Torygraph moralises on pregancy

// 24 February 2006

Oh, middle England, when is the right time to get pregnant? Certainly not too late, when you’ve obviously and callously delayed going forth to multiply in order to do something selfish like have a career. But it’s not too early either, when babies are a sure indicator of sexual antics, probably proceeded by beating up grannies and wearing a hoodie.

How else to explain the moralising tone certain newspapers have taken when reporting the latest underage pregnancy statistics?

I find myself sorely vexed by this one: on the one hand, having children so young drastically shrinks the prospects of the mother. It is undoubtedly good if the numbers are going down. But the moralising tone of the right wing press – and the answers it suggests – are hard to stomach.

What do the statistics even say? The BBC reports a fall in teenage pregnancies between 2003 and 2004, if only by a disappointing 1.4%. That means the Government missed its target of cutting teen pregancies by 15% on 1998 levels by 2004. But it still managed an 11% reduction.

Conception rates for young teenagers, age 13 to 15, were also down 6% – in face the BBC doesn’t cite a single statistic showing a rise in teen pregancies.

So how does the Daily Telegraph justify its screaming headline, telling us: “£150m plan has failed to cut teenage pregnancies”?

Official statistics show a rising number of girls under 14 becoming pregnant and experts said the Government missed its target of cutting the under-18 pregnancy rate by 15 per cent from its 1998 level.

It was also on course to miss its ambitious target of halving teenage pregnancies by 2010, probably achieving a reduction of about 17 per cent.

David Paton, professor of economics at Nottingham University Business School, said: “The taxpayers’ money spent by the Teenage Pregnancy Unit seems to have had no impact. The Government should look closely at the unit’s future. Closing it should be seriously thought about.”

1) Where is that statistic – did the BBC just miss it??

2) Why is a professor of economics being asked about how effective a sex education strategy is?

Could it be because the Telegraph instinctively hates the idea of proper sex education (that’s really what the “Teenage Pregnancy Unit” is about)?

Let’s see how reporter Sarah Womack explains that one.

Critics said the fall in pregnancy “rates” – the number of pregnancies per thousand – could be attributed in part to an increasing population. This includes a large number of Muslim families where teenage pregnancy is rare.

In 2004, a total of 13,616 girls of 16 became pregnant compared to 13,303 in 2003 and 45 per cent of those had an abortion. Among 17-year-olds, rates also showed an increase, from 20,835 to 20,921, and 41 per cent had an abortion.

Yes, so unidentified “critics” (does that mean Womack herself?) think that the number of pregnancies is going down because the population is going up. Oh yes, and it’s all Muslims. Ridiculous and offensive. And of course, the paper can’t help but point out all those abortions those teenage girls are getting.

The statistics also revealed a rise in pregancies in the over-40s. Again, Womack has to get some sort of a dig in, so she cites medical terminology in what seems to me to be a clear attempt to create disgust at the very idea of an older mother.

In the 1980s doctors regarded pregnant women over 30 as geriatric mothers but the term now used is “elderly prima gravida” (older mother, first baby) for anyone over 35. In most areas a woman becomes an older mother at 37.

What we need is more sex-ed to drive down those figures, and less claptrap from social conservatives who are only reacting instinctively against sex and against women pursuing a career.

Have Your say

Comments are closed on this post

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds