One in every five American teens lives in poverty. Abuse, poverty and a lack of opportunity plays an important role in not only teen pregnancy, but also unwanted pregnancies in general. Later in this article I will give you some troubling statistics on abuse, teens, and sex.
The purpose of this article is to shed some light on why safe sex education is important, why birth control contraceptives must be made available, and why financial, medical and emotional support matter, especially for teens.
This article, I hope, will tie these topics together and aid you in your understanding of how they are all connected and why it should concern you. The decisions we make, the opinions we form, these things shape the moral and political landscape our children are growing up in.
We live in a nation where a particular 25% of the population will do everything they can to keep a young woman or in some cases a teenage girl from accessing birth control or morning after pills and will not only still shame her when she unintentionally gets pregnant, but will also do everything they can to prevent her from having an abortion once she is.
They support limiting her access to government funded healthcare during various stages of gestation even though she will likely be impoverished and cannot afford it on her own, as they don’t believe taxpayer money should go towards supporting her pregnancy. The pregnancy they insisted she continue.
Once she gives birth, they will shame her again and do everything they can to prevent her from receiving government funded assistance including food stamps, to care for the child they shamed her into having in the first place.
This 25% of the American populace I’m talking about are the more than 80 million Americans who allegedly oppose the use of birth control to the point at which they lobby to pass laws that free companies from paying for them through employee insurance.
These more than 80 million Americans allegedly believe that abstinence from sex is the only “safe sex” and the answer to America’s problem with teen pregnancy. They believe that the best way to control and end the spread of HIV and other STDs is for young people to simply just stop having sex.
These Americans also believe institutions like Planned Parenthood should not only never receive federal funding, but should just be shutdown completely.
These Americans label themselves Evangelical Christians.
The reality is that abstinence doesn’t work for everyone. If you are 16 years old to 40 years old and sexually functional and not impotent, and if you do not suffer from some form of physical or psychological disorder, then chances are you are sexually active and not abstinent.
According to the Vatican, as of 2014 there were some 3,400 cases filed against the Roman Catholic Church alleging sexual abuse by Catholic priests who were supposed to be celibate – abstaining from all sexual activity.
If these men, who are supposed to be the most religiously pious men on Earth, cannot control their sexual desires, how can we rationally believe that all teenagers can abstain from sex?
How are all teenage boys raging with hormones and young adult men supposed to avoid condom use and abstain from sex completely, and teenage girls and young women not be on birth control and remain abstinent, until they are ready for parenthood? It is simply just not reasonable to have that kind of expectation of an entire population.
In the following statistical data you will see that we live in a nation where safe sex education, birth control contraceptives, condoms, Plan B contraceptives, and establishments like Planned Parenthood, are all necessary. And yes, sadly even abortion.
I find late-term abortion appalling, perhaps you do too, but I find a lot of things in this life and this country appalling. In 2013, the Center for Disease Control reported that 200 abortions occurred per 1,000 births.
I did not find data on what stage these abortions occurred, which to me would be the most important data point of all. It matters greatly at which stage abortions take place and since we live in a world where people will still have them regardless of whether they are legal or illegal, understanding what happens and when is immensely important.
In my opinion, which is based on everything we currently know about human consciousness and the identity of self and awareness, an abortion during or before week 5 (prior to the formation of the prefrontal cortex) is no more murder than cutting out your appendix or pulling a weed out of your flower bed.
Any abortion following this stage is risky as the brain then begins to develop in different sections, including the prefrontal cortex in the left and right hemispheres. The left being the most important and based on what we currently know in neuroscience, the part that understands you as an “I”, eventually giving you the ability to learn language and an awareness of self.
Having an abortion at this phase would be ending a life more complex than pulling a weed out of your flower bed, in other words ending a human consciousness to some degree.
If you still draw conflict with any form of abortion, let me inform you on what kind of existence this eventual human life will be born into.
First, you need to grasp the reality that unwanted pregnancies are the result of several possible factors, many of which are interconnecting. The pregnancy may have occurred due to extreme scenarios like sexual or mental abuse or even rape, it may have been affected by substance abuse, lack of sex education, or even a lack of opportunities for alternative life choices.
In many cases that potential human life could be brought up into a life of physical and/or sexual abuse, neglect, exposure to substance and alcohol abuse, poverty, or even abandonment. You must understand that unwanted pregnancies may lead to unwanted children and the option of simply giving your child away to adoption is not always possible or even considered.
According to UNICEF, 7 out of every 1,000 American children who are born will die before they ever reach the age of 5.
In 2015 alone, more than 1,600 children died from abuse or neglect and in 80% of those cases at least one of their parents or guardians were involved. More than 7 million children were reportedly being abused, and 3.4 million received treatment for that abuse in 2015.
The United States has the highest rate of child abuse in children under 1 year of age out of all developed countries. 27% of children in the U.S. who are victimized are under the age of 3.
In a recent 10 year period, an estimated 20,000 children have died in their own homes in the United States due to abuse and neglect.
Every year some 60,000 American children are sexually abused and 90% of the abusers are family members, teachers, friends, or someone else the child knows.
Children who are abused are nine times more likely to grow up and become involved in illegal activity. 30% of abused children will later in life abuse their own children. 50% of inmates in American prisons were abused as children.
80% of 21 year old Americans who were abused as children currently suffer from at least one mental illness.
Having parents who have an addiction to drugs or alcohol increases the risk the child will be abused by 3 to 4 fold. More than 30% of teens who were abused as children will develop their own substance abuse problem before they turn 18 years of age.
Abused teens are also 25% more likely to be involved in teen pregnancy. As I said in the beginning, teen pregnancies and general unwanted pregnancies are greatly influenced by abuse, poverty and the lack of economic, educational, and familial/social opportunities.
Adolescents who can envision positive futures for themselves are more likely to maintain healthier sexual behaviors and to avoid or reduce sexual risk-taking, but there are racial and ethnic disparities that delineate young people’s ability to perceive positive futures.
One analysis used data from Add Health to study the “future certainty” of 5,900 teens (average age was 16) and to identify disparities among White, African American, and Hispanic youth.
Findings showed that White youth held the most positive perceptions of life certainty (defined as living beyond age 21 and surviving to at least age 35), college certainty, and marriage certainty.
Furthermore, youth with the most positive life, college, and marriage certainty also had the highest levels of sexual knowledge.
46% of high school students say they have had sex. The majority of which were seniors. 39% of all sexually active U.S. high school students did not use a condom at last intercourse.
6% of all U.S. high school students admit to having had sexual intercourse before the age of 13, but in a survey of ten U.S. states nearly 20% of middle schoolers surveyed said they have had sexual intercourse.
Almost 14% of all U.S. teens will have had sexual intercourse with 4 or more partners by the time they’ve graduated high school.
Despite recent declines, teens giving birth in the U.S. remain as much as eight times higher than in other developed countries. In 2009 approximately 4% (410,000) of females aged 15-19 gave birth.
The abortion rate for U.S. teen females aged 15-19 in 2008 was 14.3 per thousand females of that age, and this age group accounted for more than 16% of all abortions.
We are the shepherds of our children’s future. The decisions we make about our lives and about their lives today, greatly impacts who they become and what they choose to do in the future. The resources, information, and assistance available to both them and us can greatly shape and guide this nation moving forward. We must at all times remember that no choice is without consequence.
Specific Sources of Research:
Davis MJ, Niebes-Davis AJ. Ethnic differences and influence of perceived future certainty on adolescent and young adult sexual knowledge and attitudes. Health, Risk & Soc. 2010;12:149-167.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance: United States, 2009. Surveillance Summaries, June 4, 2010. MMWR 2010;59(No. SS-5).
Martinez G, Copen CE, Abma JC. Teenagers in the United States: Sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing, 2006—2010 National Survey of Family Growth. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 23(31). 2011.
Mulye TP, Park MJ, Nelson CD, et al. Trends in adolescent and young adult health in the United States. J Adol Health. 2009;45:8-24.
Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Ventura SJ, et al. Births: Final Data for 2009. National Vital Statistics Reports. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Vital Statistics System. 2011;60:1.
Pazol K, Zane SB, Parker WY, et al. Abortion surveillance — United States, 2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2011;60:15.
Various Other Sources of Generalized Data:
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, Childhelp USA, Centers for Disease Control, and Every Child Matters Education Fund.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, please access my immediate assistance resource page. A comprehensive listing of online and phone resources and services is also available.