We sat on a park bench and split a Little Caesar’s pizza while she told me all about her latest crush. She was a freshman at a new high school, and a lot had changed for her over the summer. She explained that her new relationship was with a girl, because in her words, “at least girls can’t get you pregnant.”
Clearly, there was a lot to unpack in that statement. But, at the root of it all, I could hear the resounding theme that she’d grown up with both in her home and from culture at large: do what you want, just don’t get pregnant. I’d heard the same thing many other times, just in different forms: “But what if we use protection…” “I won’t get pregnant from doing it.” “It was just a one-time thing.”
And, there’s a reason girls learn to avoid the scarlet letter of a baby bump. Subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, we’re taught growing up that an unplanned pregnancy is the worst-case scenario for our future. Not walking through life without God, not heartbreak or regret, not letting someone else use our body without regard for our soul — but pregnancy at an inconvenient time.
So, it’s tempting to find ways to get around pregnancy without worrying about the rest. This particular teenager’s solution was to keep hooking up, just without the guy. Society perpetuates this pressure by offering immediate “solutions” to the problem of pregnancy.
But, what if the pregnancy isn’t the problem?
What if those two pink lines are just an outward indicator of other issues taking place in a girl’s life? What if the emerging life in that not-yet-ready womb is just the body’s natural response to sex, instead of a mistake to be erased?
See, we’ve come to associate the whole issue of unplanned pregnancy, abortion, and by default the topic of teen sexuality, with a heated and polarizing political debate. When pro-life equals pro-baby, and pro-choice equates to pro-woman, communities are divided and left to choose between a pregnant girl and an unborn child. Two lives, two futures. Both deserving of compassion.
Shouldn’t there be an option to advocate for both?
There has to be another way. A way that addresses the deeper reasons why a fifteen year old feels so inclined to hook-up in the first place. A way that acknowledges human sexuality as a good, God-given drive best experienced within marriage, neither a curse to be avoided nor an animalistic urge that we’re powerless to control. A grace-driven, non-political way that unequivocally loves life in all its stages and forms.
This leaves us with just one option. The way of love.
Love demands that we care for a young woman as a whole person, which means caring about her dreams, her fears, her stressors, her relationships, and her experiences. This will require a lot more of us as neighbours and friends, because it means talking, listening, and engaging. But it also equates to more support for teens sorting out their sexuality and occasionally making missteps along the way, which means less choices made out of haste and overwhelming pressure.
This means shattering the myth that unplanned pregnancy must inevitably lead to the loss of young woman’s own future. What would it look like for our society to tell more stories of triumph and victory over difficult circumstances, instead of assuming the worst possible outcome? What if we spent more time talking with girls about how their bodies work, and how their body is connected to their soul, which means that what they do with their body is important?
A pro-life/pro-choice stance might not have known what to do with a girl on a park bench who said she wanted to date other girls to avoid pregnancy. But love’s response is to link arms with her, and take a long walk around the park to hear more about why she feels this way. Because love can see that pregnancy isn’t really the issue here. Pregnancy is never really the issue. Rather, love replies, I care about your whole health, your whole heart, and your whole future. So let’s talk more about that.
Photo by (flickr CC): kusito