Teen pregnancy is at an all time low. According to a new study by The Gluttmacher Institute in which pregnancy rates over the last decade were examined, including data as recent as 2010, the results revealed a measly 6 percent of teen girls in the US becoming pregnant in the last year. This marks a huge drop from the 1990 statistics where a shocking 51 percent of girls experienced teen pregnancy. But what shifts are attributing to this all time low in teen pregnancy and how is it a reflection of a changing world?
For one, access to information is becoming increasingly easy for girls and boys alike to acquire. Sex education is becoming extremely pervasive and taboos regarding the “birds and the bees” are starting to fade. By fifth grade, most public schools in America begin to talk about “family life” and incorporate sex education into the curriculum, except in Utah, which operates with an “abstinence only” approach.
There are also many more resources teens can go to talk about sex, outside of immediate relationships. This means they no longer have to rely on the advise of older and “more experienced” people to answer the questions they are too embarrassed to ask. Now, all the embarrassing questions that every teen wants to ask in class but fails to find the courage to do so, can simply be Googled and a plethora of publications can be consulted for accurate answers and advice.
This also brings to attention the creation of online relationships such as Facebook and chat rooms, in which talking about sex can feel more comfortable with people who are not face to face or perhaps have no bearing on one’s personal life whatsoever. This can also create an environment where teens can ask questions to other teens or other people in general with out feeling “stupid” or worried that their friends or those they are connected with will find out.
Beyond greater platforms for conversation and regular incorporation into the classroom, Plan Parenthood now offers Plan B or the Morning After Pill with every bag of birth control for free, which makes small instances, such as condoms breaking, an easier dilemma to deal with. When accidents happen, people no longer have to wait and wonder but can access the Plan B should they not want to take any risks, although it is not 100 percent effective. Plan B is also available over the counter now which makes it increasingly more accessible to people who choose to use it as a last minute form of contraception.
Researchers at the Gluttmacher Institute agree that greater access to information and contraceptive services have been successful in preventing unwanted pregnancies. However, what the scientists failed to mention was the social factors that indicate reflections of a changing world contributing to the teen pregnancy all time low.
Perhaps the strongest shift that is contributing to decreasing teen pregnancy is not a material one but a social one. In an increasingly more egalitarian society, measures such as Title Nine and Affirmative Action are paving the way for teens to strive towards following their goals and dreams and not letting distractions such as pregnancy, veer them off path. These progressive views are giving teen women the clear sense of direction and personal values that allow them to take control of their own situation and achieve their goals.
Sports in particular are becoming increasingly acceptable for girls to take part in and excel at, which contributes to changing perspectives of the way a teen may see her worth. Her physical body is no longer solely valued on her capacity to reproduce, stimulate men, and appear attractive, but now for her ability to run, jump, swim, ski, dance, play lacrosse or play soccer.
These activities also make it so pregnancy is not an option if they wish to consider participating. The detour for teens involved in sports is even greater when they begin to think about how having a child will not only hinder them from participating in these activities for forty weeks, but possibly for the rest of their lives.
The world is becoming a place in which women are deciding to pursue higher education and careers and are joining the workforce as opposed to graduating high school and starting a family. Having examples to look up to such as Indra Nooyi, Sheryl Sandberg, and Ursula Burns are proving to girls, teens, and young women alike that motherhood is not the only option and that on the contrary, women have the potential to be powerhouses in the industry of their choice, even those that are typically dominated by men such as business.
As girls are socialized very differently than boys, women arrive to the workforce trained in the art of multitasking, inaugurated into the realm of caring and supporting through motherhood, and swept into the challenge of partnership through relationships, often with men. Because of this, women are not only joining the workforce, they are often leading it. Women leaders add competitive advantages to businesses by providing fresh perspectives in which to tackle challenges, carry out projects, and make important decisions.
In an increasingly globalized society, a diverse workforce is needed to meet an increasing demand for inclusion and equality in the world. In order to thrive in an increasingly progressive society, women are no longer looking to stereotypical roles such as teachers, nurses, and secretaries to find success and recognition but are paving the way with competence, advanced interpersonal skills, and abilities to capitalize on opportunities to create and maintain niches in the industry of their choice. If a 45 percent drop in teen pregnancy is not a reflection of a changing world, than what all time low is?
Opinion by: Amiya Moretta