At Time.com, Amy Sullivan has an article entitled “Teen Pregnancy: An Epidemic in Foster Care,” which covers a number of topics of interest to pro-lifers. First off, the mainstream media has been reporting increases in teen pregnancies in recent years. However, much of the analysis misses the real reasons for the increase. Simply put, there have been long term declines in both teen abortions and teen sexual activity. However, teen abortions have fallen faster than teen sexual activity. The end result is more teens carrying their pregnancies to term.
Now, it is not entirely clear why a smaller percentage of pregnant teens are choosing abortion. Part of the reason might be that today there exists more institutional barriers to obtaining an abortion in the form of parental-consent laws, public-funding restrictions, and fewer abortion clinics. Part of it might be the fact that this generation of teens is considerably more likely to describe themselves as “pro-life” than previous generations. This is an interesting puzzle for social scientists considering that the current generation of teens are not more religious and still tend to have fairly liberal views about sexual activity.
At any rate, the fact that children in foster care have high teen-pregnancy rates is unsurprising. A number of studies have shown that children from broken homes are more likely to engage in sexual activity at an earlier age. As such, it should not come as a shock that foster children engage in sexual activity more often and have higher pregnancy rates than their peers. Finding ways to reform the foster-care system so that children are placed in stable homes is a potential solution the author does not mention.
Furthermore, the fact that Planned Parenthood is gearing up to provide more sex education for foster children should concern the pro-life movement. The sex education provided by Planned Parenthood will doubtless be heavy on contraception and light on abstinence. Indeed, Planned Parenthood will doubtless have little interest encouraging reductions in the sexual activity which is causing the teen-pregnancy problem in the first place.
As such, this might be good opportunity for the pro-life movement, particularly crisis pregnancy centers, to specifically reach out to children in foster care. The pro-life movement receives a considerable amount of unjust criticism for failing to care about children after they are born. Reaching out to foster children would help to deflect this criticism. More importantly, greater involvement with foster children would have the short-term benefit of providing a valuable service to a vulnerable segment of the population. Furthermore, it would have the long-term benefit of instilling in foster children values that will allow them to someday form stable families on their own.
– Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama and a visiting fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.