Faced With an Unintended Pregnancy: Two Teens’ Stories
By Sarah Emily Baum, 19, Contributor
Originally Published: September 10, 2019
Revised: May 29, 2020
In many ways, Abigail, 19, of Marlborough, MA, and Savannah, 18, of Coos Bay, OR, are a lot alike. Both are teenage girls, enjoy hanging out with friends and love playing with their pet dogs. Both also faced an unintended pregnancy.
Abigail had an abortion. Savannah carried the pregnancy to term. Both made decisions that were best for them.
“I was able to make my own choices,” says Abigail. “I took control of my body and my life and chose to have an abortion. I didn’t want to be with my boyfriend the rest of my life, I didn’t want to skip college, and I didn’t want to be a mom.”
“A lot of people were pressuring me to get an abortion,” says Savannah. “But I wouldn’t trade parenthood for the world… If I hadn’t made the choice that I did, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Teens facing unintended pregnancy have choices: abortion, adoption and becoming a teen parent. Abigail and Savannah took different paths, but both remained true to themselves.
…the most important thing is that the choice is yours—even if your family, partner or even the lawmakers in your state try to tell you otherwise.
On the Decline
Despite scare tactics that might have you believe otherwise, the rates of teen pregnancy have rapidly decreased in the last decade. Teen birth rates in the United States fell to an all-time low in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Research has shown that increased and improved use of contraception—something taught in comprehensive sex ed—has led to the decline in both teen pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S. That said, the U.S. still has higher rates of teen pregnancy than other Western industrialized countries, and teen pregnancies disproportionately occur in lower-income communities or areas with poor sex education.
Prevention is important but so is knowing what to do if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of young people facing an unplanned pregnancy. You might feel sad, alone or confused—that’s normal. Your partner may not be in the picture, as was the case with Savannah, or your partner may be there to support you no matter what you decide, like Abigail’s boyfriend at the time. Both of these are normal, too.
But the most important thing is that the choice is yours—even if your family, partner or even the lawmakers in your state try to tell you otherwise. Only you have the power to decide what is best for your body and your life. You can also find people to support you through these choices, be it family, friends or a health clinic. You can have an abortion. You can give birth and become a parent. Or, you can give birth and arrange an adoption.
Abortion—A Safe, Legal Choice
When Abigail found out she was pregnant, she was a 17-year-old starting her senior year of high school. She was planning to leave for college the next year. She had a boyfriend and was using birth control. While the Pill is over 99-percent effective with perfect use, its effectiveness for typical use, which accounts for human error, is about 91 percent.
When Abigail started feeling nauseous and bloated one day, she took a pregnancy test. It showed up positive. “The first thing I thought was, ‘I totally can’t tell my mom!’” Abigail says. She feared her mom would be angry with her or worse, try to stop her from getting an abortion if she wanted one, which, after talking with her boyfriend, she knew she did.
“My boyfriend was supportive either way, saying ‘It’s your body, your choice,’” Abigail continues. “I was still a kid myself.”
But in Abigail’s home state of Massachusetts, someone seeking any type of medical treatment, including an abortion, needs to be 18 or older or have a parent consent to it. Abigail knew her mother wouldn’t sign the papers she needed. (In this instance, Abigail could have gotten court approval to have an abortion without her parent’s knowledge or consent.) Given what Abigail knew, she and her boyfriend figured they had two options: drive to the neighboring state of Connecticut for the procedure, where the age of consent was 17 but that clinic would not take her insurance, or wait two more months until Abigail’s 18th birthday, so she would no longer require parental consent. She chose the latter.
“It was the most stressful two months of my life,” Abigail says. She was relieved to get her abortion. It was relatively short and painless, besides the needle in her arm for sedation. But due to the negative messages surrounding abortion in the media, Abigail felt “embarrassed.” She didn’t tell anyone besides her boyfriend that she was pregnant, until another friend confided in her that she, too, had gotten an abortion.
“Knowing someone went through the same thing was reassuring,” Abigail says.
She got her abortion on December 31, 2017. Later that day, Abigail’s boyfriend drove her home from the abortion clinic. She knew she’d made the right choice.
Raising a Child—A Choice for Some
For Savannah, the right choice was to carry her pregnancy to term. There wasn’t any debate in her mind. She suspected she might be pregnant when she noticed her breasts felt odd. She took a pregnancy test, and it came back positive. She went to a local clinic, which confirmed the results.
Savannah, who had been struggling in school, missing class and getting poor grades, made a commitment to turn her life around. She earned her GED and entered the workforce at a local call center. Though her partner was no longer in the picture, Savannah said the unconditional love and support from her family and friends empowered her to do what she knew she wanted: become a mom.
Savannah isn’t alone—in fact, while the overall teen birth rate has been decreasing, almost 200,000 babies were born to 15- to 19-year-olds in the U.S. in 2017, according to the CDC. Savannah was able to connect with other teen moms in her area via a support group. Teen pregnancy is not uncommon where she lives. She blames the lack of sex education in her school district.
She also wanted to be a positive role model for other teens who might face an unexpected pregnancy, many of whom face isolation and poverty. Just over half of those in their 20s who were teen moms received a high school diploma compared with 90 percent of those who weren’t, according to Child Trends, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. Teen pregnancy and unintended pregnancy also disproportionately occur in communities with lower income families and in communities of color.
“I wanted to be different,” says Savannah, who hopes to attend community college, get her degree and become a nurse while being a young mom.
Another choice for prospective teen parents is adoption. Some teens don’t want an abortion but don’t feel equipped emotionally or financially to raise a child. So, they choose adoption.
Teen parents can choose to have an open, semi-open or closed adoption, which describes how much contact the parents will have with the child or the adoptive family. In some cases, the biological parent or parents can even help decide which family will parent the child.
It’s Up to You
If faced with an unintended pregnancy, how will you know what’s the right choice for you?
“Adoption is something I debated—I could barely support myself and remember to feed my plants,” Savannah said. “And lots of my family members have had abortions, and I respect that. But I don’t think I could handle that.”
Abigail also considered her options, but said she knew in her heart she didn’t want to endure the social, emotional and financial responsibilities of pregnancy and childbirth. She said she was glad she was able to have an abortion. She also hopes to have kids in the future, after she gets a college degree and saves up to buy a house.
Despite taking different routes in dealing with their pregnancies, Savannah and Abigail can agree on one thing: it’s an intensely personal choice and nobody can know what’s right for you but you.
“You do have control,” said Abigail. “This is your life. Do what’s best for you.”
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