Em-URGE-ing Voices

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Hey NPR: Stop Shaming Teen Parents!

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April 3, 2014

Earlier this week NPR published an article detailing the success of comprehensive sex-education in lowering the teen pregnancy rate in Denmark, South Carolina. While I believe firmly in the power and importance of comprehensive, sex-positive, sex education for all young people  I was disappointed by the assumption that all teen pregnancies are unwanted and that all teen parents would be better off postponing their families.

The article quotes Michelle Nimmons, an advocate for comprehensive sex-ed from Denmark, S.C., saying, “”Great-grandmamas were in their 40s, and parents were in their teens, so a lot of education had to happen.” While I don’t doubt that Denmark’s sex-education was in dire need of a revamp, this kind of rhetoric shaming young parents has dangerous implications for families and the reproductive justice movement as a whole.

As an advocate for reproductive justice, of course I want to reduce the amount of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. Nonetheless, I support all families, no matter how young grandmothers in a community may be. NPR is falsely conflating all teenage pregnancies with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, which is simply not the case. Articles like this one add to the widespread social stigma against young parents, which means they get less family, community, and government support than they probably need.

Young parents aren’t always bad parents and being all grown up certainly doesn’t ensure that you’ll be a good parent either.  So I want to support all parents and all families and that starts with the words we choose and the language we employ to talk about complicated issues of teen pregnancy and sex education.

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