Teen Pregnancy and Plan B

The Obama administration has allowed age restrictions on Plan B to prevent anyone under 17 from being allowed to purchase it.  Plan B is a high dose hormone pill that can prevent pregnancy if it is taken within 3 days after unprotected sex.  Obama’s reasoning is focused on the red herring of an 11 year old, like his daughter, becoming pregnant.

Melissa McEwan says it best:

“You know, I don’t want 11-year-old girls having the need for Plan B, because an 11-year-old girl who has the need for Plan B is an 11-year-old girl who was raped. But in the imperfect world in which we live, where 11-year-olds are raped and made pregnant, often by the family members on whom they have to rely to get access to emergency contraception, the only real options are giving access to Plan B to 11-year-olds who need it and leaving those 11-year-olds with one less option.”

So lets look at teen pregnancy in terms of a kid’s life.  A normal pregnancy lasts longer than a school year.  It is likely delivering a baby will disrupt one of her semesters at school and she will get to repeat those classes. Girls who have babies before the age of 18 drop out of school at a much higher rate.

When they realize they are pregnant, many teenagers will hide the pregnancy from friends and family.  Even if a teenager is not hiding the pregnancy and getting prenatal care, there is a big chance that baby will be born with health problems, from the March of Dimes:

A baby born to a teenage mother is at higher risk than a baby born to an older mother for premature birth, low birthweight, other serious health problems and death. (emphasis mine)

Babies of teenage mothers are more likely to die in the first year of life than babies of women in their twenties and thirties. The risk is highest for babies of mothers under age 15. In 2005, 16.4 out of every 1,000 babies of women under age 15 died, compared to 6.8 per 1,000 for babies of women of all ages (9).

Teenage mothers are more likely to have a low-birthweight baby. Most low-birthweight babies are born prematurely. The earlier a baby is born, the less she is likely to weigh. In 2006, 10 percent of mothers ages 15 to 19 had a low-birthweight baby, compared to 8.3 percent for mothers of all ages (2). The risk is higher for younger mothers:

11.7 percent of 15-year-old mothers had a low-birthweight baby in 2006; 18,403 babies were born to girls this age, with 2,153 of low birthweight (2).
9.5 percent of 19-year-old mothers had a low-birthweight baby in 2006; 172,999 babies were born to these women, with 16,362 of low birthweight (2).

Babies who are premature and low birthweight may have organs that are not fully developed. This can lead to breathing problems, such as respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, vision loss and serious intestinal problems.

Very low-birthweight babies (less than 3 1/3 pounds) are more than 100 times as likely to die, and moderately low-birthweight babies (between 3 1/3 and 5½ pounds) are more than 5 times as likely to die, in their first year of life than normal-weight babies (2).

The age of consent in most states is between 14 and 16 years where the age of the partner is within 2-5 years, here is a table illustrating the age of consent by state if you are curious.

It is really hard to find good data on the ages of the fathers.  Most of the data is incomplete and the authors of the papers I could find would extrapolate the data out to be consistent with the reported ages of the fathers.  This paper (from the references sited by the Wikipedia page about Teen Pregnancy) makes the amazing statement that 2/3 of the pregnancies involving teenage girl’s are fathered by men over 20.   In other words, many of the teenage pregnancies are the result of rape even though popular wisdom would suggest teen pregnancy is the result of two teenagers “getting carried away”.  The Education Training Resource Associates map out the ages of both partners that show how many of the pregnancies involve men much older than the girls.  See this table illustrating the ages of both partners where the mother is a teenager.  There is also a contrasting illustration at the bottom of the same paper showing the boys who become fathers as teenagers with women who are over 20.

Why would Obama and Kathleen Sebelius deny girls the ability to prevent pregnancy using Plan B when so many of the girls are being raped through violence or coercion?

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