Getting pregnant won’t ruin your life: teenage girls, pregnancy and myths

As Doortje Braeken noted in her telegraph column, “we’re not teaching young women about teenage motherhood because we don’t believe it’s a good idea because we do see that it reduces a woman’s future choices.” She went on to say that personal choice is absolutely sovereign. I fully agree with Doortje Braeken but I want to highlight the issue of believing that pregnancy limits choices.

Because the idea that starting a family at a younger age somehow magically limits a woman’s choices is absurd. If you’re under 16 it is the law that you have to go to school so even if a young parent wants to stay home with their child, they can’t. No university will ban you from attending because you are a mother or father and it’s the norm for older or mature students to be parents. If older students are often parents why are younger students assumed to be unable to cope? And that’s without considering the fact that while kids take up lots of time and attention, many students work while studying so it’s not like being childfree means you have unlimited reserves of time.

As for finances, SAAS (and its English/Welsh equivalent) take whether students have dependents into account when calculating student loans and grants. Universities have Childcare funds for student parents and university creches.

Enough of the theory – what about real life? There’s a woman with a PhD in my town who had her first child aged 17. I know someone who had a baby while in high school and last I heard of her she was in her third year of university. Another young woman had a child while at university and she got her degree. A top politician in the early 1990s had been a lone mother when she was aged 19.

This lie that having a baby will ruin your life is just a subconcious knee-jerk reaction born of fear of teen sexuality. It is designeed to encourage girls to have abortions or decide to postpone pregnancy so they can appear pure young virgins. Because if they were married or older we would expect- and welcome– pregnancy. It’s their age and unmarried status that we discriminate against. As a society we feel uncomfortable seeing evidence of female sexuality especially when those women are young. We’d rather they were abstinent or at least didn’t plan on having babies or aborted the foetuses they were carrying.

Teen boys aren’t targeted with this lie as often as teen girls, possibly because we believe all teen fathers are deadbeat dads – which is far from true. But it’s precisely our shaming of teen parents which discourages young fathers from being involved with their children. The stigma is hypocritical because it stems from conservative religious-based attitudes about women’s sexual behaviour. It’s also quite stupid when you remember that in Britain and most other countries our ancestors married much younger than we do today and so we’re all descended from teen mums.

Something that doesn’t get talked about much is what if a girl or boy actually plans to try for a baby? Respecting sovereign choice doesn’t just stop at not forcing an abortion on a teen. It also means respecting and valuing the decisions of teens and preteens to plan to start families. A 12 year old having a baby he or she has wanted and planned for is a good thing, and certainly a much better parent than a thirtysomething who doesn’t really want children.

When I was 14 or 15 years old, we were made to watch a VHS (so retro!) about a girl who gets pregnant and has to choose between going to uni and raising her baby. In reality there is no such choice and after the video was over I stuck my hand up and said as much. I said the video was a lie and there was no reason why you couldn’t go to university with a baby. Nobody disagreed and neither did the teacher. I was sickened by the film and I decided right then that I would never let such lies go unchallenged. Shortly after it was hometime and I thought of the film in the bus back home. Despite using MSN and MySpace and planning my own website, I didn’t know blogs existed back in 2004/5. If I had, Slutocracy would be a lot older.

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7 thoughts on “Getting pregnant won’t ruin your life: teenage girls, pregnancy and myths

  1. The Feminist Book Club April 13, 2013 at 12:08 pm Reply

    All opinions my own- Michelle Mangal. This is interesting and certainly teenage pregnancy should not prevent girls from achieving their goals- academic or otherwise. However, we need to take into account the support system that young person has; their socio-economic background and educational attainment already achieved. All of these factors can definitely inhibit the achievement of any goals for everyone and can have a strong influence for pregnant women, particularly if they are teenage.

    • Slutocrat April 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm Reply

      Hi Michelle, thanks for commenting. You’ve raised what I think is one of the soundest points against teen pregnancy. However finances can be the same or worse for older parents on benefits or low-wage work. Teens with affluent parents may be even better off than older adults.

  2. thandeka July 14, 2013 at 2:47 am Reply

    im really inspured really

  3. Primrose September 1, 2014 at 5:49 pm Reply

    It..wont..ruin..ur..lyf..coz..de..r..lot..of..ppll…who..hd..their..bbies..while..dey..ar..at..high..school/evn..worse..middle..school..bt..dey..ar..educated..den..othrz..who..ddnt..bcum..a..teenage..mthr/fthr

  4. Prym face (@prymface) November 22, 2014 at 10:16 am Reply

    I kept wondering why I would say this but I think you might have got me confused with Doortje Braeken http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/apr/09/young-motherhood – which would make sense as I think being a young parent is as much of an opportunity than a limitation! I don’t think I would be in the situation I am now at 35 if I hadn’t focused so much on education and financial security from age 17….

    • Slutocrat November 23, 2014 at 3:24 pm Reply

      Sorry about that- I’ll change the text xxx

  5. Nastasia Nikessa Layne May 26, 2015 at 7:36 pm Reply

    Tat is so true

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