods of birth control. Thus, she became pregnant.

A total of 1.2 million American teenage girls will become pregnant this year. That s

about one out of every ten. Nearly one-third of the teenage girls who are sexually active will get

pregnant before they are married. More than 10 percent of them will get pregnant within a

month of the first time they have intercourse. More than half will be pregnant within one year,

Babies are being born to American teens at the rate of about 1,300 a day.

Young girls who become pregnant, are then force with an important choice: whether to

keep the baby, give it up for adoption, or have an abortion. If they have had a relationship with

the father of the child, they may consider marriage. In the old days, half of teen marriages

involved pregnant brides. In the 1930s theses marriages were called shot-gun weddings

because the girl s father often threatened the young man with a shot gun if he didn t hot-foot it

to the alter. There are few forced marriages today, probably because of the high divorce rate.

None of these are easy decisions to make alone. Nor are they easy, fun, or inexpensive to carry


The young lady in the book, wasn t forced with the difficult choice of what to do with the

baby. For her, there was no choice, she seemed almost glad to have a baby. She intended to

marry the father and live happily ever after.

35 percent of all teen pregnancies end in abortion (Lerman, Pg. 127). A survey of

members of the organization Exploited by Abortion, showed that 33 percent were encouraged to

have abortions by their boyfriends. 54 percent of the respondents also said they felt forced by

outside circumstances to have an abortion. Husbands pushed for abortion the least; at only 9


Minors have many legal rights when pregnant, most of which they are unaware. Legally,

they can choose to continue the pregnancy and raise the child, or they can place the child up for

adoption. Legally, they can also choose to terminate their pregnancy. Young women often don t

realize they can get a pregnancy test, seek pregnancy counseling, have an abortion, or get

prenatal care without informing their parents. This seems to be a sensitive issue for some young

women. They need to know their confidentiality will be maintained before they will seek care.

If a teen is a minor (under age eighteen) and living with their parents, their parents are

responsible for them. As part of their responsibility, parental consent is required in most cases

whenever you receive medical care or treatment. Parental consent laws vary in each state. In

some states the health care provider may be required to inform one or both of your parents, and

in other states one or both parents consent is needed before medical care can be provided to


As a minor, teens are able to get family planning services in federally funded programs

with out parental notification or consent. All minors have the legal right to an abortion.

However, most states have parental notification or consent laws. In almost every care, their are

ways to get around these laws. The judicial bypass law is a law which is highly controversial. It

is offered by almost every state. In this, a minor can plea her case to a local judge as to why she

can not inform her parents, and the consent or notification law can be avoided.

Like most teens, Novalee, received no prenatal care. With no family or friends, Novalee

has her baby on the floor of the Wal-Mart store. With a little direction or education this could

have been prevented. Novalee could have had free exams and checkups.

The profile of teenage mothers is discouraging. They tend to be girls from low-income

families. Most are unmarried, and if they marry their babies fathers, the marriages are

statistically doomed to failure. Social workers say that most teenage mother-between 80 and 90

percent- come form dysfunctional families, where mental disorders, chemical abuse, and

alcoholism are common. The majority of teens who become pregnant also have sexual abuse in

their past- from fathers, stepfathers, or other family members.

A teens mom s future, like her past, will also be bleak. Physically, the pregnancy and

birth will take a toll on her body that is far worse than that by mothers in their twenties and

thirties. Because the bones of a teenager are not mature, giving birth will be more difficult.

More than 50 percent off teen moms will drop out of junior high or high school;- forty

thousand each year in the United Stated. Few will ever return. Fewer than 5 percent of teen that

have babies will make it to college. Not surprisingly, the majority of teenage mothers will

follow a downward spiral into poverty and welfare.

Novalee, was from a very dysfunctional family in which her mother left her when she

was seven. She suffered from poverty all of her life. Novalee dropped out of high school and

never returned. She took a few college classes, but failed to ever achieve a real degree. Novalee

Nation fit the definition of a common teen mother almost perfectly.

Hundreds of thousands of teenage boys become fathers each year. The pregnancy is

almost never planned by both participants (sometimes a teenage girl will stop using the pill

without telling her partner), and few of the boys are married at the time of conception. Marriage

is sometimes views as a solution to the problem of teenage pregnancy. The rate of teen

pregnancy in the United States is higher than that of any nation in the industrialized world.

Although is should be noted that not all of the babies delivered by teen mothers are fathered by

teen boys, experts state that the vast majority of these fathers are under twenty-one.

It is difficult to get reliable figures of the number of teenage boys who become fathers

each year. Compared with teen moms, teenage fathers are a far less visible and in a less

well-defined group. Teenage fathers neither become pregnant nor give birth; they do not seek

welfare benefits or financial assistance, Their names may or may not appear on official

documents such as birth certificates. In the eyes of the government agencies that assist and

support single mothers and their children, the fathers of these children are virtually

abstractual (Tyson, Pg. 63).

Many people picture [a teenage father as] an irresponsible young man who has fathered

multiple children with different mothers, then walked away from each without another thought,

states, teen pregnancy consultant, Jeanne Warren Lindsay.

Other experts agree, but stress that the stereotype is definitely based of fact. Teenage

boys who fathered children s are immature, says counselor Claude Olsen.

They are children themselves, just as the girls are. Statistically, teenage fathers

do not remain in the relationship for long, and often the girl and her parents or

even grandparents end up raising the child. It s wrong to look to one partner to

the other as the one at fault. The important thing o remember is that this is not a

civil rights issue, no value judgments are being made because of economic,

Rachel, or cultural reasons. Pure and simple, these are children, without a sense

of responsibility strong enough even to use birth control, or to make sure their

girlfriends do. Why would we think they would -or could- make good

fathers?(Luker, Pg. 102)

This is not to say that any teenage boy can become a good father, or that any teenage girl

can become a good mother. However, the simple desire to achieve this goal cannot by itself

overcome serious obstacles. A large number of teenage fathers, or those who will soon become

teenage fathers, are simply overwhelmed by many previously remote issues that suddenly hit

home: how to support a baby and a girlfriend, how to fine a job that pays enough money for that

support, and what is involved in being a father in more than name.

The father of Novalee s baby is Willy Jack Pickens. He is slightly older than Novalee.

He abandons her at a Wal-Mart with nine dollars and nearly nothing else. Willy Jack was very

immature and unprepared to become a father. He did not have a job or source of income. The

baby never met her father. The mother was forced to support herself.

Americans spend a huge amount of money on welfare for teenage mothers-$34 bullion

each year. Statistically they are the group that is least likely to climb out of the welfare situation.

The average stay on welfare for a teenage mother is eight years- longer than any other recipient


Such figures have been discouraging, both to government policy makers and taxpayers

alike. It is not surprising that politicians have offered suggestions on how to change what all

agree is a bad situation.

Early in 1995 President Bill Clinton proposed a plan that would limit the amount of time

a teenage mother could spend on welfare. He wanted to stop a teen mom s benefits after two

years-whether or not she has found work. He proposed to make the fathers of babies born to teen

mothers pay, too.

According to his plan, mothers would be required to identify the fathers of their babies

before they could draw their fist welfare check. These fathers would be required to help the

economic support of the mother and child, or their driver s licenses would be revoked.

Conservative Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives, had proposed a

more drastic plan. He urged that the government deny cash payments and welfare to any new

teen mother who is not marries. They money saved by his plan, he says, could build orphanages

or group homes for teen mothers and their children, where, while teen moms would be cared

for, they would not receive cash payments.

Although Novalee did not go on welfare, her pregnancy took its toll on the entire town.

She moved in with a strange woman and expected her to provide for her. The whole community

baby-sat the child and provided her with basic necessities. When the child was kidnapped, the

entire town went to look for her. In the end, they all help build her own home without being


Teen parents take their toll on all of society, unless something drastic is done, this will

continue to be a problem. Until someone steps up to the plate and proposes a plan to stop this

problem, we, as taxpayers will continue to pay. Teenage pregnancy can drastically change the

course of a persons life, as seen with Novalee Nation in Where the Heart Is.


Lerman, evelyn. Teen Moms: The Pain and the Promise.

Buena Park:Morining Glory Press, 1997.

Edelson, Paula. Teenage Pregnancy

New York: Facts on File, 1999.

Bode, Janet. Kids Having Kids: Lets Talk About Teen Pregnancy.

New York: Fulch Watts, 1992.

Guernse, JoAnne Bren. Teenage Pregnancy.

New York: Waller, 1992.

Lucker, Kristine. Dubious Conception: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy.

Cambridge Mas.:Havard University Press, 1996.

Angel, Ronald J., and Jacqueline L. Angel. Painful Inheritance: Health and the New Generation

of Fatherless Families. Madison, WIs.:University of Wisconsin press, 1993.

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