Teen pregnancy declines, carries stigma

Survey of 106 students conducted from Feb. 13 to Feb. 20, 2019.

Cam MacConnell

Survey of 106 students conducted from Feb. 13 to Feb. 20, 2019.

Katherine Lombardi

Often met with uncomfortable looks and desperate attempts to change the topic, teenage pregnancy and abortion are far from light-hearted subjects of conversation. Associated with over-the-top reality TV shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant, pregnant teens face not only the decision of possibly becoming a young mother, but judgement from those around them.

2010 marked a time of historic lows in teen pregnancy rates, declining 63 percent from 1990 to 2013, according to Childtrends.org. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported there were 20.3 births for every 1,000 adolescent females aged 15-19.

Despite these dropping rates, the stigma of teen pregnancy remains at full strength. According to a study conducted by the University of Brighton, teenage motherhood is commonly associated with welfare dependency, promiscuity and irresponsibility. Society also stereotypes teen mothers as less educated, as only 40 percent finish high school, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

An anonymous CHS female said she believes the stigma of teen pregnancy has a powerful presence within society.

“You’re at such a young age in your life and there’s a lot of slut-shaming in high school as it is, and then to get pregnant on top of that is just not a good situation,” she said. “[Teen mothers are] often considered airheads or dumb, they’re expected to be unsuccessful.”

Despite the stigma, the majority of pregnant teenagers choose to carry out the pregnancy until birth. The CDC reported that an estimated 60 percent of teen pregnancies end in live birth, while an estimated 30 percent end in abortion,with women aged 15-19 making up just 12.2 percent of all abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, teens often pursue abortions because they do not want their lives to be changed by motherhood, do not yet feel mature enough and/or cannot afford the expenses that come with raising a child.

But, the number of pregnant teens actually receiving abortions may be significantly lower than the number of pregnant teens who want one. Multiple states legally require parental consent and/or notification of the abortion for women under 18.

A different anonymous CHS female said that if faced with an unplanned pregnancy, she would heavily consider the option of abortion.

“I definitely don’t see myself carrying a baby at 17 years old… I would probably die from giving birth because I’m too young,” she said. “I don’t think my body’s mature enough to hold a baby.”

She also said that despite a possible negative stereotype associated with abortion, society would still shame her if she decided to carry the pregnancy instead.

“I know sometimes people get looked down upon for having an abortion, but people who stay pregnant and are young also get a stigma for it,” she said. “So there’s no win.”