Sexuality - Pregnancy
A planned pregnancy between two mature adults can be a beautiful experience. Ideally a pregnancy occurs between loving partners who will share the responsibility of the pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy should be free of stress. If a woman is even a little bit unsure about whether having a baby is right for her, it can affect the course of her pregnancy.
An unplanned pregnancy can be terrifying for anyone, but especially for a teenager. It can make a person feel totally out of control, especially if the parents are not emotionally connected to one another. (This is why it's so essential to practice safe sex; see box on page 81). If a girl is sexually active and using protection but misses a period, she should not assume that she isn't pregnant. There is no single form of birth control that is 100 percent effective.
For girls who are sexually active and menstruate on a relatively regular basis, if a period is late (that is, beyond the usual 28- to 30-day cycle) by even a week or two, it is best to take a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests are administered at local clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, or at a physician's office. Home pregnancy tests are available at most pharmacies and even many supermarkets. Home pregnancy tests have drawbacks, however. First, they are not 100 percent accurate. Second, clinics and physicians provide more than just accurate results; they are qualified to discuss what options there are for dealing with a pregnancy.
A good approach to this situation is to share concerns with a trusted adult or friend, who may offer advice and comfort and ease feelings of isolation.
Going to a clinic or a physician comes with the added benefit of having all options for addressing an unexpected pregnancy explained by qualified individuals. A couple or a woman alone may choose to carry the pregnancy to term and raise the child. Adoption is also another alternative. Finally, the pregnancy may also be terminated through abortion.
ABORTION. Abortion remains a very controversial issue, and the choice to proceed with one depends on personal belief as much as the legalities of abortion in a particular state. While abortion was made legal in the United States through the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case in the 1970s, many states have legislation in place requiring parental notification, something that makes abortion an undesirable or impossible choice for many minors.
Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy before the embryo or fetus is capable of surviving outside of the womb. Someone desiring to terminate her pregnancy can usually find help through a local Planned Parenthood clinic. Planned Parenthood will be familiar with area clinics and physicians that offer abortion services. The organization is also familiar with any restrictions that exist in a particular state concerning abortion.
THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE
Prior to 1973 abortion was illegal in the United States. On January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court declared that "the right of privacy…founded in the fourteenth amendment's concept of personal liberty…is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." The court held that a woman and her doctor had the right to make a private decision about first trimester abortions. Prior to that decision, women who wanted to terminate a pregnancy had few choices. Many put their lives in danger by having "back-alley" abortions (abortions performed by laypersons that often involved unsanitary conditions and the abortionists' inability to deal with emergency situations, such as hemorrhaging). Sadly, many women lost their lives in this manner. In response to these medical mishaps and the Roe v. Wade ruling, the Pro-Choice movement has been working for women's rights ever since. Conversely, the Right-to-Life movement believes abortion is morally wrong as a fetus is a human being with inherent rights.
Most abortions are performed in the first trimester (first three months) and early second trimester of the pregnancy. Having a procedure in a clinic or a hospital is an ambulatory procedure (meaning that patients are sent home the very same day). After undergoing an abortion, most women are issued antibiotics to prevent infection and given birth-control counseling. Follow-up visits to a physician are required and recipients must also abstain from sexual intercourse and wearing tampons for several weeks. Discomfort, cramps, and bleeding are common in the days following an abortion, as is emotional pain.
Some women may not be emotionally affected at all by an abortion, while others may address feelings of regret or sadness years later. Choosing abortion is not simple or easy; in fact, it can be terrifying and traumatic. However, for many women, young and older, it is still the best choice for them personally.
ADOPTION. Some young women who find themselves pregnant are opposed to abortion for moral or religious reasons. Yet for any number of reasons,
they feel they are not able to raise a child on their own. For such people, carrying a child to term (until it is born) but placing the baby for adoption after the birth is a viable solution.
Adoption can be a very complicated legal process, but put very simply, when a woman or couple decide to place their baby up for adoption, they legally give up parental rights to the child so that another person or couple can legally become the child's parents. The biological parents, or birth parents, are the people who conceived and gave birth to the child. The adoptive parents have legal custody of the child and are the people who care for and raise the child as their own.
Giving up a child for adoption is never easy. Many women that have experienced pregnancy bond with the baby inside them on a very deep level. It's not easy to let go after nine months of closeness. Often, a birth mother or birth father will wonder about that child for the rest of their lives. Stories, positive and negative, about birth parents reconnecting with children they've given up for adoption years earlier are prevalent in the media. People considering adoption must make careful choices and be certain that they are willing to face the likelihood that they will never see their birth child again. People need to be honest with themselves when considering adoption and all parties should consult with attorneys experienced in such matters. However, for many people, adoption is the best choice for them personally.