Teenage abortions are surprisingly common, but unavoidably traumatic. The growing exposure of teens to help them explore their sexuality without the right sex education can lead to physical relationships, which often lead to STDs, and, in some cases, pregnancies and subsequent abortions. To understand the growing incidence of teenage abortions, it is important to recognize the underlying cause, which is growing number of teenage pregnancies.
Whether abortion is planned as a reaction to an unplanned pregnancy or due to an underlying medical conditions, it is important to understand that most abortions in teens can be avoided. The emotional and physical trauma that abortion causes can displace the woman’s life forever.
MomJunction has compiled some information on this subject.
Teenagers And Sex:
Sex for teens is no longer a taboo. As more adolescents become sexually active, the number of such incidences increases, and the number is unusually high in the United States. According to the Feminist Women’s Health Center, a sexually active teenage girl who does not use regular contraception has a 90% chance of conceiving in the first year. In many cases, teenagers become pregnant when their contraception methods like condoms or abortion pills fail.
It is true that abstinence is the best way to avoid a teenage pregnancy but in all reality, that is not a practical solution in today’s times. The National Abortion Federation states that four out of five Americans have experienced sex before the age of 20, and the average age that Americans lose their virginity is 17 . This means there is a staggering number of youth, teenagers and young adults who are at a growing risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and of course, unintended pregnancy.
The Federation also states that about 78% of teenage pregnancies are unintended. It is, hence, more important to educate teenagers about safe sex rather than imposing moral lessons on them to avoid having sex completely. The worst outcome of unsafe and unprotected sex is teenage pregnancy and abortion, and studies claim that more than one-third of teenage pregnancies end in abortions.
An abortion is a forceful termination of pregnancy. This happens either with removal of the embryo or the fetus from the uterus of the female body. Though physically, the procedure may not have any long-term impact, emotionally and mentally, the girl may undergo severe stress that may leave her displaced for the rest of her life.
[ Read: STDs In Teens ]
Causes And Reasons – Why Do Teenagers Choose Abortions?
There are several reasons why teens choose abortions. Most times, teenagers get pregnant when they are in a casual relationship, and they are hence, not ready to take the responsibility of the child. There could also be fear in their minds that the baby will turn the course of their lives. Lack of money or family support can also be why teenagers choose to abort the child.
When adolescents decide to have the baby, they will have to consider dropping out of school and this can have a major impact on their future, an aspect that bothers most teenagers who are experiencing an unintended pregnancy.
According to many surveys, women or teenage girls in the United States opt for an abortion for one of the following reasons:
- Lack of ability to take additional responsibility
- Inadequate money to care for the pregnancy-related expenses and for raising the child
- Lack of family support to take care of the mother and the child
- When the partner refuses to take responsibility; fear and reluctance to become a single parent
- Pregnancy that is due to rape
- Poor physical health of the woman or girl
- Troubled relationship of the would-be parents
Teenagers facing an unplanned or unintended pregnancy choose to abort for these reasons, and the most common reasons are as follows:
1. Evaluating The Decision:
A teenager who becomes pregnant unintentionally has a lot to consider and reconsider. There are several questions running in the mind of the girl, and the answers to these questions are influenced by a variety of factors including but not limited to:
- Where she lives
- The religion she follows
- Her relationship status
- He relations with her parents
- Influence of her peers and
- Availability of and access to contraceptive services
According to reports from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, most teenagers who have considered abortion have given the following reasons:
a. They do not want to change the course of their lives with the birth of a baby
b. They may not be financially capable of taking care of the baby
c. They may not feel mature or responsible enough to take care of the baby
2. Lack Of Parental Support:
For a teenager, a child’s birth is a life-altering decision because it will define the way her life will be. When a teenager sees no support is forthcoming from her family, particularly parents, she may feel stressed and under pressure to choose to continue with the pregnancy. As a teenager, there is always the need to plan the future, and if the child’s birth is causing a hindrance here due to lack of support from parents, teenagers are left with no choice but to have the baby.
With most teen mothers, it is seen that their lives are negatively impacted when they become a mother. This is majorly seen on their career prospects as their educational plans are interrupted. Statistics reveal that not even 2% teen moms, who gave birth before they turned 18, have gone ahead to complete their college degrees.
3. Societal Acceptance:
Our society has come a long way from its traditional, conservative self, to a more progressive community. However, there is still a social stigma associated with teenage pregnancies, particularly when the teenager is unmarried and became pregnant due to a passing affair.
Though our society has accepted the fact that most teenagers today are sexually active, there is still a lack of acceptance for teenage pregnancies. Girls who decide to keep their babies become a subject of constant gossip and pity. To avoid this social pressure, many teenagers choose to abort their babies.
[ Read: Effects Of Teen Pregnancy On Society ]
4. Other Reasons:
Though spoken of in hushed tones, many teenage girls also opt for abortion because of incest and rape. In fact, statistics from Alan Guttmacher Institute show this is the number one reason for abortion among teens. It is traumatic for a young girl to be sexually molested by a family member or trusted friend. And, then to find out that the unwanted liaison resulted in pregnancy.
Rape and incest cause a feeling of shame and this feeling multiplies when the girl finds out she is pregnant. She wants to wipe out the memory of the incident, and the best way to do so is through abortion.
Unintended And Unwanted Pregnancies:
Studies suggest that about a half of the American pregnancies are unintended, and about four in ten such pregnancies end in abortion. When it comes to teenagers, about 85% teenage pregnancies are unintended, and one-third of these pregnancies end in abortion. Statistics also reveal that about 54% women or girls who have had an abortion had used a contraceptive method that failed because of its improper use.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), most unintended pregnancies result due to a lack of access to modern and effective methods of contraception. This is more prominent in adolescents as they are often excluded from contraceptive counseling services. When women and girls who are sexually active used on barrier methods of contraception that are less effective, there is a higher chance of contraceptive failure resulting in an unintended pregnancy.
Reasons For Increase In Hazardous Abortions In Teenagers:
The legal rules about abortion are quite stringent across the United States, with more states restricting this by making abortions illegal. According to the teenage abortion statistics available in the U.S, the number of abortions performed during 2007 stood at less than 17%.
The illegal status of teenage abortions in most states prevents girls from considering an abortion, and this has increased the use of various contraception methods among teenagers. However, there is a downside. With abortions becoming illegal, there is an increased risk of girls opting for the procedure through illegal means. This has resulted in the cases of unsafe abortions causing several health hazards to the girls.
The typical difference between an unsafe and a safe abortion is the procedure and who performs it. Safe abortion is performed by a skilled medical professional in a safe and hygienic facility, usually a medical clinic or a hospital. Almost always, a safe abortion is a legal procedure and it may either be surgical (involving suction using a pump) or medical (using the prescribed drugs for termination of pregnancy).
On the other hand, an unsafe abortion is one that is either self-induced or carried out by an unskilled and unauthorized person. An unsafe abortion can result in several health hazards that may even be life threatening for the woman or girl undergoing the procedure.
Unsafe abortions are performed in the most outrageous ways such as inserting foreign objects in the vagina that can harm the baby, external trauma to the abdomen or by consuming traditional poisons. These procedures are carried out in places where abortion is illegal.
[ Read: Health Risks Of Teen Pregnancy ]
Reducing Unsafe Abortions:
According to the WHO, and other top-rated organizations in the Unites States, certain actions can reduce the occurrence of unsafe abortions. Some of these actions are as follows:
1. Improving teen access to contraceptive methods, and counseling them on the use of different methods in the right manner. The goal here should be to provide the right information as a source of guidance to the teenagers who are either sexually active or are considering to take their relationship to the next level.
2. Make laws relating to teenage abortions less stringent so that teenagers who require abortion can head to a legalized and safe abortion center. Other policies here include, but are not limited to the following:
- Removing the restriction of parental involvement always
- Decreasing the time lag from the request for abortion to the actual procedure
- Reduce the costs involved with an abortion
- Hold the process confidential
- Disassociating morals and values from the act of abortion or stop shaming the young, unmarried girl for getting pregnant
The goal of these policies is to make abortion an easy solution so that teenagers do not delay their abortion to an extent that it either becomes unsafe for them or lead them to practice unsafe methods of abortion that pose a serious threat to their lives.
3. The WHO suggests legalizing abortions as a method to make abortion more accessible and thereby ensuring a decline in unsafe abortions.
4. Making family planning services more reachable, with an aim to provide information on healthier pregnancies as well as information and screening for sexually transmitted diseases.
5. Fund programs that provide detailed and right age-related information on sexual health to teenagers. Information is the only way to advise teenagers about the right methods of contraception, and this will help in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, which will further help in reducing unsafe abortions.
Teenage Abortion Statistics:
The US teen pregnancy and abortion rates have been declining in the last decade. The decline in the teen abortions is significantly due to the decline in the teen pregnancies and not majorly due to the teenagers accepting motherhood. This also indicates an increasing trend towards the following of the right and proper contraceptive methods.
According to the U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2010: National and State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity, a study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, teen abortion rates have reduced by 66% between 1998 and 2010 . These numbers are a historic low, indicating a positive trend towards teenage health .
The Government of United States estimates indicate that the teen abortion rates were high in the 1970s, and this more or less stabilized during the 1980s when the number of teenage abortions stood at 43 per 1000 teenagers between the age of 15 and 19. The trends of declining teen abortions have remained consistent across all ethnic groups.
The above figures indicate a positive trend towards teen abortions with more and more teens choosing to give birth to their babies. However, it is more important to understand the causes of teen pregnancies and work towards avoiding these pregnancies in the first place to ensure that the teenagers are not confronted with a choice of abortion.
[ Read: Teenage Pregnancy Statistics ]
As mentioned earlier, an abortion can be a physically, emotionally and mentally draining experience. There are various places where teenagers can go for abortion-related help. According to Pregnant Teen Help, there were about 1,800 such abortion centers in the United States in 2000.
Abortion can happen both surgically and medically. If the teenager is in her first trimester, medical termination of pregnancy is the most common way to conduct an abortion. In this case, the doctor administers the medications either orally or vaginally, and they induce abortion.
For teenagers in the second trimester, abortion is conducted by removing the fetus from the uterus suing a vacuum or electrical pump.
Third-trimester abortions are not advised unless the mother’s life is in danger or there is any other medical emergency related to the unborn child.
Consequences Of Teenage Abortion:
Abortion in teenagers tends to have a highly detrimental effect on the emotional and psychological well-being of the teenagers. Statistics reveal that about 20% of abortions in the U.S. are those by teenage mothers. Teenage abortions are often linked to:
The psychological risks are the most significant in teenage abortions. Teenagers who have aborted are more likely to have several emotional and psychological problems that will have a significant negative impact on their future relationships and in general, they need more guidance and counseling.
Studies indicate that teenagers who have not received family support or who saw a negative behavior in the baby’s father concerning their relationship and the baby are more likely to develop emotional and psychological problems than those teenagers who received some form of family support in their decision .
What The Law Says About Teenage Abortion:
Typically, abortions are legal in the United States. However, laws involving teenage abortions vary from one State to another. Some states require parental consent for teenagers to opt for an abortion. In this case, if the teenager is not willing to seek parental consent or is not in the situation to seek this consent, the State requires the teen to attend a hearing and seek approval from a judge.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, about 34 States require this prior parental consent for teenagers before they opt for an abortion procedure.
The States of Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee require teenagers to obtain written parental permission before they opt for an abortion procedure. This law is a little different for the State of South Carolina where prior written permission from a parent is only essential for a teenage abortion if the teenager is younger than 17 years of age.
The State of Wisconsin is even more lenient in this regard as the State offers the liberty to the teenager to get written permission from not just a parent, but any relative who is over 25 years of age.
In the State of North Carolina, the teenager has to seek permission from one of her parents or grandparents with whom she has lived for at least six months.
The States that do not require a prior written permission from a parent for the teenage abortion are California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
Then there are these states that require information of the teenage abortion to be given to both or one of the parents before the medical procedure begins. These States include Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The law requires that the medical practitioner performing the abortion process inform the parent of the teenager at least 24 to 48 hours before the procedure is conducted on the teenager.
The State of South Dakota does not legalize any abortions whether the mother involved is a teenager or not. Another interesting aspect to take note of here is that all the States allow girls under the age of 18 years to place their children for adoption without any restrictions .
[ Read: Birth Control Methods For Teens ]
It is true that pregnancy and motherhood require a lot of maturity. It becomes necessary for a mother to be responsible enough to parent and nurture the child as well as take care of herself and her needs. With teenage pregnancies, this maturity and responsibility are not present. The whole idea of teenage pregnancy is a ‘child giving birth to a child’, and this indicates the maturity level of the teenage mother.
With a lack of family support, an adolescent mother will have the added responsibility of raising her child single-handedly because, in most of these cases, her partner will not be supportive too. Raising a child alone, while still taking care of her studies, can either impact her career and future or her child’s care.
Teenage abortion is a controversial subject and a pregnant teen considering abortion often finds herself in a difficult situation where either of her decisions – abortion or choosing to give birth, will leave an everlasting impact on her life. While an abortion may seem to be the only way out for pregnant teenagers who do not have financial and family support, the fact remains that an abortion can leave them emotionally unstable for a long time, sometimes for life.