This volume in the Issues that Concern You series opens with the group of girls from Massachusetts whose notorious "pregnancy pact" made news in 2008. Bristol Palin is another of the teenage mothers who is familiar trope in many of the articles taken from newspapers and general interest magazines ranging from "The Washington Post" to "CosmoGirl!". Given that the teen birth rate in the U.S. is double that of any other industrialized nation, and that pregnancy among girls 15 to 17 increased by 3 percent 2005 to 2006 alone, teen pregnancy is a reality for most school communities. This collection of articles provides excellent fodder for students in health education courses or working on social issues projects.
Each essay includes full original publication information, and the text is chunked into subheadings that make the articles accessible. There is a mix of research and commentary. A Providence, Rhode Island, study found 42 percent of teens reported intentionally not using contraception. Another article suggests how problems usually associated with teen moms are often common for mothers in their twenties as well. Other sections describe movements that see teen sexual activity and pregnancy as direct reflection of the availability of birth control and safe-sex education or, conversely, as a result of practical ignorance because of what is often state-mandated abstinence-only curricula. There is a piece about the pageantry-laden abstinence "pledge" movement, asserting these prove most successful when they retain some exclusivity. Too many students pledging from one school, it seems, can sabotage the intended outcomes.
A "Christian Science Monitor" article suggests, "public policy largely overlooks single child-bearing among young adults" (p. 23), but only 1.5 percent of teen moms earn a college degree before age 30 and nearly 80 percent of children born to single teen mothers drop our of high school themselves. Clearly, teen pregnancy is indicative of larger issues. The "use of contraception is linked to a girl’s power and self-confidence," wrote a "San Francisco Chronicle" reporter, who also wrote that abortion is "heavily tabooed in poor communities" (p.29). Another claims poverty as a root problem, maintaining that an unintended pregnancy will not impact educational or economic opportunities for middle-class adolescents in any appreciable way. One study found that Evangelical Protestant teens were "significantly less likely than other groups to use contraception" (p. 43).
There are dismal statistics throughout. Adult men are responsible for most teen pregnancies. Men who witness violence against their mothers will be more likely to impregnate teenage girls. A teenage girl is disqualified after winning the science fair with a project testing condoms, which evidently contradicted the school’s abstinence-only sex ed policy. Another claims, idealistically enough, that boys need to be held accountable for their actions. There is a history of statutory rape laws, and another section on the failure of the justice system to punish men who prey on underage girls. There is discussion of adoption as an option for unwed teens, and first-person narratives from two girls. One article discusses parental consent laws for abortion by minors, with vivid illustration of demonstrators picketing for parents to be informed for health reasons. Another article argues a "celebrity baby obsession" can be blamed for creating a vogue for teen pregnancy.
The introduction advances that whatever their side of the political spectrum, ideologues agree that teen pregnancy is undesirable. That absolute sharply contradicts the demonstrated feelings of the young mothers themselves. The range of perspectives also includes descriptions of the feelings of validation and purpose these young women experience from child-rearing, as well as the sense of accomplishment, unconditional love and purpose in their lives that a baby can engender. The validation of that relationship makes the book unique.
Teen Pregnancy features an appendix with quick demographic facts in bullet format. There is a bibliography of books and periodicals, organizational contact information including websites, and an index. Recommended for school libraries.