The High Cost of Teen Pregnancy

IN THREE MONTHS TIME, Taylor will be become a mother. She is 16. "I'm not miserable about it. It's unfortunate it happened but, like, I'm not going to let it ruin my life."

Chances are, however, it will ruin her life. The odds are against her. Overall, teenage mothers are likely to remain poorly educated, have additional unplanned pregnancies, experience broken relationships, endure long term poverty and have children with emotion and behavioral problems.

Reality Check

These are the conclusions of the first long time study of teen moms who were followed for twelve years by researchers in Canada. Two hundred women were interviewed through the years starting soon after pregnancy was confirmed. The children of these former teen mums are now 12 and 13 years old.

Jen used to aspire to be a marine biologist. Now with a nine-month-old baby, she cannot do it. "Sometimes I get scared."

Why all these teen pregnancies? "We are fooling ourselves and we are starting out with the wrong premises if we assume that most of these pregnancies are accidents," says Bill Avison, one of the coordinators of this study. "We have to face the fact that for some teen girls, having a baby seems like a reasonable option. There is an appeal to it."

A baby provides these teens with someone to love, someone to love them, a way to consolidate a relationship with a boyfriend. Obviously faulty logic but the point is that these girls are reasoning this way. Even for those who don't set out to get pregnant, their lackadaisical approach to it all, means that they don't see pregnancy at such a young age, as a terrible thing.

Why is it faulty logic? Because you cannot be a good mother when the first decision you make about your child is based on your own need to have someone to love rather than the need of the child to have a good solid home life!

Besides, these mothers are children having children. Good parenting, bonding, decisions to be taken are disproportionate to their ability to carry them out.

In Guam it is taken for granted that the extended family will take over responsibility of the child once the baby is born. It is the expected thing to. Correct ground rule? Many have their doubts. They claim that this may lead to a more heedless attitude on the part of teenage girls. 'I carry the baby for nine months and then mum or grandma will take over the burden' and 'I can continue living my life!'

Woman, Be What You Are

So where do we go from here? More social assistance? More educational programs? More stability in homes? Is there a happy ending here?

No, there isn't. It is easy to moralize and to pass judgments. But it is wrong. Jean Vanier is the founder of the L'Arche communities, residences where mentally challenged and physically handicapped are cared for in a community setting. Writing in a different contest, he says that we are often filled with feelings of guilt which paralyze us and lead us to judge and to criticize instead of loving.

"We feel that we are not what we wanted to be or what we should be. We are never quite up to the mark. We do not think we really know how to love others. Husbands feel they do not know how to love their wives and vice versa; children feel guilty in regards to their parents and parents in regard to their children. We are all carrying a lot of guilt, fears and blockages inside us. It is important that we learn how to liberate each other..."

How? Well, start by having a look at the book A Return To Modesty ! There is a beginning of an answer. Wendy Shallit, the author, suggests the rediscovery of the much maligned virtue of modesty as a counter revolution catalyst to ease many of woman's and man's problems today.

In a manner both courageous and passionate, Wendy challenges the bored, desensitized masses of women to use their female intuition in finding a way out of the emotional wilderness created by the sexual revolution.

The Beauty Of Modesty

Modesty is a quality inherent in girls, Shallit argues. It is not prudery but a natural response. Instead of trying to overcoming reticence as some feminists advocate, she persuasively argues that without propriety, there can be no true surrender, no richness and depth in relations between two sexes.

Modesty is women's infinite capacity for embarrassment, for blushing, for shyness, for refusing flattery. The fact is, it's so natural that it has to be deliberately bred out of girls by the debased tactics of sex education, fashion slavery, and Melrose Place.

The natural inclination towards modesty is not a "hang up" that we should set out to cure but rather a wonderful instinct that, if rediscovered and given the right social support, has the power to transform many a life.

Why? Because it is woman's natural defense. It gives women the right to withhold themselves from men with ambiguous intentions. And it forces men to make themselves worthy of the women they desire. True modesty wisely takes account of the inescapable differences between men and women in order to protect them both.

"We have been designed in such a way [by God] that when we humans act like animals, without any restraints and without any ties, we just don't have as much fun... Modesty is the proof that morality is sexy." Virginity is cool.

"Encouraged to act immodestly," Shallit notes by contrast, "a woman exposes her vulnerability and she then becomes, in fact, the weaker sex." In that case, women are victimized while men become predators, as our current disastrous state of gender wars demonstrates. Anorexia, teenage pregnancies and Prozac... are just three of the symptoms of this disaster. "Why are none of my grandmother's friends anorexic? Why are even the plumpest of them contented?" asks Shallit pointedly .

Shallit has no illusions: "If women want the men to be good, they have to want to be good too."

Just this week, the Pope was saying, "Let no one be deceived: today, like in the past, being Christian means going against the current with regards to the mentality of the world, seeking the will of God and the authentic good of ones neighbor instead of ones own interests and the applause of people."

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.