One of the most feared of problems encountered by parents all over the world is for their teenage daughter to get pregnant out of wedlock. More so, if she opts to decide to have the life in her womb aborted. Different countries view teenage pregnancy and abortion issues from diverse perspectives depending of a multitude of factors. These topics are of interest due to the psychological trauma they bring to teenagers who happen to be in that predicament. Although at the onset, it seems that when someone is in love, whatever the consequences are would be lightly and naturally accepted. However, several difficult instances confound and complicate these issues. I believe they should be assessed and evaluated more in the light of their implications to society and to the teenagers’ future lives.
In this regard, this essay is written to address the following objectives: (1) to determine the factors for the prevalence of teenage pregnancy and abortion in the Western world; (2) to present significant statistics on the issues; (3) to make a comparison of the issues to non-Western cultures; (4) to determine the abortion methods utilized; (4) to present an actual case study and determine its psychological effects; and finally, (5) to examine their implications to society, in general.
A study conducted by Langille (1601) revealed that there are common characteristics increasing the susceptibility of teenagers to become pregnant out of wedlock and to commit abortion, to wit: there are “socially isolated, have mental health
problems, and have fewer educational and employment opportunities.” Most of these teenagers come from lower income households.
These factors were further qualified in the study on Teenage Pregnancy by Shaw (4) when he identified the profile of those at risk as:
“Under the heading of “personality/family situation”—low self-esteem, a sense of
alienation, “fatalism and passivity”’ multiple problems like drug and alcohol abuse and failure in school, lowered socioeconomic status, family problems, immaturity and lack of the ability to plan ahead.
Under the heading “view of pregnancy”—having a child is seen as “a way out” a source of fulfillment, an alternative to the present unsatisfactory situation, a way of gaining some independence from their families; becoming pregnant is viewed as a way of having their own needs for security and nurturing met.
Under the heading “schools/goals”—low aspirations, a feeling that life offers few options and opportunities, low school achievement, the belief that high school is pointless and unrelated to real life and contributes nothing to their self-sufficiency.
Under the heading “sexuality/contraception”–may have become pregnant unintentionally, and lack adequate and accurate information regarding sexuality and conception.” (Shaw, 4 & 5)
Statistics on the Issues
The Feminist Women’s Health Center (FWHC, 1) revealed that of all developed countries in the world, the United States has the highest percentage of teenage pregnancy in 2001. This fact was validated by the study of Langille (1601) which exposed that in an international report comparing teenage pregnancy in 2002, “Canadian teenagers
become pregnant less often than those in England and Wales and the United States but more often choose to terminate the pregnancy.” There was actually a decline in the rate of teenage pregnancy in the United States over a seven year period due to improved contraceptive use. (Langille 1601) The prevalence of contraceptive advertisements have actually increased premature sexual activities and diminished the risk of unwanted pregnancies.
The FWHC (14) also confirmed that “since 1980, abortion rates among sexually experienced teens have declined steadily, because fewer teens are becoming pregnant, and in recent years, fewer pregnant teens have chosen to have an abortion.”
Comparison with Eastern Cultures
Western cultures have been known to encourage freedom and independence. Eastern culture on the other hand is far more conservative and collective. In collective cultures, the “benefit of the family is put before the benefit of any one individual, and each family member plays their part in this”. (Abbott 156) In fact, Abbott (156) confirmed that “the adolescent is not given the freedom to make their own choices”.
Teenagers’ actions and activities are monitored and guarded by eastern parents limiting their freedom for socialization and interrelationships especially with the opposite sex.
Further, the influence of religion plays an important part in viewing sexual relationships before the sacrament of marriage. The Catholic faith adheres to abstinence of sex before marriage and views premarital sex as a sin. More importantly, abortion is regarded as a mortal sin due to the nature of curtailment of human life.
Abortion Methods Utilized
Technically, abortion is resorted by teenagers with unwanted pregnancies. The methods utilized can range from medical, surgical, and underground abortion methods.
The Abortion Access & Information (AAI) website contains data on how abortions the abovementioned methods are performed.
Under medical abortion, the following medications are normally used: “Misoprostol, Methotrexate, abortion pill (Mifeprex), and the Abortion Pill/RU486” (AAI, par. 3). For surgical methods, the following were explained: Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) and Dilation & Evacuation (D&E). (AAI, pars. 7 & 8)
Finally, the underground abortion methods enumerate the following:
“Herbal: parsley, papaya sap, rue, guava leaves, some herbs can be toxic and women have died from using pennyroyal oil. Physical: catheter insertion, crotchet hook, ball-point pen, bicycle spoke, wire, uterine massage, sticks, blows to stomach. Pharmaceutical/manufactured: alcohol, detergent, bleach, potassium permanganate, epsom salt, quinine, pitocin, aspirin, Cytotec.” (AAI, pars. 10 – 12)
The danger of underground abortion methods could not be overemphasized. Their report emphasized that “the World Health Organization estimates that around 68.000 women die every year in the developing world from the effects of unsafe, illegal abortion.” (AAI, par. 13) Deaths occur due to infections, uncontrolled bleeding, and contributory to the development of chronic illnesses like cancer and future reproduction problems. Of critical importance is the consequence of abortion to subsequent births. Studies have revealed that those who opted to abort have higher tendencies for premature births in the future. “Pre-maturity, in turn, has long been known to be associated with an increased incidence in cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and lesser forms of damage to the central nervous system, such as learning disabilities. As abortion becomes the solution to premarital pregnancies, married couples and society may later have to pay the human and financial costs of a growing number of mentally and physically damaged children.” (Russel, 9)
A study conducted by Troubled Teens Info revealed that teenage pregnancies due to rape and abortion cause the following psychological problems: “sleep disturbances, recurring feelings of regret, anxiety disorders, and in turn have been prescribed psychotropic medicine. At a high risk for psychiatric treatment are those women who have had abortions.” (Troubled Teens Info, par. 5) In addition, there were instances of post traumatic stress occurring due to the events that occurred. If left unaddressed, these psychological disorders would lead to serious repercussions and deter living a normal life for the teenagers who experiences these traumatic events.
There have been innumerable cases of teenagers resorting to abortion without the knowledge of their parents. It is the barrage of diverse emotions bordering on fear, guilt, ambivalence, confusion, pressures, among others which cause teenagers to keep the incident to themselves. These are contributory factors to the susceptibility of psychological dilemmas in addition to the actual problems themselves. Some teenagers even believe that they would not tell their parents they are pregnant and are reflecting on getting an abortion because they believe that by doing so, their parents would kill them.
Langille (1602) stipulated that the terms of confidentiality contributed to teenagers’ options of not informing their parents on abortion issues. He stressed that “teenagers have the right to confidential health care, including receiving sexual health services, provided their emotional and cognitive maturity allow for this. Their parents do not have an automatic right to know. The right to confidentiality is not always understood by teenagers and should be appropriately communicated during patient encounters.”
The discourse have emphasized the ill effects of both teenage pregnancy and abortion not only to the teenager but more so to the society in general. Russel (7) averred that “in some instances society seems to expect each individual teenager to discover the meaning of human life all alone. In such a system of moral development many serious and permanent mistakes will be made. The gifted few may succeed.”
By encouraging freedom and independence, Western culture has invited the proliferation of these social and psychological dilemmas whose impact takes a toll on the future of the American society. “The children of teenage mothers are at greater risk of lower intellectual and academic achievement, health complications, social behavior problems and problems of self-control than are children of older mothers, primarily due to the effects of single parenthood, lower maternal education, and large family size.” (Hayes, par. 33) Due to their lower scholastic achievement, these children have lower potentials of getting high paying jobs causing a lifetime of economic and financial stress to them and to their families. Their risks for health complications confound their economic problems which could eventually lead to marital failures.
Awareness and recognition of these consequences have made local and state authorities to create programs which would address these problems. At the root level, parents and schools should initiate information on reproduction and birth control at more comprehensive and extensive levels. The state should reassess their policies on abortion to safeguard the lives of the unborn child.
There should be more support organizations educate the youth, to address and check on these problems, to create strategies to prevent these problems to occur in the future. The traditional and conventional approaches utilized by the Eastern culture can guide policy makers in designing structures and processes of instilling the value of life, chastity and a more holistic approach to teenage education. More importantly, by addressing the root cause of these problems such as the low income status of the families where these teenagers come from, local and state authorities could expect an improvement and deterrence in the occurrence of teenage pregnancies and subsequent abortion.
Langille, Donald B. “Teenage pregnancy: trends, contributing factors and the physician’s
role”, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 22 May 2007, 29 September 2009,
Shaw, Russel. “Teenage Pregnancy”, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities 1987, 29
The Feminist Women’s Health Center (FWHC). “Teen Pregnancy, Contraception,
Abortion Facts.” 20 September 2001, 29 September 2009,
Abbott, Tina. Social and personality development. Routledge, 2001.
The Abortion Access & Information (AAI). “Abortion methods: How abortions are
performed”, undated, 29 September 2009,
Troubled Teens Info. “Psychological Effects of Teen Rape and Abortion”. 2009, 29
September 2009, Hayes, Cheryl, Risking the Future, 1987. 29 September 2009,
Hayes, Cheryl, Risking the Future, 1987. 29 September 2009,