Hey, whaddya know: Young women can make responsible decisions about reproduction, contrary to the picture painted of them by others.
According to a new government report released this week that was covered by Reuters, abortion rates among women in their early 20s are down 32 percent and pregnancy rates among the same age group have dropped 18 percent since 1990.
These numbers are a big deal. While images and stereotypes of women as incapable, attention-hungry, poor-decision-making girls flood the media, these numbers show a much less-heard truth: young women can – and do, in fact – know what they’re doing.
Before I get too far into this, I need to take a minute to say that just because these numbers show more and more young women are taking control of their reproductive lives, that’s not to imply that all young women who do get pregnant unexpectedly, or even those who plan their pregnancies at a young age, are necessarily out of control and irresponsible. Sure, some are. But that is certainly not the case for all young women who become mothers.
Young woman are making more informed and safer decisions. And more and more, they are putting off having children until later in life.
Better access to both birth control and information – for young women and men alike – is said to have contributed to the reduced rates of pregnancy and abortion. A 32-percent drop in abortion rates of this age group shows that effective birth control methods prevent unwanted pregnancies. Young people are making more informed and safer decisions. And more and more, they are putting off having children until later in life.
Pregnancy rates are down for young women, but are up for women in their 30s, and are drastically up – by 65 percent – for women in their 40s, according to the report. As a woman who is currently planning a pregnancy myself, these numbers don’t shock me. No way in heck was I ready to become a mother in my 20s, or my early 30s for that matter. But now that I’m 34 and have a better grasp on my life than I ever did, and am with someone with whom I want to raise a family, I’m ready as I’ll ever be for motherhood. And the advances in fertility treatments over the past 20 years have surely upped the pregnancy rates for women older than me. So I’m not surprised by the numbers – not those relating to the 20-somethings, or those for my age group and beyond.
I’ve already mentioned the connection to better birth-control access as a factor in the pregnancy rate decline, but what about reduced sexual activity? Is it possible that young women today are being more careful about with whom and when they have sex? Does access to information not only provide women with better contraceptives, but with an increased awareness of the results – good, not so good, and bad – of having a baby, so much so that these young women have less sex or abstain from it entirely?
What do you think? Do you think these young women are simply better protecting themselves with birth control, or do you think they’ve made decisions to have less or no sex?
Whatever the case may be, the point remains that young women are taking more control over their reproductive lives, proving once again that women are indeed capable of making important decisions about their own well being.
Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make A Right