Volume > Issue > Teenage Pregnancy: A Moral Matter

Teenage Pregnancy: A Moral Matter

HARVARD DIARY

By Robert Coles | July-August 1984

We hear constantly, these days, of the surging rate of teenage pregnancies, and we hear, too, what ought be done to stop a phenomenon often called an “epidemic.” Thousands and thousands of young, unmarried women of high school age, and even junior high school age, become pregnant at a time when they are just beginning to grow up phys­ically and mentally — only now to face the awe­some responsibility of bearing within themselves someone else’s early life.

As this national tragedy has worsened, the re­sponses of certain segments of our pluralist society have been interesting indeed. One hears that the problem is mainly medical: a matter of increased and more effective use of contraceptives, and in the event of a pregnancy, a prompt abortion. So-called “sex education” courses are what one hears constantly recommended in this quarter: teach those youths “preventive hygiene,” I’ve heard it called, meaning specific “techniques” to make pregnancy unlikely. As for those instances where the various devices or procedures have somehow failed, an abortion clinic will quickly solve the “problem.” A large number of our country’s abor­tions are today being done on adolescents — and upon no small number of them, two abortions have been performed.

I am dismayed by what I hear, in this regard, from significant numbers of the well-educated, lib­eral intelligentsia, medical and nonmedical alike. Again and again I hear “educational” aspects of the problem discussed, or, of course, the “psycho­logical” side of things. My medical colleagues, all too many of them, tell me that “those girls” (it is mostly put) or “those women” are “immature,” are “ignorant of birth control information,” are “acting out” serious psychological difficulties, hence are in dire need of “help.” Even some of my friends who oppose abortion on religious principle shake their heads in sorrow that a given woman, still a child in many ways, has come to such a pass — and wish that she had “known enough” to avoid her predicament, or will receive enough “counseling” to avoid another such occurrence.

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