Teen Pregnancy: Better or worse?

Makesh Karra is an assistant professor at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University (Photo by Siqi Du/BU News Service)

By Siqi Du
BU News Service

BOSTON — Have you ever thought about what to do if you had a baby at 16? How would you handle living expenses, paying for meals and working while raising a child? How would it affect your social life and relationships with family and friends? In 2016, young women between the ages of 15-19 gave birth to 209,809 babies in the United States.

According to the research report published by the Federal Office of Adolescent Health, teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. have been declining in recent years. However, these rates are still higher than in other countries, even developing countries. The main reason for high teen pregnancy rates is an incomplete sexual education system.

Teen Pregnancy Rate Keeps Declining for a Quarter

Sophie Godley, a professor working in the Boston University School of Public Health explains reasons for the decline.

Godley believes everyone who works on this issue deserves some credit for it. Depending on different perspectives, people who work in clinical medicine think they have done a good job on birth control, and people who working in economic fields feel they contributed a lot to lower teen pregnancy rate. However, fertility rates for all ages go down, because of economic downturn in 2008.

Although teen pregnancy rates have been declining in recent years, it is an achievement through contributions by people from diverse fields. What’s more, the lower rates do not mean it is good.

The United States Is the Worst in Teen Pregnancy Control

Godley believes the U.S is considered the worst among developed countries in preventing teenage pregnancy.

Raine Reyes is a nurse working in Bebeauty Clinic, a medical beauty clinic on Harvard Avenue in Boston. She previously worked in San Gabriel Hospital as a delivery nurse in California.

Raine Reyes is a clinical nurse at BeBeauty Clinic (Photo by Siqi Du/BU News Service)

Reyes explains that the average age of mothers who have given birth at San Gabriel is around 17 to 18. She adds that most of them are Hispanic, and have already had two or three children.

Reyes also mentioned that a lot of young women believe they can live fine with just support from the government.

“They don’t have work firstly,” Raine said. “They are relying on governments benefits for their kids.”

The financial support from the government factored in young mothers’ confidence of raising babies without a job. But we cannot predict futures for both young mothers and their children. Though it is a way to help people, it has created problems for the country.

Mahesh Karra, is a professor who teaches at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. He thinks that education can be a driving cause for the high teen pregnancy rate in the United States.

Professor Karra explained that “it is driven by low income groups, women from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, women who are maybe less educated, women of certain racial or ethnic groups are more likely to have teenage pregnancy.”

“It may be certain groups [contributing] more to the overall teenage pregnancy rate,” said Karra. “It’s really important to disentangle and unpack that aggregate average effect.”

Godley gives a deeper explanation for this issue that she thinks the basic reason for the differences existing in sub-groups is discrimination.

“I think it’s discrimination,” said Godley. “So, I think that the reason that we see the higher rates of teen birth in certain groups is not necessarily because it’s more accepted in these communities.”

Solutions Unresolved

Godley thinks without universal access to health care, and comprehensive sexual education, the United States will not solve this social problem completely.

Facing the high teen pregnancy rate, the most urgent mission should be building a comprehensive and high quality public health care system, which includes reproductive health services for both girls and boys, according to Karra and Godley.

Godley also added that there are communities and groups in which people have not made any progress.

“We are never done in this field, there are children [becoming] teenagers every day,” said Godley. “And the more we invest in public health system, the more we can continue to reduce the teen pregnancy rate.”

Young women who have babies at a young age may be forced to drop out school, quit their job, or even choose to disappear forever in the end. As Godley said, girls like them need people’s attention and support, and to not feel abandoned by society.

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