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
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.