In the Know About Abortion, Adoption and Parenting
Originally Published: November 13, 2013
Revised: November 13, 2013
Can you imagine anxiously taking a pregnancy test or being the partner of someone who is taking one? The thought that you or your partner may be pregnant as a teen can be incredibly stressful. The couple of minutes that it takes for the test to process may seem like hours even though it takes only minutes. You look at the test, and there it is—the two lines, a plus sign or sometimes just the word “pregnant.”
Every year, 750,000 15- to 19-year-olds learn that they are pregnant. So what do you do when you find out you’re pregnant?
Seventeen-year-old Laura of Brooklyn, New York, says, “I was super scared when I found out and didn’t want to tell anyone. I knew my mom would support me, but I didn’t want to disappoint her. I also didn’t want to tell my father ’cause I knew he wouldn’t want anything to do with me.”
No matter how afraid someone is of his or her parent(s) or guardian(s)’ reactions, it’s important to reach out to a parent, guardian, health care provider or another trusted adult. The next step is to know your options. We learn a lot about preventing pregnancy, but how much do we really know about dealing with an unintended pregnancy? Below we share what you need to know about abortion, adoption and parenting.
No two situations are alike, and the ‘right’ choice whether it’s abortion, adoption or teen parenting will be different for different people.
Having an Abortion
The decision to have an abortion is extremely personal, and the reasons why someone might choose to have an abortion can vary a lot from person to person. I spoke with 17-year-old Laura of Brooklyn, New York, who chose to have an abortion when she got pregnant at the age of 16.
Laura explains, “I was going to be a parent, and when I went for my first ultrasound, I found out I was having twins. I knew that it would be too much to handle. One baby is already extremely expensive; I couldn’t afford both. My boyfriend also told me he wouldn’t support me.”
When someone chooses to have an abortion, what does that mean exactly? Abortion is a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy. There are two types of abortions: surgical and medical. Surgical abortion is performed in a clinic by a doctor who uses anesthesia so the woman doesn’t feel pain or to put her to sleep. The doctor then dilates or widens the woman’s cervix and withdraws the contents of her uterus. The procedure takes between five and 15 minutes. Medical abortion, also called drug-induced abortion, involves taking medication to end a pregnancy. The abortion pill can be taken up until nine weeks of pregnancy. It causes the pregnancy to detach from the uterine wall, stops it from growing and causes cramping and bleeding similar to a heavy menstrual period. Abortions done in the first trimester, before the 12th week of pregnancy, are the safest.
In some states one or both parents of a teen seeking an abortion must give permission for a teen to have an abortion, or one or both parents must be notified before the abortion. States have different laws on abortion, so it is best to check the laws in your state.
Abortion has been legal in every state since 1973, but it’s not something we’re taught about in sex ed. Eighteen percent of abortions are obtained by teens, and more than half of those abortions are obtained by 18-to 19-year-olds, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Some people choose to have an abortion, and learning about abortion should be part of sex ed. If teens are faced with an unplanned pregnancy, they should be educated about what abortion is and have all of the information they need to consider and decide whether it’s right for them.
Learn more about what to consider if you’re thinking about abortion.
Arranging an Adoption
What if a person isn’t ready for the responsibility that comes with a being a parent, but abortion isn’t the right option for her either? Some people choose to arrange an adoption.
It’s not something you hear about often, but 20-year-old Grace says, “I gave birth to a daughter at the age of barely 16. I was raped, and we put her up for adoption at birth…. Sometimes I go back and wish I had never given her up for adoption, but then again I have many health issues and I’m glad that she has a family that loves her. I have days where I regret and days where I don’t.”
Arranging an adoption is obviously no easy task. How do you arrange an adoption or come up with an adoption plan? There are closed adoptions where the birth parents and the adoptive parents never meet and open adoptions where the birth parents and the adoptive parents know something about each other and figure out how much contact to have. But how do you figure out which type of adoption is right for you?
Having the support of a parent, guardian or other trusted adult can make a huge difference. But even if teens don’t have an adult they can turn to, there are counselors who can offer more information, answer questions about adoption in a particular state and help teens find an adoption agency. Visit Childware.gov/adoption for more information.
Learn more about arranging an adoption.
Becoming a Parent
Choosing to continue a pregnancy and raise a child is not easy, and there are many things to consider if someone is thinking about becoming a parent. It can be really tricky to figure out if you can feed, clothe and support a child with or without the help of a partner. Being a teen parent requires the support of your family or other trusted adults, because let’s face it, at such a young age, we still depend on our parents, guardians or other trusted adults, and that doesn’t change when someone becomes pregnant.
Nineteen-year-old Meghan of Louisville, Kentucky says, “Having a baby at our age is really difficult. I just graduated high school with honors, and I had to work so hard. There were nights I honestly just sat there and cried because I didn’t think I could pass my classes trying to take care of my daughter at the same time. I took extra classes before I gave birth so that I could graduate a year early. Also, the money thing is ridiculous. Luckily my boyfriend (now fiancé) stuck by me through everything and has a decent job. It’s not enough for us to move out of our parents’ homes though, so I just got a job myself and I start in a week. I’m still trying to find a babysitter for when I’m at work.”
One of my friends, Brooke, a 17-year-old mother from the Bronx, New York, tells me, “It’s no longer about you anymore. You brought a new life into this world, and you have to take care of them first before you even think of yourself. If they get sick, then you get up every few hours of the night and take care of them and still wake up for school in the morning. It’s a huge responsibility to take on, but I knew all of this would be on my plate when I decided to have a baby. I do not regret it one bit. It may get a little frustrating at times, but at the end of the day, I see my baby smile and it’s all worth it.”
Meghan and Brooke decided to become parents because that was right for them, but it’s not right for everyone. Ultimately, the decision to become a parent, have an abortion or arrange an adoption is yours.
Learn more about what to consider if you’re thinking about parenting.
Different Choices for Different People
No two situations are alike, and the “right” choice whether it’s abortion, adoption or teen parenting will be different for different people. What’s important to remember about pregnancy options is that there is always someone to help: parents, partners, counselors or healthcare providers. There are so many resources that can help people make the choice that’s right for them.
For more information about pregnancy options, visit Pregnancyoptions.info.
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