As you may or may or not know, last week I appeared on the panel for BBC Newsnight. Interviewed by Jeremy Paxman. Live. Yes, I nearly crapped my pants.
The topic was sex education in schools, and, more specifically, how it can be improved to reduce levels of unwanted pregnancies. Now, by “unwanted”, you would assume that they meant pregnancies that lead to abortion. No. Somehow, the term “unwanted pregnancies” includes not only pregnancies which lead to abortion, but teenage pregnancies too. I’m not sure whether by “unwanted” they mean “unplanned”, or just the fact that our pregnancies (and, in turn, our children) are simply “unwanted” by the general public. Of course, personal experience has shown this to be true, but it’s still quite brass to say it.
The Unwanted Pregnancy Inquiry: A cross-party inquiry intending “to produce a series of recommendations to Government departments on ways to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the UK.” The concern is that abortion rates are rising in some age groups (note: this age group is women between 30 and 34, not those under the age of 20), and that teenage pregnancy rates are too high (although rates actually decreased by around 20% between 1999 and 2010, and are continuing to decrease). To be honest, I’m neither pro-life nor pro-choice; I’m just pro-do-what’s-best-for-you. For me, abortion was not best. The idea had crossed my mind on finding out that I was pregnant when I was 17, but once I really thought about the fact that I had a child growing inside of me, my decision was made. And now that decision has become the best thing in my life. So, obviously me and thousands of other females out there just like me, are going to be a little more than offended when we’re being told that our pregnancies are “unwanted”.
Of course, I can see why in the current economic climate many may see unplanned teenage pregnancies as a problem; often young parents have no choice but to rely on state benefits, which does cost money. This is not an issue generalised to teenage parents. Thousands of families of all ages rely on benefits to support them. The difference is older families have had the time in their lives to gain work experience or qualifications, or both. Young parents have not. All of the young mothers that I know are in education, work, or both. If they are receiving benefits, I doubt that they will be for long. And, if they’re not, why was their pregnancy so unwanted?
However, I can’t be too anti towards the entire inquiry, as Amber Rudd, the Conservative MP running it, actually made sense. Yes, I agreed with a Conservative MP. She concluded that sex education in schools needs to have more focus on relationships. It also needs to bring in the role of the male more. I couldn’t agree more. As I mentioned, the only issue I can see people really having with young parents is the financial implications on the country. Perhaps if young people were guided more on relationships, there would be less young single mothers. With both parents around full-time, having a stable income would be far easier, and shock horror, young parents would rely on benefits less.
Being taught about relationships in school probably does sound absolutely absurd, especially to the older generation who were just about taught about sex in school. But I’m sure that seeing people have sex on television programmes like Geordie Shore would sound absolutely absurd to the older generation too. Which would they prefer?
I’m aware that my view won’t be one which is shared by many. I’m also aware that, for some teenage parents, becoming a parent can turn their worlds upside-down. Better sex education with less biology and mechanics and more relationship and emotion focus can and will also reduce teenage pregnancies. Things in the real world are changing when it comes to sex, things need to change within schools too.
I was going to post a link the the show on BBC’s iPlayer, but unfortunately it is no longer there. Yes, my fifteen minutes of fame is over. When I get my hands on a copy, I’ll put a clip up.
What I have included though, is a few screen shots of nice things people tweeted about me during the show. What? It’s not often a teenage mother has people say nice things about her you know…