In her commentary on teen pregnancy ("Teen pregnancy is poverty's offspring," April 16), Susan Reimer perpetuates the justification that poverty is the primary reason teens engage in sex and become pregnant. This begs the question: Why, when we have always had poverty, did we not see the rate of unwed teen mothers in the past that we witness today?
I grew up in a section of Baltimore City that had its share of immigrants, blue collar workers and other individuals who would be considered poor by today's standards. Despite the economic deficits that were faced, these families had a strong sense of values that they instilled in their children, one of which was that it was wrong for a girl to get pregnant before she was married. In addition to families viewing this as a moral issue, there were practical considerations, such as the challenge of bringing a child into the world when you lacked the financial means to support it. Pressure was put on the father to marry the pregnant girl and take responsibility for his action, so young men may have thought twice before allowing hormones to rule. Among her peers, the rare unmarried pregnant girl was often shunned. Be it spending time studying instead of partying, saving until you could afford to purchase a big item, or waiting until you were married to have sex, young people learned that there was value in postponing some pleasures today for a better tomorrow.
Things have changed. The openness about sex has not been accompanied by an equal message of the responsibilities that accompany it. Celebrities who choose parenthood without marriage are celebrated rather than stigmatized. Food stamps, Section 8 housing, Medicaid, and welfare have eased the financial burden the unwed teen parents and their families bear. Immediate gratification rules.
I'm not so sure that with many girls, unwed motherhood is chosen because they are "hopeless" and "feel they have little chance of advancement" as much as it is related to an unwillingness to delay gratification and invest time and effort in the unexciting work of obtaining education and skills to be equipped for advancement.
We would serve our young better if we cease blaming harmful behavior like unwed teen pregnancy on the economy and, instead, give consideration to the role of weak parental guidance, government entitlements, sexual messages conveyed via the media, and our failure to help the young learn that responsible behavior today can yield a better tomorrow.
Charlotte Eliopoulos, Glen Arm