Copyright © 2006 Henrietta W. Hay
Tragedy and Choices
August 11, 2006
Last month a 17 year old girl here in Grand Junction gave birth
in her shower to a six pound baby girl, wrapped her in a towel and stuffed her into the family's music cabinet. The Coroner reports that the baby died of asphyxiation. Whatever the facts, and we certainly don't know them all, whatever the motive, whatever the circumstances, it is a deep tragedy. The teen-age girl's life is shattered. And the baby's life was over probably before she got her little eyes opened.
I do not intend to talk about the event, but about the many issues it involved.
The sexual revolution of the Vietnam era made teen-sex all too common. Each year roughly 700,000 US. teens face unintended pregnancy 300,000 of whom are under 18. I wish we could stop it, but it is a fact of life.
So what are we doing about it?
There are solutions but unfortunately they have gotten tangled up in politics. First of all, she should have been well informed about the methods of birth control. The best place to get it is from her parents, but that is not always possible, the schools are doing a good job when they are allowed to do it. There are many good books to help.
Let's follow an imaginary 17 year old girl who has had sex, either willingly, because of peer pressure, rape or whatever. It was unprotected and she is afraid she might be pregnant. She doesn't want a baby. She can't handle a baby.
What can she do?
There are a number of options. Within 72 hours, she could go to the drug store and get a dose of morning after pills, Plan B, which is highly successful in preventing pregnancy.. No, wait a minute. She can't. The Bush administration has pressured the FDA to refuse to let the drug be sold over the counter. As of last week, however, there is a good chance that it will soon become available over the counter -- if she is over 18. So it won't do her any good. If she can get an appointment in time, she may be able to get the dose from her doctor.
If our teen-ager did not take advantage of the various services and drugs that could have ended her pregnancy, she still has the right to choose abortion. Reasonable people can and do disagree on this issue, but surely it is better to abort a nonviable fetus than to let a full term baby die. An overwhelming majority of Americans favor legal abortion. Our teen still has the right to make that choice, although the Radical Right is making every effort to take the choice from her.
If she chooses to carry the baby she still has help available. Adoption, of
course, is one alternative and there are many people wanting to adopt infants. But there is another alternative for her if she is truly desperate.
Our own Gayle Berry, while in the state Legislature, succeeded in getting a bill passed called Safe Haven. Within 72 hours of birth, the mother can legally leave the baby in a fire station with a fireman, or in a hospital with the admissions staff.
The recent tragedy could have been prevented. I think we all agree that teen pregnancy is undesirable for everyone concerned. But it happens. There is help. Let's be humane and make it available.