Teenage pregnancy is a problem for all involved. It puts a great strain on the parents, especially the mother, and also on their parents who, more often than not, end up with the new baby in their family home, often having to look after it while the baby’s parents are at school, or out socializing and doing the things that teenagers do. Because teen parents are more likely to struggle to deal with parenthood, the child is also more likely to grow up with various problems.
Not enough effort is put into reducing teen pregnancy rates, and one reason for this is that teenage pregnancy rates in the US have generally declined since the 1950’s. But that isn’t good enough, because despite the decline, the US still has one of the highest teen birth rates in the industrialized world. The statistics may be better than they were, but this is not reason enough to ignore the problem, because it is still a very big problem. Besides the impact that teenage pregnancy has on all involved, the public costs related to it are estimated to be $10.9 billion every year. This is an obscene amount of money and the government should set a few billion aside to reduce teen pregnancy, and then the final bill would be so much lower and money would be saved overall.
Reducing teen birth rates has been centered on education, and this is certainly the most important tool with some young people. For those with poor schooling and living in deprived areas, particularly those from ethnic minority backgrounds, education about safe sex could make the world of difference. However, there are plenty of white middle class teenage girls getting pregnant too, and this can’t be because they don’t understand contraception.
A lot of it must come down to how young girls are overly sexualized by the media, and put under pressure to become sexually active at a young age. Education also puts too much emphasis on just girls, and reinforces the fact that it is the mothers that are usually blamed for teen pregnancy while the fathers often take no responsibility and get away with it. Young men need to know that they can’t behave in this way, and understand the pressures of becoming a father, while girls need to become more assertive and be able to demand the use of contraception even if they’re drunk and their partner doesn’t want to use it.
We can’t escape the social responsibility that we have to our young people and their potential children, and should be prepared to put the funding in the reduce pregnancy rates. After all, it will bring down costs in the long term, and also mean that more people are living happier lives.
New figures recently released by South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) indicate a marked increase in teenage pregnancies, which some observers believe can be attributed to the child support grant given to teenage mothers.
Some parents have blamed the government for encouraging teenage pregnancy by allowing children from the age of 12 years to decide on their own on issues like the termination of pregnancy without consulting their parents.
Despite the fact that since 2007 children as young as 12 years of age could get condoms and the Pill, get HIV treatment and have an abortion – without their parents’ consent – teenagers continue to get pregnant.
These are some of the implications of the Children’s Act no 38 of 2005, which came into effect on 1 July 2007.
The issue of abortion is regulated by the Termination of Pregnancy Act. Many children no longer pay regard to the fact that getting pregnant in the first place is wrong, hence they don’t prevent themselves from falling pregnant.
Many teenagers have more than one child and still call the pregnancy unplanned.
Pregnancy cannot be labelled a mistake because government clinics provide free family planning that comes in various options.
“The first option is the injection called Nur-isterate, which is given to girls who do not have children,” a health worker who preferred not to be named, said.
The other injection is called Depopetogen 150, which is for mothers. The second option is a pill, which comes in different names. However, the pills are not reliable when it comes to scholars and nurses often refuse to give them to scholars as they could easily cause pregnancy.
The medical profession fears that the contraceptive could be flushed out of the girl’s system when she has diarrhoea or has taken antibiotics. In that case the girl will fall pregnant.
Another contraceptive method is by using a condom that is available for free even at clinics. The last option is the Implanon.” The health worker said Implanon is a hormone-releasing birth control implant for use by women to prevent pregnancy for up to three years. The implant is a flexible plastic rod about the size of a matchstick that contains a progestin hormone called etonogestrel. A health care provider inserts the implant just under the skin of the inner side of your upper arm.
However teenagers should be focussing on their school work and working towards achieving their goals.
It is sad that a teenager from a disadvantaged background, who still needs the parents to provide for her, falls pregnant and even has more than one child.
“My mum takes care of my child so I don’t have to worry about financial issues. The money I get for my child I use it myself,” one teenage mother said.
“The money is not even enough. If I could turn back the time, I would. I was scared to go to the clinic for family planning because my peers told me that the injection will make me fat and my body will be jelly like, that’s why I didn’t go,’’ she said.
A parent who opposes the whole teenage pregnancy issue has pointed a finger at the authorities.
“I blame the education our children receive from school. Sex education makes our children put what they were told at school into practice. I would have loved to see my child finishing her matric first before falling pregnant, but since the baby is already here its okay, I have to accept it. I didn’t and I don’t encourage abortion,’’ the grandparent, who preferred to remain anonymous said.
The child support grant is only R330 a month, which is not enough to take care of a child and the mother. The support grant increases every year which puts pressure on the fiscus and the more burden to taxpayers, for something that could have been prevented.
A taxpayer who claims to pay more than R4000 tax that we spoke to says that this is a lot of money to pay every
month and for that reason she would have preferred for the money to be used productively to develop the country rather than wasted in funding teenage mothers.
The Sassa’s 2014 statistics show that the number of child support grant beneficiaries was 11 574 493 and this year 2015 September is 11 907 798.
To me this shows how family planning has been neglected and people choose to depend on the grant money.
Lindelwa Fuku is an intern under The New Age cadet programme