Teen Pregnancy Isn’t the Problem

One recent evening, I shook a bottle of hot sauce over my burger and watched the news from the kitchen table.

Popular that night was the story of a set of New York City schools that are part of a pilot program in which female students who are 14 and up can access Plan B, the emergency contraceptive also called “the morning-after pill.”

The program was part of a media hullabaloo, partly because of what the pill is used for, partly because of how young the girls are who can participate in the program and partly because – according to some sources – if a child’s parents consent to her participation in the program, she can access the pill later and nobody has to tell her parents she did.

A man on the TV turned hopeful eyes toward the crowd in front of him and from behind a podium, he spoke about the Plan B program. It provides a solution, he said, to a problem that has lifelong consequences: teen pregnancy.


I shook my head while I ate my burger and thought about what he said.

Indeed, a baby inside anyone – let alone a teenager – has a big impact on all involved for the rest of their lives. But according to the CDC, only half of teen moms receive high school diplomas. Teen moms also are more likely low achievers, in poor health, in jail and unemployed than their same-age peers who didn’t give birth as adolescents. And their children statistically don’t fare well, either.

Which is why what I am about to write probably won’t sit well with people like the guy behind the podium:

Teen pregnancy isn’t the problem.

It’s a consequence. The problem is what the world around teens says to them about sex.

The world says sex is primarily for pleasure. That sex doesn’t have to be for unity or procreation. That everybody’s doing it. That there is something wrong with you if you aren’t.

The world says sex is just a bodily function, like eating or breathing. That the quest for sexual compatibility ought to be paramount in the search for a spouse. That it isn’t a good idea to marry somebody who hasn’t proven he or she can satisfy you sexually.

The world tells us to act on all our urges as soon as possible. To get what we want, when we want it, always. To control our fertility instead of ourselves if we aren’t prepared to become parents.

The morning-after pill can’t solve this. The morning-after pill is part of this. It says the same stuff about sex that the world says. And it says it loudly.

Which is why it’s time to get louder than the world.

It’s time to use our lives to tell the world sex is primarily for procreation and unity. That we aren’t supposed to marry people because it feels good to have sex with them, but to create a pleasurable sexual relationship with the person to whom we are married. That people of all ages can (and do) choose chastity, and there’s nothing wrong with them if they do.

We have to tell the world (and our kids) that like author Edward Sri says, God designed the sexual urge “to orient us toward another person,” not toward what we can get out of him or her. That like Sister Helena Burns says, premarital sex “is training for the opposite of marriage.”

We have to tell the world that marriage is supposed to result in the destruction of self absorption. That God wouldn’t expect us to master our appetites if mastering our appetites wasn’t a good idea. That patience is better marriage prep than sex is. That pregnancy frankly isn’t ever the problem.

If we don’t say it, nobody will. And if nobody says it, the culture that surrounds us will keep trying to solve this problem with the stuff that’s part of it (like the morning-after pill).