By Ben Cohen
Jane Fonda wrote the following article for the Huffington Post, decrying the national rate of teen pregnancy. She writes:
Our Nation still ranks first in adolescent pregnancy and birth rates in
comparison to other industrialized countries (almost double the next
highest country!). The reality is sobering: in the United States one in
three girls will become pregnant before age 20, totaling more than
750,000 girls per year....
Starting today, G-CAPP will embark
on a groundbreaking, multi-tiered social mobilization campaign to unify
and amplify the voices of concerned individuals. We are launching
"gPOWER" (www.gpower2009.org) to bring together concerned people who want to see teen pregnancy rates at zero!
While the celebrity's war cry to stop young people having children is surely sincere, from a biological perspective, it is plainly ridiculous. An article in the New York Times points out that:
Biologically speaking, the ideal age at which to have a baby is between
18 and 20. That is when pregnancy is most likely to produce a healthy
full-term child with the least risk to the health of the mother.
The article also points out that having children beyond the 'natural' age can lead to serious problems:
Unfortunately, one-third of women who wait until then to try to
become pregnant are finding themselves infertile. With each passing
year beyond 20, in fact, the likelihood of a successful pregnancy
declines. Among women over 40, half will require medical assistance if
they want to conceive.
Even then, conception does not
guarantee a happy outcome for several reasons. Older women are more
likely to suffer pregnancy complications; genetic abnormalities are
more common in their fetuses; and the miscarriage rate rises as the
fertility rate falls.
While I agree with Fonda on many issues (but maybe not her tone), it's worth remembering that she was born into ridiculous privilege, given every opportunity imaginable and had access to the best education on the planet. Fonda was raised to be a successful, career driven woman with goals most women (and men) could never comprehend. Her pledge to "Invest in the future of young people so they can become literate, productive and economically self-sustaining citizens," is surely a sincere goal, but one I believe born out of highly skewed vision of reality that most ultra successful celebrities live in.
For some people, having children is a priority, and they want to start as soon as possible. While this may not be a formula for success in middle class America, it is for many people not convinced that becoming a doctor/lawyer/celebrity is for them. Rather than lecturing teens on the cons of having children, why not fight for a society that allows women to have children when they are biologically supposed to? While I am always in favor of gender equality, I don't think this extends to the idea that women must be 'economically self sustaining' at the expense of having healthy babies.
For those of you unconvinced, I refer to the wonderful movie 'Idiocracy', a brilliant satire on what life would be like if intelligent people stopped reproducing at the expense of their careers: