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Special Edition: Teens and Abortion
Recent news reports have put teens and abortion in the news, with the release of undercover videos allegedly showing abortion businesses covering up cases of sexual abuse involving teenage girls. And the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute has released a report saying that teen pregnancies rose 3 percent in 2006. While critics are questioning the statistics in the study, it seems everyone otherwise agrees that teen pregnancy represents a crisis.
Is Abortion Better for Teens
Research Says Teens Face More Mental Health Risks, Even When Pregnancy is Unplanned
Are teens who abort better off than teens who carry an unplanned pregnancy to term?
Not according to a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The study found that adolescent girls who abort unintended pregnancies are five times more likely to seek subsequent help for psychological and emotional problems compared to their peers who carry "unwanted" pregnancies to term.1
The data was drawn from a federally funded longitudinal study of adolescents from throughout the U.S. who participated in two series of interviews in 1995 and 1996. About 76 percent of girls who had abortions and 80 percent of girls who gave birth were between the ages of 15 and 19 during the survey, with the remainder being younger.
This study is particularly important because it examines pregnancy "wantedness," in addition to a large number of other control variables.
Over the last several years, numerous studies have conclusively linked higher rates of mental illness and behavioral problems associated with abortion compared to childbirth. But abortion advocates have generally dismissed these findings, insisting that while women who abort may fare worse than women who give birth to planned children, they may fare better than the important subgroup of women who carry unintended pregnancies to term. Coleman's study addresses this argument and shows that the facts don’t support abortion advocates’ speculations.
Learn More: Download and share our free Teen Abortion Risks Fact Sheet.
A Generation at Risk
How Teens Are Manipulated and
Gaylene was 14 when she became pregnant. She turned to her high school guidance counselor for advice. She writes:
[The school counselor] was sympathetic and understanding. He felt there was no need to worry my family. He also explained about having a child, how tough it would be on me and that I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to do. He said that the child would suffer because I was much too young to be a parent. He pointed out that the best thing for me to do was to abort the fetus at this stage so no one would be hurt. No mention was made of talking to my parents about this or carrying the baby to term. He indicated that adoption would be difficult and not an option for me.
. . . I felt as though I had no control over what was happening to me. I started to question what I was doing, but in my logic I’d refer back to what the counselor had told me, and then I would think he was right. But still today, I feel like I did not decide to have the abortion.1
Gaylene's traumatic reaction to her abortion experience included suicide attempts, alcoholism, drugs, crime, involvement in a cult and a major break with her family.
Sadly, Gaylene's story is not unique. For teens, the possibility of developing psychological and emotional problems after abortion is substantially higher than for more mature women.2 One reason that teenagers are more vulnerable is because their psychological defense mechanisms are not fully developed. Their emotional immaturity leaves them more susceptible to events and circumstances that can profoundly damage their view of the world, other people, and themselves. Consequently, abortion can be especially harmful for teens because this major, traumatic experience occurs at a critical time in the development of their self-identity.3
Further, a study of teens with "unwanted" pregnancies found that teens who aborted were more likely to have subsequent trouble sleeping, to report using marijuana after abortion and to undergo treatment for psychological and emotional problems compared to those who carried to term.7
Manipulation and Coercion
This situation leaves teens vulnerable to pressure, abuse, manipulation and coercion to abort. Over and over, women who had abortion as teenagers use phrases like the following to explain how they ended up having an unwanted abortion.
My school counselor (abortion clinic counselor, teacher, pastor, boyfriend's mom, etc.) told me that if I didn't want my parents to find out, I would have to have an abortion . . .
My boyfriend threatened me if I didn’t abort.
Everyone told me I was too young to have a baby and that my only alternative was abortion.
My parents locked me in the house and made the appointment.
I wasn't given any information about fetal development or alternatives to abortion.
The situation is further exacerbated when a teen is involved in a sexually abusive relationship. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy of many abortion businesses and the documented failure of clinic staff to report cases of suspected abuse means that sexual predators can use abortion to hide the abuse and, in many cases, continue preying on their victims.
Learn More: Download and share our free Teen Abortion Risks Fact Sheet.
Helping Predators, Harming Teens
Abortion Businesses and the Cover Up of Sex Crimes
Recently, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Alabama was placed on probation for performing abortions on underage girls without parental consent, and failing to report suspected cases of statutory rape to authorities.
The violations were brought to the attention of authorities through the work of Live Action, a pro-life group that has released, at last count, 10 videos showing staff at abortion businesses counseling undercover operatives posing as minors on how to get abortions without parental consent.
In the Alabama video, a clinic staffer allegedly told undercover operative Lila Rose (posing as a pregnant 14-year-old with a 31-year-old "boyfriend") that she could get an abortion if she found someone with the same last name as her own and that the clinic director "does sometimes bend the rules a little bit" in cases like hers.
In a transcript of the Alabama video released by the state Health Department, the staffer is quoted as saying "it's a state law" that she can't have an abortion without her parents' consent, then continues, "[S]o you have to have some type of parent's consent. Do you have an older sister that's over the age of 18?" When Rose admits her "boyfriend" is 31, the staffer responds, "As long as you consented to having sex with him there's nothing we can truly do about it."
However, Alabama law requires professionals and medical personnel to report cases of known or suspected sexual abuse or exploitation. The law also defines cases in which a child under 16 has sex with someone more than 2 years older as second-degree rape.
A report from the Health Department also found nine other cases in which the clinic failed to gain proper consent from a parent or legal guardian before performing abortion on a minor girl and made no effort to verify the identity of the person signing the consent forms. In one case, the consent forms were signed by a woman apparently unrelated to the girl, and in another, a 14-year-old underwent two abortions several months apart without parental consent. There is no evidence these cases were reported to authorities.
Most recently, Live Action released a released a video filmed at an abortion business in Milwaukee, WI in which Rose told a Planned Parenthood counselor that she was 14 and had a 31-year-old boyfriend who told her to "take care of it," saying he would be really upset if she didn't.
On the tape, the counselor responds, "Okay, but there's steps involved in taking care of it because you are underage." She goes on to suggest that a judicial bypass will help Rose get an abortion, saying that, "you have the right to an abortion, you just need the proper documentation." She also says that it is up to individuals to report the statutory rape to authorities. However, state law in Wisconsin says that sex between an adult and a child under 16 is a felony, and health professionals must report such cases to authorities.
No One Told Me I Could Cry
"Sorrow makes us all children again." —Ralph Waldo Emerson
I teach childbirth education to pregnant teenagers. My job is to prepare young parents for parenthood. This includes the possibility of parenting a baby with a birth defect or being the parent of a baby that is miscarried, stillborn, or dies soon after birth.
This is the hardest class for me to teach. Young mothers don't want to talk or think about it. It is their worst fear. I usually end up telling them that if it is too painful to think about their own babies dying, then listen and learn how to help others who have lost a baby.
We talk about the stages of grief, the feelings of those who are mourning, what to say and what not to say. We read poems and letters that mothers have written to their babies.
When I held this class during the fall of 1993, the girls, like all the girls in the classes before them, put their hands over their ears and said they didn’t want to hear about it.
Despite their protests I taught the class and before I knew it, the girls were talking about an aunt, cousin or friend who had lost a baby. They said they wished they would have known what to do and say before. They realized that they had said and done some of the things that hurt these parents.
One of the young mothers-to-be, Maria, bravely told us how her little boy died only a few hours after birth. I do not know how or why her little boy died because it seems no one ever told Maria. She didn’t get much sympathy and the only way she new how to cope was by becoming pregnant again. She thought that would make the pain go away, but it didn't.
The girls in the class hugged her, comforted her and said all the right things. They had listened well and I was proud of what they did for Maria. They decided to have a memorial service for Maria’s baby.
There were four girls in the class who had miscarriages. They were slow to mention their miscarriages at first. It seemed they weren’t even sure that it was normal for them to mourn for their babies. We listened with horror as they told about some of the cruel things that were said to them.
They received little comfort. They were told to get on with their lives. They were told that their baby’s death was for the best, that they shouldn’t have been pregnant anyway, and that their baby’s death was a punishment from God. Few felt comfortable crying in front of family and friends. They had learned to hide their feelings and hold back their tears.
By the end of the class we all had stuffy red noses from crying. We were tired. We had shared and grown closer. At the end of class I casually mentioned that girls who have abortions or make adoption plans for their babies can also grieve deeply. Little did I know what that one statement would do.
Three girls came to my office that afternoon. Every one of them had had an abortion. Each one had a story that tore at my heart. They were all mourning for their babies and didn’t know it. Their trust in me led me to love them even more than I already did.
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