Pregnant teenagers and discrimination seem to go hand in hand. Although 468,988 children are born to teenage mothers each year according to the American Pregnancy Association, there is still a stigma to being a pregnant teen.
Pregnant Teenagers and Discrimination Concerns
Teens who get pregnant do so for a number of reasons. It may have been peer pressure. It could have been poor judgment. The pregnancy could have resulted from abuse or even neglect. Yet, many of these teens simply made a mistake and will pay for it through discrimination at school, home, and throughout their lives.
- In schools, teens who are pregnant are stared at, sometimes made fun of, and even picked on by the administration and teachers.
- Some teens complain about not being able to find a job because they are pregnant.
- Teens may struggle with their home lives and with family members who are unwilling to offer a helping hand. Immediate families may be shamed in some religions. In other families, the extended family suddenly disappears from the teen's life.
These examples of teens being discriminated against are really just the start of what is happening to many of them. Advocacy groups state that a drop in self-esteem, an increased risks of taking drugs, and exposure to abusive situations may be a result of this type of discrimination.
Discrimination in the News and Laws
There are instances in the news regarding pregnant teenagers and the discrimination they face on a daily basis.
In Los Altos, a study was conducted to determine if pregnant teens were discriminated against. It found that in 24 schools tested, six of them had either forced the pregnant teen to transfer to an alternative school or had pressured the child to do so.
Laws do exist to help fight discrimination against teens who are pregnant. Under the Education Amendments of 1972, schools who receive federal funding cannot exclude any student from obtaining education or activities based on pregnancy. This law also forbids schools from forcing pregnant teens into other programs.
The good news is that more schools are making specific policies for handling pregnancies in their settings. For example, they outline the steps that the teen can take if they feel they are receiving discrimination. Many schools also offer opportunities for teens to plan their schooling around their child's birth.
What You Can Do
If you are a pregnant teen and feel you have received discrimination, there is help available to you. One of the strongest sources of aid will come from your parents. Even if your parents are unhappy about the pregnancy, it is likely they will support you when you inform them of the abuses you are suffering. Pregnant teenagers and discrimination does not have to be tolerated by you or anyone you love.
- If you feel that a teacher or other students are discriminating or harassing you in any way due to your pregnancy, contact a school counselor or the school's principal.
- In schools where response does not come from the principal, it may be necessary to take the matter to the district superintendent. The superintendent is more likely to be familiar with state and federal laws regarding discrimination.
- Outside of the school setting, help is also available. Again, parents are the first line of defense. If they cannot be helpful, it is possible to contact the police to file a complaint about the incident or work through an attorney. For example, if an employer does not hire you and you can prove that it was because of your pregnancy, talk to an attorney about your options.
- Support groups are a fantastic resource for pregnant teens. Check your local community center, hospitals, and mental health facilities to learn about local programs that can offer support.
- Look for national support. Many states have a branch of the American Civil Liberties Union that can offer support, guidance and information to pregnant teens.