How a militantly pro-choice young lady switched sides

On Saturday I went to the San Francisco #LifeMatters Meetup to see SPL’s President, Kelsey Hazzard, perform some pretty excellent spoken word poetry and to hear the diverse group of speakers Rehumanize International had lined up. There were speeches from women about their experiences with pro-life activism in San Francisco as well as personal stories about how unplanned pregnancy had affected their lives.

I was particularly compelled by what Pro-Life San Francisco’s Bettina Di Fiore had to say. With her permission, I’m reposting her speech about her experiences here for others to consider.

I want to tell you a story about a young woman. When she was 16, she got pregnant, and as you can easily imagine, she panicked. In her distress, she solicited advice from a number of people. Among all of them, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that she would have an abortion. They spoke about the abortion as if it were a reality already in existence, a decision already made. “When are you getting the abortion?” “I bet you can’t wait to have the abortion.” “Don’t worry, you’ll feel better after the abortion.”

This included the nurse at the Planned Parenthood clinic where she went for a second pregnancy test. “Of course,” the nurse said, “this young woman couldn’t even consider having her baby. Her hopes, dreams, goals, indeed her entire life would be ruined if she carried to term.” According to the nurse, the best thing this young woman could do—the only thing she could do—was terminate her pregnancy. The nurse advised her to “beg, borrow, and steal” the money for an abortion and even told her how to break state law to get one without parental consent.

The night before her appointment at the clinic, our young lady stayed up weeping and apologizing to the child she was about to murder.

Fast forward about ten years. Our young woman was in college. And although she still had sleepless nights spent crying over what she had done years ago, she was fully invested in the pro-choice narrative. She believed that she was somehow defective for feeling grief over the child she never had, and that other post-abortive women did not share that pain. And although in her heart she knew better, she wanted to believe that abortion only involves one person’s body.

In 2004, she attended the March for Women’s Lives, the largest pro-choice rally in U.S. history. She carried a sign. She shouted the chants. She took photos for her classmates who were unable to attend. She even gave a presentation about the March for her women’s history class.

She was all in.

Fast forward another eight years. One day she heard a news story about a woman who drowned her baby in a public toilet just after giving birth. The commentator noted that if this woman had gone to Planned Parenthood a few weeks earlier, she would’ve gotten off scot-free. But as it was, she was facing first degree murder charges.

This caused our young woman to pause. She had to admit that the commentator had a point. Surely a baby is still a baby a few weeks before birth. That raised the question: at what point is it not a baby? Can one really draw a line at any point in prenatal development and state, with certainty, that this undeniably alive, undeniably human thing is baby afterward and not-baby beforehand? She’d had enough science education to know that no such magical transition point existed. She could reach only one conclusion: if it’s wrong to kill babies, it’s always wrong; whether or not they’ve been born is irrelevant.

And that is how our militantly pro-choice young lady switched and became pro-life.

That young woman is me. And today I am going to march again, this time for unborn lives. All it took to get me here was a single scientifically sound argument, logically constructed, and passionately stated. I am certain there are countless others like me, and it is our mission to reach them. We have science and logic on our side—now let’s go show the world our passion.

How a militantly pro-choice young lady switched sides

On Saturday I went to the San Francisco #LifeMatters Meetup to see SPL’s President, Kelsey Hazzard, perform some pretty excellent spoken word poetry and to hear the diverse group of speakers Rehumanize International had lined up. There were speeches from women about their experiences with pro-life activism in San Francisco as well as personal stories about how unplanned pregnancy had affected their lives.

I was particularly compelled by what Pro-Life San Francisco’s Bettina Di Fiore had to say. With her permission, I’m reposting her speech about her experiences here for others to consider.

I want to tell you a story about a young woman. When she was 16, she got pregnant, and as you can easily imagine, she panicked. In her distress, she solicited advice from a number of people. Among all of them, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that she would have an abortion. They spoke about the abortion as if it were a reality already in existence, a decision already made. “When are you getting the abortion?” “I bet you can’t wait to have the abortion.” “Don’t worry, you’ll feel better after the abortion.”

This included the nurse at the Planned Parenthood clinic where she went for a second pregnancy test. “Of course,” the nurse said, “this young woman couldn’t even consider having her baby. Her hopes, dreams, goals, indeed her entire life would be ruined if she carried to term.” According to the nurse, the best thing this young woman could do—the only thing she could do—was terminate her pregnancy. The nurse advised her to “beg, borrow, and steal” the money for an abortion and even told her how to break state law to get one without parental consent.

The night before her appointment at the clinic, our young lady stayed up weeping and apologizing to the child she was about to murder.

Fast forward about ten years. Our young woman was in college. And although she still had sleepless nights spent crying over what she had done years ago, she was fully invested in the pro-choice narrative. She believed that she was somehow defective for feeling grief over the child she never had, and that other post-abortive women did not share that pain. And although in her heart she knew better, she wanted to believe that abortion only involves one person’s body.

In 2004, she attended the March for Women’s Lives, the largest pro-choice rally in U.S. history. She carried a sign. She shouted the chants. She took photos for her classmates who were unable to attend. She even gave a presentation about the March for her women’s history class.

She was all in.

Fast forward another eight years. One day she heard a news story about a woman who drowned her baby in a public toilet just after giving birth. The commentator noted that if this woman had gone to Planned Parenthood a few weeks earlier, she would’ve gotten off scot-free. But as it was, she was facing first degree murder charges.

This caused our young woman to pause. She had to admit that the commentator had a point. Surely a baby is still a baby a few weeks before birth. That raised the question: at what point is it not a baby? Can one really draw a line at any point in prenatal development and state, with certainty, that this undeniably alive, undeniably human thing is baby afterward and not-baby beforehand? She’d had enough science education to know that no such magical transition point existed. She could reach only one conclusion: if it’s wrong to kill babies, it’s always wrong; whether or not they’ve been born is irrelevant.

And that is how our militantly pro-choice young lady switched and became pro-life.

That young woman is me. And today I am going to march again, this time for unborn lives. All it took to get me here was a single scientifically sound argument, logically constructed, and passionately stated. I am certain there are countless others like me, and it is our mission to reach them. We have science and logic on our side—now let’s go show the world our passion.

Your Stories: Unwed Pregnancy and the Church

On Monday, Secular Pro-Life published an article about Maddi Runkles, a high school senior whose private Christian school has banned her from her graduation ceremony because she is pregnant. We joined a chorus of pro-life organizations, led by Students for Life of America, condemning the school’s action and pointing out that penalizing women for being pregnant is a surefire way to encourage abortions.

Maddi’s story generated a lot of social media attention and discussions within the pro-life community, and our article was no exception. Numerous current and former Christians took to our facebook page to share stories from their schools and churches. While far from being a comprehensive scientific survey, these comments do offer up an interesting qualitative picture. Here’s what you had to say:

Holly M.—My mother went to Catholic school and was forced to drop out of her high school when she got pregnant with my brother at 16. She was punished. She had to get her GED and did not get to graduate with her class at the school she went to her whole life. I went to that same Catholic school. They have since changed that rule and don’t force pregnant teens to drop out but the fact that they once did and they did it to my mother is very upsetting to me. It IS definitely making abortion an incentive by “punishing” pregnant young girls like that.

Christi R.—I am a Christian. This is an issue that does need to be addressed in the Christian community. I teach my children abstinence only, but still inform them of birth control. Abstinence is the only way to avoid pregnancy, but if they make poor choices they need to know what protection there is to prevent pregnancy even if the protection isn’t 100%. In many Christian communities, the idea is of you teach options you are encouraging options. Sex is still a sensitive subject that is avoided and left to parents. Meanwhile, the Christian schools have an abstinence only stance. If you have a prominent student who has obviously broken that rule, it is a hard decision on how to handle it in the fact broken rules cannot be rewarded. If they appear to sanction the behavior of premarital sex, they risk losing families who send their children to these schools in hopes of surrounding them with like-minded families. It can be destructive to a school’s population. I don’t support the actions they chose, but I can understand it was a difficult one.

Kali F.—I walked pregnant at graduation (at a public school). The gowns are so loose that you couldn’t tell I was pregnant, even though I was about 6 or 7 months. This isn’t about what the other students would think; they just want to punish her for going against their morals.

Barbara S.—I went to a Catholic university and I remember a couple of pregnant students; a girl used to bring her baby to class sometimes, another spoke in class about initially wanting an abortion and then changing her mind… nobody judged them or anything.


Tiffany M.—My parents got pregnant with me while attending Bob Jones University. You can imagine the chaos that ensued.


SheriLynn H.—A classmate of my son’s graduated with him yesterday from a Catholic high school in the most conservative diocese in the US, cap, gown, shook the bishop’s hand, etc., and she is about 6 months pregnant. Another graduate had a 10-month-old baby in the audience. I am happy that pro-life really means pro-life around here.

Kaitlyn V. (in reply to SheriLynn)—I knew we must be from the same area when I read “most conservative diocese in the US”! And I was right 🙂 My high school treated a similar situation very differently when I attended. Just makes me happy to hear that another local Catholic school is focusing on what truly matters.

Nicole P.—A lot of churches need a heavy dose of grace. Before I joined my church I asked about their pro life views. They said when there were pregnant teens they embraced them & gave them showers just like they would married women.

Abigail G.—My sister was not allowed to attend our church’s senior banquet because she was pregnant. I was enraged at the way they treated us (I say “us” because I had a child outside of marriage, and I could sense the judgment from some of the other church goers).

Your Stories: Unwed Pregnancy and the Church

On Monday, Secular Pro-Life published an article about Maddi Runkles, a high school senior whose private Christian school has banned her from her graduation ceremony because she is pregnant. We joined a chorus of pro-life organizations, led by Students for Life of America, condemning the school’s action and pointing out that penalizing women for being pregnant is a surefire way to encourage abortions.

Maddi’s story generated a lot of social media attention and discussions within the pro-life community, and our article was no exception. Numerous current and former Christians took to our facebook page to share stories from their schools and churches. While far from being a comprehensive scientific survey, these comments do offer up an interesting qualitative picture. Here’s what you had to say:

Holly M.—My mother went to Catholic school and was forced to drop out of her high school when she got pregnant with my brother at 16. She was punished. She had to get her GED and did not get to graduate with her class at the school she went to her whole life. I went to that same Catholic school. They have since changed that rule and don’t force pregnant teens to drop out but the fact that they once did and they did it to my mother is very upsetting to me. It IS definitely making abortion an incentive by “punishing” pregnant young girls like that.

Christi R.—I am a Christian. This is an issue that does need to be addressed in the Christian community. I teach my children abstinence only, but still inform them of birth control. Abstinence is the only way to avoid pregnancy, but if they make poor choices they need to know what protection there is to prevent pregnancy even if the protection isn’t 100%. In many Christian communities, the idea is of you teach options you are encouraging options. Sex is still a sensitive subject that is avoided and left to parents. Meanwhile, the Christian schools have an abstinence only stance. If you have a prominent student who has obviously broken that rule, it is a hard decision on how to handle it in the fact broken rules cannot be rewarded. If they appear to sanction the behavior of premarital sex, they risk losing families who send their children to these schools in hopes of surrounding them with like-minded families. It can be destructive to a school’s population. I don’t support the actions they chose, but I can understand it was a difficult one.

Kali F.—I walked pregnant at graduation (at a public school). The gowns are so loose that you couldn’t tell I was pregnant, even though I was about 6 or 7 months. This isn’t about what the other students would think; they just want to punish her for going against their morals.

Barbara S.—I went to a Catholic university and I remember a couple of pregnant students; a girl used to bring her baby to class sometimes, another spoke in class about initially wanting an abortion and then changing her mind… nobody judged them or anything.


Tiffany M.—My parents got pregnant with me while attending Bob Jones University. You can imagine the chaos that ensued.


SheriLynn H.—A classmate of my son’s graduated with him yesterday from a Catholic high school in the most conservative diocese in the US, cap, gown, shook the bishop’s hand, etc., and she is about 6 months pregnant. Another graduate had a 10-month-old baby in the audience. I am happy that pro-life really means pro-life around here.

Kaitlyn V. (in reply to SheriLynn)—I knew we must be from the same area when I read “most conservative diocese in the US”! And I was right 🙂 My high school treated a similar situation very differently when I attended. Just makes me happy to hear that another local Catholic school is focusing on what truly matters.

Nicole P.—A lot of churches need a heavy dose of grace. Before I joined my church I asked about their pro life views. They said when there were pregnant teens they embraced them & gave them showers just like they would married women.

Abigail G.—My sister was not allowed to attend our church’s senior banquet because she was pregnant. I was enraged at the way they treated us (I say “us” because I had a child outside of marriage, and I could sense the judgment from some of the other church goers).

Abstinence-obsessed Christian schools incentivize abortion

On Saturday, the New York Times published an article about the hypocrisy of “pro-life” Christian schools that incentivize abortion for pregnant students. Appropriately titled Pregnant at 18. Hailed by Abortion Foes. Punished By Christian School., the article begins:

Maddi Runkles has never been a disciplinary problem.

She has a 4.0 average at Heritage Academy, the small private Christian school she attends; played on the soccer team; and served as president of the student council. But when her fellow seniors don blue caps and gowns at graduation early next month, Ms. Runkles, 18, will not be among them.

The reason? She is pregnant.

The decision by school officials to bar Ms. Runkles from “walking” at graduation — and to remove her from her student council position — would have remained private, but for her family’s decision to seek help from Students for Life. The anti-abortion group, which took her to a recent rally in Washington, argues that she should be lauded, not punished, for her decision to keep her baby.

“She made the courageous decision to choose life, and she definitely should not be shamed,” said Kristan Hawkins, the Students for Life president, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade the administrator of Heritage Academy to reverse the decision. “There has got to be a way to treat a young woman who becomes pregnant in a graceful and loving way.”   

Kristan Hawkins is absolutely right, and I applaud Students for Life for taking up Ms. Runkles’ cause. Let’s be real: if you penalize premarital sex, all you’re actually doing is punishing people who get caught having premarital sex. And thanks to the quirks of human biology, those who are caught will (1) almost exclusively be women, and (2) almost exclusively be pro-life. (I say “almost” to allow for those students who, say, have sex in an unlocked room on campus — but I have never heard of a young father being punished the way Ms. Runkles was.)

I know Kristan Hawkins personally, so I know that she is a Christian. I’m sure it isn’t easy for her to fight a public relations battle against an organization that shares her faith. But it is the right thing to do. I’m glad that there are Christians like her working within their own communities to reform attitudes toward young mothers. The Times article also mentions a Christian group called “Embrace Grace” that does some work on this front.

I also think that this incident highlights the need for secular advocacy. When Heritage Academy was asked for comment, an administrator told the Times that the staff had engaged in “much prayer” about Ms. Runkle’s pregnancy. That’s not a real answer. When you’re working from religious premises, just saying that you’ve prayed about it is apparently enough to excuse devastating school policies. It ends the conversation. From a secular point of view, that is unacceptable.

Then there’s this facepalm-worthy comment by Rick Kempton of the Association of Christian Schools International:

She’s making the right choice. But you don’t want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, “Well, that seems like a pretty good option.”

Not killing your unborn child should be seen as a pretty good option! If you honestly believe that seeing a pregnant classmate walk at graduation is going to cause young women to get pregnant on purpose, you do not give teens enough credit and you have no business being an educator. Also, Ms. Runkles is not trying to celebrate her pregnancy; she is trying to celebrate her graduation. Shockingly, becoming visibly pregnant did not erase every other aspect of her life! What does it say about these Christian school administrators’ view of women that they treat the very presence of an unwed pregnant belly as an insurmountable distraction?

No one is saying you can’t promote abstinence. No one is saying you should expect all your students to have sex, tell them “everyone is doing it,” and shame virgins. All we are saying is that when your students fall short of your sexual expectations, be there to catch them. Don’t push them to kill a child to cover up their “sin.”

P.S. — There is one bright spot to this story. Somehow, someone got the New York Times to refer to Ms. Runkle’s unborn son as a “baby.” That’s a refreshing change from the Grey Lady’s usual practice of using dehumanizing language to protect abortion.

P.P.S. — Check out additional comments from Pro-Life Humanists here and here.

Abstinence-obsessed Christian schools incentivize abortion

On Saturday, the New York Times published an article about the hypocrisy of “pro-life” Christian schools that incentivize abortion for pregnant students. Appropriately titled Pregnant at 18. Hailed by Abortion Foes. Punished By Christian School., the article begins:

Maddi Runkles has never been a disciplinary problem.

She has a 4.0 average at Heritage Academy, the small private Christian school she attends; played on the soccer team; and served as president of the student council. But when her fellow seniors don blue caps and gowns at graduation early next month, Ms. Runkles, 18, will not be among them.

The reason? She is pregnant.

The decision by school officials to bar Ms. Runkles from “walking” at graduation — and to remove her from her student council position — would have remained private, but for her family’s decision to seek help from Students for Life. The anti-abortion group, which took her to a recent rally in Washington, argues that she should be lauded, not punished, for her decision to keep her baby.

“She made the courageous decision to choose life, and she definitely should not be shamed,” said Kristan Hawkins, the Students for Life president, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade the administrator of Heritage Academy to reverse the decision. “There has got to be a way to treat a young woman who becomes pregnant in a graceful and loving way.”   

Kristan Hawkins is absolutely right, and I applaud Students for Life for taking up Ms. Runkles’ cause. Let’s be real: if you penalize premarital sex, all you’re actually doing is punishing people who get caught having premarital sex. And thanks to the quirks of human biology, those who are caught will (1) almost exclusively be women, and (2) almost exclusively be pro-life. (I say “almost” to allow for those students who, say, have sex in an unlocked room on campus — but I have never heard of a young father being punished the way Ms. Runkles was.)

I know Kristan Hawkins personally, so I know that she is a Christian. I’m sure it isn’t easy for her to fight a public relations battle against an organization that shares her faith. But it is the right thing to do. I’m glad that there are Christians like her working within their own communities to reform attitudes toward young mothers. The Times article also mentions a Christian group called “Embrace Grace” that does some work on this front.

I also think that this incident highlights the need for secular advocacy. When Heritage Academy was asked for comment, an administrator told the Times that the staff had engaged in “much prayer” about Ms. Runkle’s pregnancy. That’s not a real answer. When you’re working from religious premises, just saying that you’ve prayed about it is apparently enough to excuse devastating school policies. It ends the conversation. From a secular point of view, that is unacceptable.

Then there’s this facepalm-worthy comment by Rick Kempton of the Association of Christian Schools International:

She’s making the right choice. But you don’t want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, “Well, that seems like a pretty good option.”

Not killing your unborn child should be seen as a pretty good option! If you honestly believe that seeing a pregnant classmate walk at graduation is going to cause young women to get pregnant on purpose, you do not give teens enough credit and you have no business being an educator. Also, Ms. Runkles is not trying to celebrate her pregnancy; she is trying to celebrate her graduation. Shockingly, becoming visibly pregnant did not erase every other aspect of her life! What does it say about these Christian school administrators’ view of women that they treat the very presence of an unwed pregnant belly as an insurmountable distraction?

No one is saying you can’t promote abstinence. No one is saying you should expect all your students to have sex, tell them “everyone is doing it,” and shame virgins. All we are saying is that when your students fall short of your sexual expectations, be there to catch them. Don’t push them to kill a child to cover up their “sin.”

P.S. — There is one bright spot to this story. Somehow, someone got the New York Times to refer to Ms. Runkle’s unborn son as a “baby.” That’s a refreshing change from the Grey Lady’s usual practice of using dehumanizing language to protect abortion.

P.P.S. — Check out additional comments from Pro-Life Humanists here and here.

A Teen Mom Speaks: Your Life Isn’t Over!

[Today’s guest post by Erica Shupe is part of our paid blogging program.]

There you’re waking up in the morning just like any other morning, but this morning turns different quickly. This morning you are stuck with an overwhelming feeling that you are about to vomit and you don’t know why. The smell of the eggs you’re cooking for breakfast, that never bothered you before, is now seeming to hit you so strong, it’s like a skunk sprayed you directly in your face. The next thing you notice is your period is a week late and you don’t know why, so you opt to take a pregnancy test.

As you take that test there are so many things running through your mind. I can’t be pregnant. I’m only 16. I have no money to raise a baby, I have no one to support me, and I can’t handle giving up my youth. You wait the next two minutes and nervously pick up the test to see the result, and bam you see two lines—you’re pregnant! Now you’re thinking what can I do? I must have an abortion; I’m not ready to become a mom.

Like many young adults and teens I have found myself in the same situation or similar situation you’re in. I want you to know that you’re not alone and someone out there is going through the same thing.

The author, at 16, with her baby

My story started when I was in high school; I was in 11th grade and had so many dreams before me. When I took my pregnancy test, I had many of the same thoughts in my head, but for me my biggest one was: how was I going to tell my parents? I found myself going to school sick as a dog, worrying about what all the other students said about me. Furthermore, I was worried about what my grandmother was going to say about me. My story was slightly unique in that my grandmother had mainly raised me from when I was a year old. My grandmother had her first child when she was just 15, and had dropped out of school in the 8th grade, so as you can imagine she had high hopes for me to do better in life.

I will never forget the day when she asked me if I was pregnant, while I was sitting on her living room couch; I bet if you were there you could probably hear my heart beating from across the room. I was honest with her and told her I was indeed pregnant, but as I told her she began to fall on her knees and cry. It took my grandmother 9 months to speak to me again, because after that day she disowned me.

I also was told numerous times: Well, you ruined your life, basically no hope for you now. It was hard not to sketch that in my brain, because I too was down about my future. I had plans to go to college for a least 4 years to be a nurse, then eventually become a doctor. I also realized I’m pregnant and may never finish high school, so now what do I do? Although this story seams glum now, it does have a happy ending.

Erica’s daughter now

I was told by counselors at school about a program to help me graduate faster. I went to a program that allowed you to get your credits you needed to graduate online. I could work at my own pace, have a small classroom setting with people just like me, and still have help from instructors. I ended up graduating early; in fact, I finished up before my baby was even born. At the time, I also received help from a local organization called the Pregnancy Resource Center. The program allowed pregnant families to watch parenting videos in exchange for mommy dollars. Mommy dollars was a blessing because you could use the mommy dollars to purchase diapers, clothes, strollers and bottles for your baby. The program even did free medical visits, so you could have ultrasounds even if you didn’t have insurance. In addition, I had help from WIC which is a program that pays for free healthy food for you and your baby.

I’m now 23 with three children, I’m married and have a rewarding job. No matter what the obstacle is you’re going through, you can get through it without abortion!

According to the CDC, 22 out of a 1000 births are born by girls ages 15-18, and the total births in 2015 where around four million. As the statistics show, there’s an abundance of young people having babies, so please don’t feel alone. Along with births, there also comes assistance. I personally want to introduce you to some helpful links and programs:

In closing, there are so many resources for pregnancies: you can talk to guidance counselors at school, go to your local social services, or even just join a mom support group like Baby Center online. I know you feel like your life is over or you’ve been told your life is over but it’s not, your life is just beginning. You have a choice to have a beautiful bundle of joy, but also still thrive in your life. Take it from experience nothing compares to hearing that babies heart beat inside you, feeling those little feet kick you, and kissing the head of the one you made!

A Teen Mom Speaks: Your Life Isn’t Over!

[Today’s guest post by Erica Shupe is part of our paid blogging program.]

There you’re waking up in the morning just like any other morning, but this morning turns different quickly. This morning you are stuck with an overwhelming feeling that you are about to vomit and you don’t know why. The smell of the eggs you’re cooking for breakfast, that never bothered you before, is now seeming to hit you so strong, it’s like a skunk sprayed you directly in your face. The next thing you notice is your period is a week late and you don’t know why, so you opt to take a pregnancy test.

As you take that test there are so many things running through your mind. I can’t be pregnant. I’m only 16. I have no money to raise a baby, I have no one to support me, and I can’t handle giving up my youth. You wait the next two minutes and nervously pick up the test to see the result, and bam you see two lines—you’re pregnant! Now you’re thinking what can I do? I must have an abortion; I’m not ready to become a mom.

Like many young adults and teens I have found myself in the same situation or similar situation you’re in. I want you to know that you’re not alone and someone out there is going through the same thing.

The author, at 16, with her baby

My story started when I was in high school; I was in 11th grade and had so many dreams before me. When I took my pregnancy test, I had many of the same thoughts in my head, but for me my biggest one was: how was I going to tell my parents? I found myself going to school sick as a dog, worrying about what all the other students said about me. Furthermore, I was worried about what my grandmother was going to say about me. My story was slightly unique in that my grandmother had mainly raised me from when I was a year old. My grandmother had her first child when she was just 15, and had dropped out of school in the 8th grade, so as you can imagine she had high hopes for me to do better in life.

I will never forget the day when she asked me if I was pregnant, while I was sitting on her living room couch; I bet if you were there you could probably hear my heart beating from across the room. I was honest with her and told her I was indeed pregnant, but as I told her she began to fall on her knees and cry. It took my grandmother 9 months to speak to me again, because after that day she disowned me.

I also was told numerous times: Well, you ruined your life, basically no hope for you now. It was hard not to sketch that in my brain, because I too was down about my future. I had plans to go to college for a least 4 years to be a nurse, then eventually become a doctor. I also realized I’m pregnant and may never finish high school, so now what do I do? Although this story seams glum now, it does have a happy ending.

Erica’s daughter now

I was told by counselors at school about a program to help me graduate faster. I went to a program that allowed you to get your credits you needed to graduate online. I could work at my own pace, have a small classroom setting with people just like me, and still have help from instructors. I ended up graduating early; in fact, I finished up before my baby was even born. At the time, I also received help from a local organization called the Pregnancy Resource Center. The program allowed pregnant families to watch parenting videos in exchange for mommy dollars. Mommy dollars was a blessing because you could use the mommy dollars to purchase diapers, clothes, strollers and bottles for your baby. The program even did free medical visits, so you could have ultrasounds even if you didn’t have insurance. In addition, I had help from WIC which is a program that pays for free healthy food for you and your baby.

I’m now 23 with three children, I’m married and have a rewarding job. No matter what the obstacle is you’re going through, you can get through it without abortion!

According to the CDC, 22 out of a 1000 births are born by girls ages 15-18, and the total births in 2015 where around four million. As the statistics show, there’s an abundance of young people having babies, so please don’t feel alone. Along with births, there also comes assistance. I personally want to introduce you to some helpful links and programs:

In closing, there are so many resources for pregnancies: you can talk to guidance counselors at school, go to your local social services, or even just join a mom support group like Baby Center online. I know you feel like your life is over or you’ve been told your life is over but it’s not, your life is just beginning. You have a choice to have a beautiful bundle of joy, but also still thrive in your life. Take it from experience nothing compares to hearing that babies heart beat inside you, feeling those little feet kick you, and kissing the head of the one you made!

Does the “16 & Pregnant” franchise decrease teen birth rates?

According to Eliana Dockterman at TIME:

Whereas 16 and Pregnant only traces the nine months leading to birth, Teen Mom follows the lives of the same teens after the baby showers are over and the reality of life with a baby sets in. A typical episode of the show follows the new moms as they fight with the fathers of their children (many of whom have now left them), fight with their parents (who are usually supporting them), struggle financially, struggle to finish their degree, and watch their friends enjoy prom and college without them.

This sounds very difficult. How many teenage girls would watch this show and want to emulate its stars? Hopefully none. MTV has set up a website—StayTeen.org—to go along with their teen mom shows. StayTeen.org tries to prevent teen pregnancy by discussing relationships, abstinence, birth control, and more. Is it helping? As Docterman reports:

The study suggesting a link between the show and a drop in pregnancy rates, conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that the rate of teenage pregnancy declined faster in areas where teenagers were watching more MTV programming. After crunching the numbers, they concluded that the shows prevented more than 20,000 births to teen mothers in 2010 alone. (emphasis added)

Docterman appears to be conflating teen birth rates with teen pregnancy rates. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research‘s actual abstract:

16 and Pregnant led to more searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion, and ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following its introduction.

Notice that they talk about a reduction in teen births, not teen pregnancies. After all, what would searches on abortion have to do with decreasing pregnancy rates? Abortions don’t prevent pregnancies; they prevent births by ending pregnancies. I don’t know if the 5.7% reduction stat is cause for celebration because I don’t know whether it means that teens are being more careful about their sexual choices or that teens are more likely to seek abortion. Maybe it’s both.

In either case, the birth rate reduction may not be the result of MTV’s shows anyway. As Docterman points out:

[The study] only proves correlation, not causation. The study does not rule out other factors, like increased sex education at schools in those same areas where families can afford to pay for cable television and allow their children to watch a liberal channel like MTV.

The study doesn’t rule out sex education?? That’s a pretty important factor. And what are the abortion rates—especially the teen abortion rates—in those same areas? What are the parental notification laws? What are the socio-economic demographics? Both abortion rates and teen birth rates have been shown to correlate to different demographics, after all.

Docterman herself seems skeptical that MTV is driving the national decline in teen birth rates. She concludes:

Spreading the word about contraception, birth control and the risks of unprotected sex through popular media may be having some positive effect. Glamorizing teen pregnancy may be diminishing that effect. But either way, MTV can’t do the work of the adults in the lives of teenagers.

Docterman points to studies that show teenagers who can have frank conversations with their parents about the ramifications of unprotected sex are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Maybe one of the better ways to lower teen pregnancy rates is to make sure we don’t leave the parenting to the likes of MTV.

Does the “16 & Pregnant” franchise decrease teen birth rates?

According to Eliana Dockterman at TIME:

Whereas 16 and Pregnant only traces the nine months leading to birth, Teen Mom follows the lives of the same teens after the baby showers are over and the reality of life with a baby sets in. A typical episode of the show follows the new moms as they fight with the fathers of their children (many of whom have now left them), fight with their parents (who are usually supporting them), struggle financially, struggle to finish their degree, and watch their friends enjoy prom and college without them.

This sounds very difficult. How many teenage girls would watch this show and want to emulate its stars? Hopefully none. MTV has set up a website—StayTeen.org—to go along with their teen mom shows. StayTeen.org tries to prevent teen pregnancy by discussing relationships, abstinence, birth control, and more. Is it helping? As Docterman reports:

The study suggesting a link between the show and a drop in pregnancy rates, conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that the rate of teenage pregnancy declined faster in areas where teenagers were watching more MTV programming. After crunching the numbers, they concluded that the shows prevented more than 20,000 births to teen mothers in 2010 alone. (emphasis added)

Docterman appears to be conflating teen birth rates with teen pregnancy rates. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research‘s actual abstract:

16 and Pregnant led to more searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion, and ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following its introduction.

Notice that they talk about a reduction in teen births, not teen pregnancies. After all, what would searches on abortion have to do with decreasing pregnancy rates? Abortions don’t prevent pregnancies; they prevent births by ending pregnancies. I don’t know if the 5.7% reduction stat is cause for celebration because I don’t know whether it means that teens are being more careful about their sexual choices or that teens are more likely to seek abortion. Maybe it’s both.

In either case, the birth rate reduction may not be the result of MTV’s shows anyway. As Docterman points out:

[The study] only proves correlation, not causation. The study does not rule out other factors, like increased sex education at schools in those same areas where families can afford to pay for cable television and allow their children to watch a liberal channel like MTV.

The study doesn’t rule out sex education?? That’s a pretty important factor. And what are the abortion rates—especially the teen abortion rates—in those same areas? What are the parental notification laws? What are the socio-economic demographics? Both abortion rates and teen birth rates have been shown to correlate to different demographics, after all.

Docterman herself seems skeptical that MTV is driving the national decline in teen birth rates. She concludes:

Spreading the word about contraception, birth control and the risks of unprotected sex through popular media may be having some positive effect. Glamorizing teen pregnancy may be diminishing that effect. But either way, MTV can’t do the work of the adults in the lives of teenagers.

Docterman points to studies that show teenagers who can have frank conversations with their parents about the ramifications of unprotected sex are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Maybe one of the better ways to lower teen pregnancy rates is to make sure we don’t leave the parenting to the likes of MTV.