The Corner

Planning Early

I made another stop at Planned Parenthood’s webmag for teens. Here’s another Q&A, in which a girl writes in that she is pregnant and doesn’t want to have an abortion … but my friends keep telling me to give it up, saying I’m too young, I ought to live it up. What I need right now is some good advice.

And so teenwire editors tell her:

No one can make you get an abortion if you don’t want one. Abortion providers only perform abortions for women who have made the decision to have one. Having a baby because your friends think you should, or having an abortion because your parents think you should, may not be what is best for you. You may learn from the advice other people give you, but you have to decide what’s best for yourself. A woman who has an unintended pregnancy has three options. She can raise the child, place the child for adoption, or have an abortion. Every woman needs to decide which option is best for her, but deciding may be hard to do.

Well glory be, they just used the word “adoption”! They used the word child — twice.

But…then…

There are many things to think about before deciding to have and raise a child. Once a person becomes a parent, she or he is responsible for another person for at least the next 18 years. Raising a child involves a major commitment in time and money. And in general, teenage mothers do not do as well in life as teens who delay childbearing. Their family incomes are lower. They are more likely to be poor and receive welfare, they are less educated, and they are less likely to be married. Their children may also have a harder time growing up.

Here are some things to think about before becoming a parent:

  • Am I ready to help a child feel wanted and loved 24 hours a day for the next 18 years and beyond?
  • Can I talk about my feelings and other important things with the father of the child, my partner, family, and friends? Will I have their support?
  • Am I ready to accept full responsibility for parenting and go it alone, if it becomes necessary? Will I have enough money to support myself and a child?
  • Am I mature enough to keep from harming the child physically or emotionally? (I won’t ridicule, humiliate, slap, hit, shake, or threaten my child no matter what happens, no matter how frustrated I get.)
  • Am I ready to seek whatever counseling I need to become a better parent?
  • Am I ready to give up my social life with my friends to take care of my baby?
  • Am I ready to put my school or career plans on hold?

Even with the help of your family and friends, being a single parent is not easy. It is often complicated and frustrating. Your child’s needs will constantly change and so will your ability to meet those needs.

Here’s the thing. Sophisticated Americans are supposed to shun abstinence education. But what if you seriously said to kids, before they found themselves in an awful mess and I don’t mean maybe: Are you ready to help a child feel wanted and loved 24 hours a day for the next 18 years and beyond? Are you mature enough? Are you ready to give up hanging out with your friends and going to college? Are you ready for the responsibility for another human being for as long as you live? Is that really just “Jesus freak” common sense or is it just common sense? What’s so dangerous about reasoning with kids and making clear what their options are and helping them then, before they go too far?

There’s great hope in really caring about teens and teaching them abstinence, as people like Elayne Bennett know (it can work!). And yet, like in the immigration debate, we’re stuck on silly and insulting and unnecessary.

Rant over.