Thursday, January 7, 2010

Debate Over Teen Pregnancy

After posting Tricia Goyer's take on how to cut down on teen pregnancies, I received a request from a reader named Rick Machado, another expert on teen pregnancy, who asked if he could write a rebuttal to Tricia's post because of some apparent inconsistencies that he cites in it. I love a good, healthy debate. So take it away, Rick . . .

Ms. Goyer writes an article that is like thousands of other articles written today about teen pregnancy, They concentrate heavily on the morals, values and scruples of the teen. They lay heavily on the stance of abstinence. They work to "frighten" the teen into delaying sex because of the risk of "protected sex". They are quick to point out the failure rate of contraception. They warn that it could happen to "good girls". They associate teen pregnancy with sex. They demonize the media. They encourage chastity and "purity." Ms. Goyer even goes further to say that having heterosexual, monogamous sex in a marraige will show"integrity", and thus help "curb" teen pregnancy, something that is a first for me. Then what about single moms, single dads? Gay couples?

First, we use the teen birth rate (TBR), not "teen pregnancy." We seldom use the teen pregnancy rate (TPR) because it is wildly inaccurate, mostly because of legalized abortion. And we don't use totals - they mean nothing without context. A million births? So what? Compared to what?

Second, The National Center for Health points out that between 2005-2006, there were 435,000 births to teens. The TBR was at 41.6. The latest figures I have show a slight uptick in the TBR to 41.9. That puts total teen pregnancies at about 750,000, and if that's "nearly a million", then the earth is flat. It's also nearly half a million. An "expert" should really be more precise.

Third, putting our time and money into making the teen more responsible has no bearing on the TBR. Nor do all of the other "ways" to "curb " teen pregnancy she mentions. Lectures on chastity, purity, waiting, and guilt, none of these having anything to do with lowering the TBR. The TBR has nothing to do with contraception, sex, teen morals, values, the media, or any of her points.

Perhaps what is most damaging in Ms. Goyer's article is her warning to "good girls." If there are "good girls," then there must be "bad" girls. She may as well have said, "We know bad girls get pregnant because they don't have an important dad, and get poor grades! But, hey, it can happen to you too." Why do only "good" girls get the warning? This class bigotry shows ignorance, and should outrage everyone.

There are 10 dynamics behind the teen birth rate. Each dynamic has data, not speculation, not supposition. Each carries its own weight, each interlocks, each is exponential in its affect of the teens, and society as a whole.

1. The Adult Birth Rate: Teens follow the ABR almost lockstep, and have since the 40's. Sarah Palin pregnant in July 2007, delivers April 2008. Bristol Palin pregnant March 2008, delivers December 2008. That's just one example of many.

2. Poverty: Between 70 and 85% of pregnant teens come from poverty, including emotional poverty, like Jamie Lynn Spears. . Being pregnant doesn't cause poverty, as Kristen Luker points out. Being poor causes women to bear children earlier. Today's poverty rate is our TBR in 10 years.

Here's a chart I made for a talk I gave last year at a high school.

92694 104K, less than 1%
92555 62K, 9%
92557 54K, 10%
92551 49K, 11%
92553 38K, 15%
92570 32K, 17%
93702 21K, 20%

The first number is the zip code of various towns in Calif, my home state, including the zip code of the school I was speaking at. . The second is mean income per family, the third number, the percentage of births to teens.

3. Sex Abuse: Between 66% and 80% of pregnant teens have been sexually abused, or forced into early sexualization, and that's just the ones reported and caught. Teen pregnancy and sex abuse go hand in hand. See the chart above? Look at zip code 92570. It has a sex abuse per capita rate at 1-225, 4 times higher than the state average of 1-1100. Oh, and Bristol Palin? Juneau Alaska has a sex abuse rate per capita of 1-303, one of the highest in the nation.

4. Violent, chaotic households: A Washington study found of pregnant teens, that:

66% sexually are abused
44% are raped
49% are hit with belt or strap
31% are hit with sticks
26% are thrown against walls
5% are burned
Overall, 70% had been physically or sexually abused.

5. Economic attraction to older males: About 80% of all teens are impregnanted by adult men. Average age for her 15.3 pregnant, delivers at 16. Average age for him, 21.5.

6. Lack of reproductive health care as an unpregnant female: The health care situation may change, but it is a complete failure for the young and poor. Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile, on her first day in office stipulated free contraception for everyone, noting" Our country will crumble when our young get pregnant early".(paraphrasing)

7. Educational failure: There is no greater show of cowardice than the abdication of our schools in teaching about sexuality. Abstinence, a horrific and shameful failure, shows how much we hate our young. We make them fear sex, a gift they will spend the rest of their life engaging in. The rate of pregnancy when contraceptives are used correctly, and the STD rate when contraceptives are used correctly is miniscule compared to the dangers of teen driving, living in a high crime areas, prescription drugs, and keeping firearms in the home.

8. Lack of competing choices: Helen Benedict (The Lonely Soldier) points out that half of all enlistees in our entire Armed Services joined to escape both physical and sexual abuse. The jobs are gone, college is not affordable, high schools are broke, towns are crumbling, families are broken, and increasingly homeless. A pregnancy looks good to a girl in these situations.

9. Male abandonment: Eighty-five percent of all men leave the pregnant teen. This is what causes her poverty, not the fact she got pregnant.

10. The uncomfortable but true fact that having a child as a teen is often a good choice: The sex abuse stops. She gets health care denied as an unpregnant girl. She has someone to love. She has purpose. If this makes you uncomfortable, then put Ms. Goyer and rest of the adult-dominated society in front of the mirror, not the teen.

Teen Pregnancy is an adult problem, not a teen problem, and it has been forever. Adults created it, adults drive it, and adults are the only ones who can fix it. Ms. Goyer writes an absurd, ludicrous article. It is designed to pad her resume, perpetuate the status quo, hold teens down and keep adults blameless.

Faye Waddleton said it best- "If you want to keep a teen from getting pregnant, don't give her a condom. Give her a better future."

My stats come from all over:

Mike Males- Scapegoat Generation
Kristen Luker- Dubious Conceptions
Judith Musick- Young, Poor and Pregnant
Allan Guttmacher Inst.
League of Nations
Faye Waddleton, past pres. Planned Parenthood
CDC, and many more.

Many thanks to Lynn for providing this opportunity to speak.

Rick Machado
Public Speaker on Teen Pregnancy

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moesha rahun said...

thank you rick.... 4 providing me with information about teenage pregnancy.... it really helpS!!!

thank you..

Rick Machado said...

You're welcome moesha. Feel free to spread the word.

Jouda Mann said...

Rick, I honestly think that I have a responsibility as a father to teach my girls about the dangers of teen pregnancy and STD's. But in the heat of the moment, I believe that I have every bit as much control over their sex life as I do yours.
Until present, I have used the tactic of illustrating immediate consequences (seen in the comments here:
Any thoughts, or advice as to what else I can do to prevent them from following my example?