In the Blog

maternity leave for pregnant teens?

January 22nd, 2008     by Thea Lim     Comments

Another topic on the horizon of teen pregnancy: soon-to-be moms at Colorado high school ask for four weeks of maternity leave.

Pregnant students in a Denver high school are asking for at least four weeks of maternity leave so they can heal, bond with their newborns and not be penalized with unexcused absences…

Teen mothers face a challenging future, with many dropping out. A third of teen moms receive their high-school diplomas and 1.5 percent get college degrees before they turn 30, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

I’m all for this. If we accept that pregnant women have a right to maternity leave, then shouldn’t we accept that pregnant girls do as well?

One of the arguments against allowing teen moms four weeks off school following birth is that such a policy will encourage teen pregnancy. But why is it that any type of harm reduction program is always painted as encouraging “deviant behaviour”?

While those four weeks will make the beginning of motherhood easier, to say that it encourages teen pregnancy is to say that it neutralises all the other difficult things about young motherhood - so much so that motherhood becomes attractive for girls who weren’t otherwise considering it. Now that’s just plain silly. And insulting! It’s not as if teenage girls are a bunch of bubble heads who make lifelong decisions on the basis of a paltry four weeks.

What harm reduction does is accept what our reality is (in Denver the reality is that of every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17, 54.5 will become pregnant in the city), and tries to roll with it. That’s way better than attempting to prohibition-style force people into making socially acceptable choices, instead of the choice they know is best for themselves. And forcing people to do what’s “proper” never works anyhow.

Tags: activist report, body politics

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