Thursday, February 26, 2009

Loose morals?

I note there is some consternation within the Government in respect of the number of young women who are becoming pregnant.

As readers may know, I was concerned throughout my life by the impact of loose morals on the welfare of many young women. However, having studied the statistics released today, I am puzzled as to why it should be regarded as deleterious for a married woman aged 17 years to give birth.

Now, accepting that I am an "old fogey", I understand that the status of women has improved considerably since we first gave a limited right of voting to some women in 1870. It has also come to my attention that moral standards have mutated in an unimaginable way.

I am told that about 42,000 girls under the age of 18 became pregnant in 2007 and that as many as half of these resulted in the induced abortion of the unwanted baby. Now this is a matter of consternation, even though it appears that the British government is unclear of what it disapproves; is it the process of abortion or the process of pregnancy? For if a young woman and her husband wish to undertake the pleasures of family life, for what reason should they be discouraged?

The response of the Government is to promote the value of contraception - which I understand to be methods for preventing conception. A sum of some twenty million pounds has been mentioned. Further reports suggest that instruction booklets have been made available to parents of growing children advising them not to discuss moral matters; I confess to perplexity about how this might assist.

It is my perception and experience that most young women are more than capable of making up their own minds when they wish to have children and whom they wish to marry. Some however are driven by poverty or desperation to trade their womanhood and their fertility; such young women need advice and assistance. Their situations cannot be changed by a pill, an injection or another artifice; nor can any moral code circumvent their desperation and misery.



Jock Coats said...

A classic moral panic. We used to have a woman professor here (probably not something you would have come across when in charge!) whose speciality was family type statistics. At one point she was chair of the relevant funding council as well.

I remember very clearly in her professorial lecture her telling us that actually there has never been a higher average age of first child, that the highest rate of abortions is amongst educated young women who get pregnant while at university and decide that it will not interrupt their studies/fun, and that in the 1920s and 1930s the rate of teenage pregnancy was considerably higher than today.

The main difference between then and now was that they rarely resulted in a *birth* outside wedlock - even if they had been conceived that way there would soon be a shotgun in every such young man's back forcing them to marry.

So this modern obsession with teen pregnancies seems to be a classic moral outrage in the making.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Here in the US, there has been much breast-beating and garment rending over the twin issues of abortion and teen pregnancy. Far too often, it seems to me, these two issues are discussed without any reference to historical trends, or the simple reality that young people, under the age of majority, have acted thus for quite a while, and will continue to do so as biological imperatives overwhelm even the strongest will imaginable. It is exacerbated, sad to say, by "Christians" who misuse holy scripture to uphold certain reactionary social views.

I have pointed out, many times, that the issue of abortion is not in and of itself important for the American right. If it were, six of the eight years the right controlled American politics would have seen sweeping reforms of abortion law. Rather, the issue is kept alive to keep the money flowing and the outrage high. Furthermore, the entire issue is part of a much broader right-wing attempt to roll back the socio-economic gains made by women in the United States.

My personal position on abortion is irrelevant. I support freedom to choose the option - or not to so choose - as a legal position (although I will admit discomfort with the "right" label that has attached itself to this medical procedure). Far too often, the issue is raised as a "moral" one, and I need to remind folks that the US, as much as we might like to think to the contrary, is a nation not of morality or Christian sentiment, but of laws.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Sorry for the double posting, but I thought I would add this in. I knew a graduate student in American history who was doing a thesis the center of which was editing the journal of a 19th century American woman whose family traveled from Massachusetts to Oregon. As background for the edition, she studied social trends in marriage law and other gender-related topics current at the time. Abortion was the most sought-after option, especially in the federally controlled territories and newer states farthest from the seat of power in Washington, for birth-control, after interruptus. It was not until the last decade and a half of the 19th century that anti-abortion legislation became the norm.