TEENAGE SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR
Evidence over the past 30 years suggests that teenagers are having their first sexual experience at ever younger ages , although the threat of AIDS may be slowing or even halting this trend. Numbers of those having their first intercourse before 16 have increased : currently about one in four teenage men and one in six teenage women. Around half of 16 year olds and around 80 percent of 19 year olds are now sexually experienced. Working - class boys, but not girls, are likely to begin at younger ages than their middle - class peers.
Premarital sex appears to be condoned by almost all teenagers, although most disapprove of extramarital sex. Most adolescent sexual activity takes place within steady relationships, although there is a significant level of infidelity within such relationships, and fairly frequent changes of partner. Almost half of all male teenagers and a quarter of females condoned sex with someone who was not a steady partner.
Among sexually active teenagers, the Pill remains the commonest contraceptive technique, use by about two in five. One in three uses condoms. However, about a quarter use no contraception and that figure is higher among those not in a regular relationship, or with several partners. Condom use appears to decline, and Pill use to increase, as couples enter steady relationships. The belief that it becomes no longer necessary to use a condom with a steady partner, and ist impact on pleasure, are the main reasons for condom non - use. Contraceptive use among teenage girls who become teenage mothers is low , and among very young teenage mothers, almost non - existent. Many are unsure how to obtain contraceptives. Some appear to have given up reliable techniques without any clear desire to become pregnant.
ATTITUDES TOWARDS PREGNANCY AND MOTHERHOOD
Measuring changes in attitude is beyond the scope of most research, but some attempts have been made to find out what teenagers feel about their pregnancy. You can divide in those who wanted to conceive ( 22% ); those who did not mind either way ( 25 %); those who had not considered the possibility of pregnancy (18%); and those who had thought it important to conceive when they did (35%). Earlier research with a sample of 102 young women in Bristol found that 28% had planned the pregnancy; 10% were ambivalent; 16% had not planned it but were pleased at the news; and 46% had neither planned the pregnancy nor were pleased at the news. Younger teenagers are especially likely to enter into pregnancy without considering the consequences of their actions.
By late pregnancy the feelings of both teenagers and those close to them had become more positive. The reasons why teenagers carry their pregnancy to term, despite initial fears and unpromising circumstances, are many and varied. Ignorance or denial of the pregnancy; teenage rebellion; a desire for adult status; or the need for an object to love;
The health of teenage mothers has often been described as poorer than that of older mothers, and particularly poor for younger teenage mothers. However, a large recent study found few differences in health between pregnant younger teenagers and pregnant women in their early 20s. Exceptions were anaemia, urinary tract infections and hypertension, all commoner in the younger group. Smoking and drinking patterns may be relatively heavy in pregnant teenagers.
Emotional disturbance may also be common, especially if the decision about whether or not to seek an abortion is a difficult one. Teenagers may through their ineffective use of contraception find themselves vulnerable to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Diet may be poor and the use of health sevices patchy. Teenage mothers are less likely to breastfeed their children.
In every country around the world women try to terminate their pregnancies, if they are convinced this is the only solution left. An abundance of research data indicate that the decision to do so is largely independent of tradition, religion, legal status of abortion, or medical risks involved. In the past decades, it has been accepted in an increasing number of countries that the need for termination of pregnancy can be greatly reduced through offering good family planning information and services. Several countries show very good results in this respect.
But at the same time, there is rapidly growing recognition that abortion is needed, to a far more limited extent, as a back~up method in cases of contraceptive failure. Therefore, safe medical abortion services have been made available in an increasing number of countries. By 1992 almost two thirds of all women had relatively easy access to such services, but on the other hand one quarter of all women are still forced to seek help from unskilled back‑street abortionists. They pay a heavy, sometimes fatal, toll. This overview presents and discusses some of the main universal trends.
Legal status of abortion
There are raughly four types ot abortion laws:
1 Very strict
Abortion is not allowed on any grounds, or only if the pregnancy poses an immediate threat to the woman's life.
2 Rather strict
Only some narrowly defined circumstances justify performing an abortion. Specified grounds are often a threat to the woman's physical or mental health, fetal defects and legal indications (rape or incest).
3 Rather broad
Abortion is not only permitted for medical, but also for socio-medical or social reasons. These reasons may include low income, poor housing, young or old age, and having a certain number of children.
4 On request
Women have a legal right to decide on the termination of pregnancy. In most cases this right only applies to the first three months of pregnancy, although there are notable exceptions.
Excluding small countries with less than a million inhabitants, there are now 50 countries where the abortion law is very strict, and a further 44 countries where it is rather strict. Thirteen countries have rather broad laws, and in 22 countries women have a legal right to decide for themselves. Most of the latter countries are situated in Europe, whereas in Africa and Latin America very or rather strict abortion laws are still most common.
During the past decades many countries have liberalised their abortion laws. In Japan, abortion has been legal since 1948. During the 1950s abortion was legalised in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China. This trend was followed in the 1960s and 1970s by most Western European countries, the United States and a few other countries. Although it sometimes seemed that this universal trend would be reversed, the worldwide process of liberalisation continued after 1980. In an increasing number of countries women are no longer forced to seek help from illegal and unskilled abortionists.
It should be emphasised that in countries with restrictive legislation, medically safe abortion services are sometimes readily available and, conversely, in countries where abortion is legally permitted, it may be difficult to find a medical practitioner who is willing to perform an abortion. Quite often safe abortion services are only available to the rich.
Although a majority of countries have very or rather restrictive abortion laws, most women live in countries where abortion is available on request of the woman, or on broadly defined grounds. This is because the most populous countries tend to have liberal laws. In the four largest countries of the world abortion is legal on request (China, the former Soviet Union, and the United States), or on social grounds (India). Most of the smaller countries, in terms of population size, have restrictive laws. As a result, only a quarter of all women in the world do not have any access to legal abortion, and 41 per cent of women have a legal right to decide for themselves.
According to recent estimates made by the World Health Organization, about one quarter to one third of maternal deaths are due to complications of (illegally) induced abortion. Almost all these 150,000 deaths occur in countries with very strict abortion laws. In other words, repressive abortion legislation does not prevent abortion, it just prevents safe abortion, and turns abortion into a major killer of women.
In countries where abortion is legal, death rates are usually below 1 per 100,000 procedures. The main factors explaining this increasing safety are:
· Medical doctors, instead of unskilled practitioners, perform the operation.
· Proper facilities and equipment can be used.
· Doctors can be trained in performing the operation.
· Services become better accessible to women, thereby reducing the duration of pregnancy at the time of abortion.
· Proper information can be given to women, which also prevents them from coming late.
In fact, if the proper conditions exist, abortion is a very safe operation. If these conditions were to be met worldwide, the death toll of abortion could be reduced from the current 150 000 to no more than 250 anually, which is 5 per million operations.
Deaths due to clandestine abortions constitute only the tip of the iceberg. Other, often serious complications, such as permanent infertility, are much more prevalent. Treatment of complications of clandestine abortion often poses a heavy burden on the health care system. Particularly in poor countries with scarce medical resources, this may cause insoluble problems.
Life or death
· What are we to think of a woman who aborts her child?
Let's be very clear. We understand the agony of her decision. We want to stand with her, not against her. We want to help her explore other loving alternatives like adoption. We want to help her. Why can't we love them both?
· But adopted children have serious problems.
Not so at all. Compared, across the board, to children born into families, adopted children are more stable, more healthy, more educated and lead more stable lives as adults, than biological children ‑ they are, that is, if placed in the adoptive home as young infants. These problems are not from adoption; however. Rather they bring the problems with them and sometimes the adoptive parents are unable to cope with them.
· But isn't it cruel to allow a handicapped child to be born to a miserable life?
The assumption that handicapped people enjoy life less than 'normal' ones has been shown to be false. A well documented investigation has shown that there is no difference between handicapped and normal persons in their degree of life satisfaction, outlook of what lies immediately ahead and vulnerability to frustration. 'Though it may be both common and fashionable to believe that the malformed enjoy life less than normal, this appears to lack both empirical and theoretical support.'
· What about a woman who's been raped?
Pregnancy from forcible rape is extremely rare. The victim must be supported, loved and helped, but we should never kill an innocent baby for the crime of his father.
· But legal abortion is better than dangerous back‑alley abortions and their toll of women dying, isn't it?
Most such stories are false. In 1972, the year before the US Supreme Court decision on abortion, only 39 women died in all 50 states from illegal abortions. ( 25 more died in 1972 from legal abortions ). These were 39 tragedies, but compared to over 5,000,000 pregnancies that year this is a minuscule number. Certainly it shows that claims of 5 ‑ 10,000 deaths and one million illegal abortions are totally ridiculous. Either there were not many illegal abortions or all illegal abortions were amazingly safe.
· What about her right to choose?
The first question to ask about any action that is morally questionable is not 'Who can choose to do it?'but 'ls the action right or wrong in the first place ?' Consider other examples such as rape, stealing, child abuse. Do we first ask who decides, who can choose to do these things? No! We first ask 'Are these actions right or wrong?' Just so with abortion. The first question must be 'ls abortion right or wrong?' The 'choice and who decides ?' question follows. lt is never the first question. Another answer to 'choice' is, choice to do what? Clearly it is a choice to kill.
· Isn't abortion another means of contraception?
No. Do not confuse abortion with contraception. Contraception prevents new life from beginning. Abortion kills the new life that has already begun.
What is an abortifacient then?
Some of today's so‑called 'contraceptives' are really abortive at times. This is when ovulation is not suppressed, fertilisation does occur, but the one week old living human embryo is unable to implant into the wall of her womb. If the 'contraceptive' drug or device prevents implantation then it is really an abortifacient.
I've heard abortion compared to slavery.
The analogy is accurate. The Dred Scott Decision in 1857 ruled that black people were not 'persons' in the eyes of the Constitution. Slaves could be bought, sold, used or even killed as property of the owner. That decision was overturned by the 14th Amendment. Now the court has ruled that unborn people are not 'persons' in the eyes of the Constitution. They can be killed at the request of their owners (mothers). This dreadful decision can only be reversed by the Court itself or overturned by another constitutional amendment.
Why bring unwanted babies into the world?
An unwanted pregnancy in the early months does not necessarily mean an unwanted baby after delivery. Dr Edward Lenoski (University of South California) has conclusively shown that 90% of battered children were planned pregnancies. Since when does someone's life depend upon someone else wanting them ? That is an incredibly evil ethic.
Abortion is onlya religious question, isn't it?
No. Theology certainly concerns itself with respect for human life. It must turn to science, however, to tell it when life begins. The question of abortion is a basic human question that concerns the entire civilised society in which we live. It is not just a Catholic, or Protestant, or Jewish issue. It is a civil rights question, a human rights question, a question of who lives and who can be killed.
A civil rights question? How so ?
1) The first question to be asked is: What is this inside of her womb? Is it a human life? The answer is found in natural science, medicine and biology. At the first cell stage, fertilisation, this being is alive, not dead. Human? Yes, not another species. Sexed? Yes, male or female from fertilisation. Complete? Yes, nothing has been added to the single cell, whom each of us once was, nothing except nutrition and oxygen. Science has long since shown conclusively that this is a human life from the beginning.
2) The second question is: Should there be equal protection by law for all living humans, or should the law discriminate, fatally against an entire class of living humans as with abortion, which discriminates on the basis of age (too young) and place of residence (living in the womb). So, abortion is a violation of human rights, of civil rights.
What about emotional after ‑ effects ?
Some women have problems soon after the abortion. The big problem, however, is usually many years later. This is now called 'Post‑Abortion Syndrome'. by virtue of suppression and denial, such women repress any negative feelings for, on average, at least five years. Then, a variety of symptoms emerge, many of which can be very upsetting and even disabling. It is similar to the posttraumatic stress syndrome seen a decade or more later in some combat veterans.
There is treatment for this but many doctors do not know how. If a woman is troubled, she should seek a referral from a pro-life pregnancy help centre.
you ask about abortion
Every time a woman is pregnant and is not sure whether or not she wants to have a baby, she has to make up her mind what she is going to do. Whatever her decision, the chances are that it can never be 100% satisfactory ‑ like most things in real life. What women and those trying to help them attempt to do is to ensure the best outcome in each particular case. Understanding the issues involved can help you prepare for making similar decisions, or in helping friends trying to make such difficult decisions, or simply in shaping your attitudes towards women who have faced this dilemma.
Is abortion murder?
Abortion can only be thought of as 'murder' if you believe that the fetus is a person. And even if you believe that it may be a person, with the same rights as the mother, abortion can be viewed as self‑defence on the part of the woman who decides to have an abortion ‑ she does so because she believes that the pregnancy threatens her in some way.
Even before abortion was made legal under certain circumstances, it was not legally murder and was treated differently under the law.
People have different views about the 'personhood' of the fetus. Politicians, religious leaders, doctors, scientists and philosophers have never been able to agree. There is no 'right' answer. Sometimes, antiabortionists argue that, therefore, we should give the 'benefit of the doubt' to the fetus and assume that it is a person.
The problem with this argument is, first, that this will not prevent women having 'back‑street abortions' ‑ and these are likely to be dangerous and may be lifethreatening ‑ and, second, it assumes that we are prepared to impose our beliefs (or, in this case, doubts) on others, however strongly they disagree with us. So at the end of the day, it must be the individual's choice.
Of course the fetus is alive, and it could develop into a human being, but research shows that about 50 - 70% of all conceptions end in early miscarriage, often even before the woman is aware that she is pregnant. Clearly, the fetus is a potential human being, not an actual one.
Many women who have abortions have mixed feelings about what they are doing. It is seldom an easy decision and for some women it is a fact that under different circumstances they would not have the abortion. Sometimes women may regret having had an abortion, and sometimes women who decide not to have an abortion regret that decision too.
Doesn't the fetus / baby have any rights?
Of course it does. It has the right to be born wanted. There is ample evidence that throughout history women have tried to control the number of children they have and when they have them, through using contraception and abortion, often at great risk to their own lives and health. They know that if they are to be able to look after their children properly, they must control the number they have, both from the point of view of their own health and the resources they have ‑ their income, housing, etc. Often it is only because of pressure from men in their society and family ‑ who may want them to have more children, especially boys ‑ that women have as many children as they do. A survey by the World Health Organization showed that in many parts of the world women want smaller families than is the custom for their society.
Some research has been done into what happens to children who are born unwanted. In this country, like many where abortion is legal, a great many statistics are kept about women who have abortions, but none at all about those whose request is refused, so we don't know how many of them there are and how many go on to have babies, or what happens to those babies. In Sweden before the second world war abortion was legal, but women had to go before hospital boards and plead their case, so there were records of women who were turned down. Some of them went on to have illegal abortions, but a study was made of a group of women who continued with their pregnancies after being refused abortion, and they, their families, and the children born as a result were compared to a similar group of women who had not sought abortion. It was found that the children born after their mothers had heen refused an abortion generally did worse on every count ‑ education, jobs, even their marriages did not last as long! And this disadvantage extended to their families, because their parents' marriage was also more likely to break up. Boys in particular were more likely to die in their teens or early twenties. A later study done in Yugoslavia found similar results.
Recent research into children who are adopted or taken into care shows that many of them have particular problems as well; children in care in this country are likely to have many foster families or endup going from one institution to another. Many of the homeless young people causing concern at the moment have been in care or have been fostered.
In considering whether or not to have an abortion, most women take the quality of life of their future child into consideration. For each woman, in each society, this will he different, but throughout the world women want the best for their children. For most women, they think of this as a basic right for any children they may have, and this is why they try so hard to plan their families.
But isn't it better to have been born than not to be?
This is really a nonsense question. If you haven't been born, you don't know you might have been born, do you? In any case, even many of those who have been born wish they had not, and take their own lives - including many very young people.
This question is asked by antiabortionists to make us feel insecure, but in fact your existence ‑as YOU ‑ is not dependant simply on the fact that your mother decided not to abort you, but on all sorts of factors which determined which particular egg from your mother met a particular sperm from your father ‑ and of coursc, THEIR existence depended on similar factors, right back to the start of the human race. Throughout that time, women have used abortion to control the size of their families, but you still got born, as did many cillions of otlhers, good, bad, famous, unknown, those who lived to be a hundred and those who barely drew breath before dying.
Don't handicapped babies have the right to live?
The National Abortion Campaign does not believe that the fact that a baby may be born with a disability, however severe, is in itself a ground for abortion. In fact we believe there should be only one ground - that the woman does not want to continue with the pregnancy. Her reasons are her own business, but the fact is that some women do so because of a diagnosis of disability in their expected baby.
This diagnosis is made as a result of various tests during the pregnancy. Women have the right to refuse to take the tests and even if the decide to have them and it turns out that they are very probably carrying a baby with a disability , they should not be pressured into have an abortion - it must be their decision. Every woman is different and she alone knows what she and her family can cope with. She may already have a child or other relative with a similar handicap if it is hereditary, and so she knows what to expect. If she already has a child with a disability, she may feel that both children suffer if she has to take care of a second baby with the same problem. In some cases, the disability may be so severe that the baby may be born dead or be very likely to die at or shortly after birth.
Women who decide to continue with their pregnancies despite knowing that they will have a baby with a disability have the right to all the support they need, and this does not include being told that they have no right to give birth to such a baby and that they should have had an abortion. Women who are themselves disabled have the right to have babies and all disabled people have the right to a full life.
There is no evidence that countries where abortion is illegal take better care of their disabled citizens ‑ quite the opposite if anything. Sweden, for example, has a very liberal abortion law, but it also has much better laws and practice on rights for disabled people than most other countries. In Romania, when abortion was completely illegal, mentally and physically handicapped children and adults were shut up in the most disgusting conditions, and no resources were devoted to caring for them or to their education.
I would like to address some of the arguments used in favour of abortion, and see how they stand up to scrutiny when compared to published medical data. These are:
1) Legal abortion is needed to prevent women dying from backstreet abortions.
2) Abortion to save the mother's life.
3) Abortion in cases of severe fetal handicap, especially those which are so severe that the baby will die at or sonn after birth.
4) Abortion where there is a risk of suicide by the mother.
5) Abortion so that the woman can receive treatment for cancer.
Mortality from back‑street abortions
· Abortion to save the mother's life
This argument can only properly be considered if it is examined in the context of how commonly it occurs in practice. In a parliamentary answer it was revealed that of the 3.6 million abortions carried out in England and Wales since the introduction of the Abortion Act, in only 151 abortions did the doctor declare that it was done to save the life of the mother The fact that a doctor has declared that the abortion was done to save the mother's life does not prove that she would have died without the abortion.
· Abortion on the grounds of severe fetal handicap
It is often argued by doctors that when a diagnosis of severe fetal malformation is made, abortion avoids the additional physical risks of continuing to term, and it lessens the emotional burden.
However, a recent paper in the prestigious American journal (New England Journal of Medicine) summarises the evidence and states:
a) Because such diagnoses are usually made after 16 weeks of pregnancy, the risk of maternal death from the abortion is greater than if the mother continued to term.
b) Many babies with such severe handicap will miscarry spontaneously between the diagnosis and the end of term.
c) There is no evidence, and in fact evidence to the contrary, that abortion helps the resolution of grief in these cases.