new babyGiven that we live in a society where reproductive issues tend to be all about ‘planning’ and ‘choice’, this short piece on Atlantic Wire’s “Stat of the day” feature was interesting.

Over a third of women giving birth in the U.S. are having babies they did not plan to have. Between 2006 and 2010 37.1 percent of women had unintended births in the United States, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics. That’s up from 1995 where 30.6 percent were unintended and 2002 where 34.9 were.

The data was gleaned from interviews with 12,279 women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the given time frame and the report only takes into account pregnancies “ending in live birth.”

The Atlantic piece cites a 27-page report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Pregnancy is a disease? I beg to differ. My pregnancies resulted in seven beautiful daughters, not repeated outbreaks of pestilence.)

I found the 37% statistic somewhat surprising, but this was astonishing: “Of women who did not use contraception and had an unintended birth a majority — 35.9 percent — did not think they could get pregnant.”

It really does make you wonder what they teach in sex-ed class. Perhaps schools should focus less on lecturing children on unrestricted sex as a human right (ending with how to put a condom on a banana), and more on how the female body actually works. Slate’s Amanda Marcotte offered the following explanation: 

It seems strange that so many women think they are infertile, but looking at the combination of social silence on the topic of contraception and a pop culture that portrays people having contraception-free sex with relatively few pregnancies makes it easier to understand.

Why yes, Ms Marcotte, this is because: 1) people think what happens on TV is real; and 2) if there’s one thing on which the U.S. mainstream media is absolutely mum (pardon the pun), it’s something called “contraception”. Kathleen Sibelius, call your office.

The following quotation was also surprising, given the decades of feminist/cultural brainwashing that unintended pregnancy is the worst thing that can possibly happen to a woman: “23.1 percent of the women said in the survey that they “didn’t mind” if they ended up pregnant.” 

The HHS/CDC report surveyed women from every stratum: age, socio-economic, racial, educational and marital status. Results varied widely, and were very specific to the demographic groups, so the overall 37% average doesn’t really tell the whole story. For example, the phrase “didn’t mind” getting pregnant makes sense (in my view) for a 30-year-old woman in a stable relationship; a single teen-mom already on welfare, not so much. Such differences do impact a nation’s economic and social stability. But reports like these invariably use the lowest common denominator to drive social policy.

And there is another aspect of the “didn’t mind” attitude that was not likely considered by the researchers: that some folks reject the notion of ‘planned parenthood’ as secular humanists understand it. One hundred per cent of my numerous pregnancies were ‘unplanned’; zero per cent were unintended or unwanted. My life plans included choosing abstinence before marriage, and being open to welcoming children within the context of an emotionally and financially stable relationship. But of course it is not my place to force—or even suggest—my values upon anyone else. I leave that to those who know better: social engineers and the government.

There are other issues at stake here, and until they are addressed, all the government (ie. taxpayer)-funded sex-ed and/or contraception on the planet will accomplish naught. I’ll let an anonymous commenter on the Atlantic piece have the last word:

As people get older into their 20’s and have become sexually active for a longer time, yes, they take more risks. Gone is the fear of getting pregnant, having everyone in school find out, and having to tell your parents. Multiple partners, one night flings, drunken binges where you wake up and go to put on your clothes and there aren’t any — that type of thing happens. Nothing in a high school sex ed class prepares you for that.

Oh my. What do you do when people are choosing not to plan? Is choice a virtue in itself, or does it matter what choices people make?  



Mariette Ulrich is a homemaker and freelance writer. She lives in western Canada with her husband and six of their seven children. Mariette holds an Honours B.A. in English Literature...