Prevention is not the whole story

Every time the topic of teenage pregnancy comes up in the media – TV, radio, print, whatever – even though I know I’ll be disappointed, I always think to myself, okay maybe THIS time they’ll get it right. I know they won’t, they never do, but let me be a sucker for punishment and listen anyway.

And every time, you guessed it – I’m disappointed. Annoyed, peeved, frustrated, kitchen-pacing, arm-flinging, rantingly disappointed.

Because they DO always get it wrong. A sensible panel discussion about teenage pregnancy, which you would hope would involve, well I dunno – maybe a pregnant teenager(?) – is almost always comprised of random politicians and the odd social worker. Much handwringing and lamentation of the moral decay of our youth (but only the girl ones) ensues. Various reasons are cited. Statistics are recited. Child support grants are blamed. TV is blamed. Parents are blamed. Wanton hussy girls are blamed. Boys are seldom mentioned. Brisk jogs, green leafy vegetables and hobbies are advocated.

And then it’s over. And if you wanted to know anything at all about what it means to be a pregnant teenager, what you can do if you know or if you ARE a pregnant teenager, how each of those choices could affect you – you’re gonna be sorely disappointed.

And that’s wrong.

Prevention of teen pregnancy is a different conversation. Related, of course. But condoms and self-esteem are NOT the whole story. There are still going to be those for whom prevention lessons are too late. Are
we supposed to ignore them? Sweep ’em under the rug, our snazzy motivational abstinence posters didn’t work for them but what the hey, can’t win ’em all, chaps?

For every tv or radio panel discussion, somewhere there was a young girl who stayed up late to listen – scared, confused and hoping for some tiny shred of hope from people who say they know what they’re talking about.

Here I am, she says. I want to know what to do now. What now? Who can help me? Maybe if I listen to this radio show – I’ll find something that can help me. Some scrap of information to help me make sense of what’s happening in my life. Maybe I can hear from someone who’s been there already. Somebody who knows.

But no. It’s politicians and stats again, and I am NOT a statistic. I am a human being in a tough spot and you, people in charge with loud voices, have a chance to help me find my way.

Please, people in the media – when you’re planning to tackle “teenage pregnancy” as a topic – please, remember that it doesn’t begin and end with prevention. Some info on abortion, adoption and parenting wouldn’t go amiss. Info about completing education would be good. An idea about what to expect from each of the options. Here’s a novel idea – GASP – how about you chat to people who’ve experienced it, from every point of view?

By all means, speak to those teens who it hasn’t happened to. Tell them how to avoid it, and why.

But don’t forget the worried mother with the pregnant daughter. The teen couple with nowhere to turn and no idea where to start. Give them some information they can use.

You’ve no idea what a difference it will make – a little bit of solid and sensible advice can change a life.

Plus, my arms hurt from all that ranty flinging.

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