MTV has made teen pregnancy into prime time entertainment with the one-two punch of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. Last night, they followed up with the controversial special, No Easy Decision, about the choice of whether or not to terminate a teen pregnancy. The show features Markai, a former star of the docudrama who’s gotten pregnant again — and has to decide what to do. Dr. Drew Pinsky leads a discussion with teenagers who have had abortions to delve deep into this complicated choice.
Pregnancy is always a life-altering event. When the pregnancy happens at an early, unstable point, there is often a question of whether proceeding with the pregnancy is the right thing to do. Some girls have more resources than others, both internally and externally, to handle a child in adolescence. But a new study shows that resources may not have much to do with whether a teenage girl chooses to have a baby or an abortion.
In fact, it may be just the opposite.
A new U.K. study shows that teen abortions directly correlate with wealth. The posher the neighborhood, the more likely a teenage girl is to have an abortion if she gets pregnant. In the most prosperous neighborhoods, 80% of teen pregnancies end in abortion. In the poorest, it’s more like 30%.
The reason, the authors suggest, is that girls from richer neighborhoods are more likely to have aspirations that might be compromised by early parenthood. They are expecting to go to college and to have prosperous careers. Having a baby in the teen years would certainly interfere with those ambitions, if not make them impossible. Girls from wealthy backgrounds may also have pressures put upon them by their families to be successful, as well as to be “well behaved.” A teenage pregnancy in a prosperous community might be seen as scandalous.
Girls from poorer neighborhoods, by contrast, might have fewer expectations for achievement and fewer models of certain kinds of success (academic, economic, etc.). What they are likely to have more models of, however, is women who have made compromises, and often, had babies when they were teens themselves. Though these lifestyles may not seem particularly ideal, the idea of escaping this path may seem less attainable. And because teenage pregnancies are more commonplace in less well-off communities, there is much less stigma attached.
The choice of whether to keep or terminate a pregnancy is, as MTV puts it, never an easy decision. There are many factors to weigh: emotional, physical, religious/moral, circumstantial. It’s all about weighing the losses and the gains, and ultimately, what choice the woman in question can live with. The U.K. study shows us how privilege can skew the scales in ways we might not expect.
Read the details in the Daily Mail.
photo: Jessie Jacobson/flickr