Imagine with me a series of conversations that might have occurred between a 17-year-old who is five months pregnant and her mother.
At age 12…
Mom: Your Dad and I have strong family values about sex and sexual behavior. Sex leads to pregnancy and your father and I believe that you must wait until after marriage before you have sex. You cannot have sex until you are able to support a child and you must not become pregnant until after you are married to someone you love. Understand?
Daughter: Is that all there is to say about sex, Mom?
Mom: That’s all there is to say about sex. Just be abstinent. No kissing, no holding hands, nothing until after high school and until you find your guy. Promise me?
Daughter: I promise.
Several years later…
Mom: Do you remember my instructions about not having sex until you are married? We believe in family values. You must remain abstinent until you’re married. That’s what your father and I did. We didn’t have sex until after we were married. Well, almost until we were married. Your brother did come a little early, but we knew we were going to get married. Any questions?
Daughter: I have lots of questions and I have feelings, too. Am I normal? Lots of my friends have kissed boys and I hear stories about first base, second base, third base and scoring. What does all of this mean? What is intercourse?
Mom: Honey, you don’t have to worry about any of that because you are going to remain abstinent until the night of your marriage. Then you can make love and have sex with your husband. I prefer using love and sex to the word intercourse. That word has such an ugly sound. Understand? I don’t care what the other girls in your class are doing or with whom they are doing it. Ignore them. You are the smart one. You will never have to worry about getting a sexually transmitted disease or becoming pregnant while you are a teenager, if you follow my advice.
Freshman year in high school…
Mom: Are you having a course in sex education this term? Parents are allowed to check the curriculum, but I just didn’t have a chance to get to school or to the parents’ meeting. I am certain the course is about abstinence-only-until-marriage, right? I wouldn’t let you take a course all about explicit sex education. That’s what comprehensive sex education is all about. It is very explicit and shows students how to have sex. Courses that promote contraception lead teens to experiment. I know this for a fact.
Daughter: Actually, the teacher did bring up the subject of condoms today in class, but she told us that they have a very high failure rate. I think everyone in the class gets the message: There is certainly no reason to ever use one. The teacher says that she will discuss the other forms of contraception in the next couple of weeks, but she is only allowed to tell us about the failure rates of each method. The federal government is sending Alaska money to support this type of sex education. Do you realize that?
Mom: Yes, it’s a terrific program and is the reason for the dramatic decline in the number of teen pregnancies here in Alaska and around the U.S. It is truly a good program and I hope the Bush administration lobbies hard to increase the amount of money that is sent to the states. I don’t understand why 17 states have refused the money. Abstinence-only-until-marriage is definitely the way to go.
Senior year in high school…
Mom: Are you going steady? Your father and I like him very much. I guess you are having fun kissing and messing around a little. I’ll relax the rules a little so you can have some fun, but remember, no sex until you are married.
Daughter: Mom, I don’t know how it happened, but I did have sex, or we made love as you would want me to say. It was only a couple of times.
Mom: You’ve had sex? A couple of times? Before marriage? Have you missed your period? Do your breasts hurt? Are you having morning sickness? If you are pregnant you realize that you cannot have an abortion. I believe that you can only have an abortion if the mother’s life is threatened. I don’t believe in abortion for rape or incest. You weren’t raped, were you? You are going to have to marry him and care for the child. You have no choices. Now you have to grow up much earlier than I had planned.
Unlike Amy, the teen in the mini-series The Secret Life of the American Teenager this 17-year-old young woman had no choices and restricted education. Talking about the pregnancies of both teens, one rooted in fiction and the other in fact, would lead to an interesting classroom discussion.