By Mason Carteri
Recently, I was in contact with some friends from my hometown, milling over the latest gossip from our old high school. From them I learned that a local girl had gotten pregnant at 16, and because it’s the 21st century, she had of course made a YouTube channel as well. Somewhat instinctively, I rolled my eyes and groan-laughed before looking up her channel. At that moment, I was more morbidly curious, like a child trying to peek into a crime scene and see a dead body. After watching the entirety of her first video however, I came away with a great deal of respect for her as a person who had made a mistake, owned up to it, and is now doing her best to prepare for the awesome and terrifying responsibility of being a parent. She spent time talking about her choice to go through with her pregnancy and raise her children – she was carrying twins – as well as the many challenges she had faced as a 16-year-old girl going about her daily life in school while pregnant.
She made various references to the way people in our town treated her, by and large looking down on her snobbishly, as I had before hearing her story. She had, of course, caused her own trouble, but she was also quick to acknowledge her responsibility. Even in the face of an overwhelmingly negative social view of teen pregnancy and the massive cost in both time and money of raising children, she elected to keep her children. Her story is, so far, a triumphant one, but her struggles reveal an important issue for the pro-life movement to consider: how we as a culture treat teen mothers.
As it stands now, teen moms in many communities (including my own hometown) are looked down on and ostracized from ‘polite society.’ Of course, this is at least in part because our society understands the undesirable nature of teen motherhood, which brings with it a whole host of financial and personal challenges as well as a severely increased rate of future single motherhood. We want to discourage our children from coming anywhere near such hardships, and rightfully so. However, the negative way we actually treat teenagers who stumble their way into pregnancies and have the courage to carry their pregnancies to term and raise their children is a real problem. It places just another pressure to abort on pregnant teens, all while depriving them of the support they may need as they struggle with the choice to carry and raise a child at their young age.
Of course, pregnant teens in strong religious and/or conservative families may not be significantly affected by this stigmatization as they are already likely to keep their babies, but for those teens on the middle or complete other side of the abortion issue, even a little social encouragement and positivity for having the courage to keep their baby may be enough to help them along towards choosing life. Furthermore, we should keep in mind that bringing new life into the world is in itself a good and amazing thing.
Here is where the crowd of pro-choice advocates raise their voices. Why would conservatives and pro-lifers push for pumping babies out, then turn around and deny them social services and welfare? Do they really care for life at all? Are they only “pro-birth”? It’s not a contradiction to provide unconditional, caring support for pregnant teens to have their children and simultaneously want to rein in government spending for programs many people take advantage of for years. The key to this support comes from the teenage mother’s community and loved ones, and this support, in turn, comes from a cultural shift in how we view teenage pregnancy. Remember, these mothers are scared and uncertain about the future, and dismissing their choice with “Just have an abortion” both destroys their respect for unborn life and teaches them that choices with massive consequences beyond them can be easily avoided.
After reflecting on this issue and hearing this girl’s story, I fully stand behind her and her decision. She only has two videos on her YouTube channel, but her story has gone viral with a huge outpouring of support. This kind of attitude belongs at the forefront of our culture as human life is respected once again and we choose to help guide these vulnerable mothers through the most important moment in their lives.