Teen Pregnancy: Some Unconventional Ideas for Prevention

Yesterday, I explained why I believe we need new approaches to preventing teen pregnancy. Following are three ideas on how to do it.

Family Prevention and Planning Through Birth Control Availability

First let me say that I do not think that children in middle school and high school should be having sex. Ever. Under any circumstances. But I also do not believe that giving access to birth control will increase sexual activity.

Having premarital sex speaks to a person’s character, not whether or not they can buy condoms or get on birth control. I think students have been taught either that having sex outside of marriage is wrong or they have been taught that having sex is no big deal.

While I would love for each and every child and teenager to agree that having sex prior to marriage is morally wrong, that is just not the case and I would be ignorant to think otherwise. With that being said, a realistic, viable solution must be developed.

So, here goes. Middle school and high school must offer a wider range of birth control options along with sex education programs. Abstinence-only programs have been shown to be ineffective. With the highly sexually-charged environment young children are growing up in, the schools must offer equally charged abstinence and teen pregnancy prevention programs.

Yes, offer free contraception in the middle schools and high schools along with sex education. Offer the day-after pill, with the understanding that teenage girls have tons of things to think about and often forget to take the pill. Offer the Depo-Provera shot that is effective for three months.  This shot is approximately 97 percent effective.

If the middle school or high school female does not want the shot, provide the option of the birth control implant. The implant costs between $400-$800 up front, but is effective for up to three years. The government needs to pay that fee.

Family Planning and Prevention through Loss of Privileges

Social workers should explain to teenage females that if they get pregnant, while in middle school or high school, there is no money for prenatal care, no money for prenatal exams, no money for a birth at a hospital, no money for formula or baby food, no money for diapers.

Have the middle school and high school girls both initial and sign this document that they were informed AND understand that the government will not give them any type of assistance for prenatal or post-natal care.

Also, since they are under age and minors, social workers need to be at school orientation and have a school parent teacher meeting, where this information is discussed and parents sign that they received AND understood the information.

Until both the student and parent sign the government liability release information, curtail the students from participating in any and all type of after-school, extracurricular activities, or attending any field trips.

Social workers in the schools should also go to each class, middle and high school, and have one education session with the teenage boys. Social workers should explain that if a young boy gets a girl pregnant, then any and all bills associated with that baby will be paid by him, his family, or the girl and her family.

Impress upon the boys that they and their families will be on the hook for child support, and require that child support must be current in order to apply for a driver’s license. All child support must be paid in full before tax refunds are dispersed. Wages will be garnished until all child support is caught up. High school diploma won’t be released until all child support is caught up. If the teenage boy is unemployed or does not have a car: garnish the parents’ wages, or their income tax refund.

Family Prevention and Planning Through Educational Incentives

Another realistic approach to decreasing teen pregnancy rates is to offer free education at both the community college and university level if, upon graduation from high school, the potential student does not have any biological children. This means linking the social workers in the school system up with Department of Human Serves to be able to do a background check to determine if the potential student has filed for any type of welfare assistance.

While that is a slippery slope with HIPAA laws, ask the parents and child to sign a release of medical record to the sign this release. There will always be people who complain that this is a violation of civil rights. That is fine, and the release should be voluntary. They are not eligible to apply for the free college education program. Parents and students who have nothing to hide should be willing and able to sign the release.

For those readers who may be simply aghast as these solutions: I did not develop these solutions all by myself, alone in my office. These solutions have come from students in my classroom who have been on government assistance, who have been on welfare and told me they know exactly “how to work the system.”

These solutions are not inhumane. They are not radical. They are indeed, as I have been told, old school.

The purpose of this article is to suggest realistic, viable solutions to teenage pregnancy and high school truancy. These solutions are not perfect, but they are a simple, starting place.

Dr. Marian Swindell is a professor of social work at the Meridian campus of Mississippi State University

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About Dr. Marian L. Swindell 3 Articles
Child advocate and tenured associate professor of social work.


  1. I found this article as well as the one on “Compassionate Competence” for a class research project, and can’t believe they written by the same person. In a comment, you say, “I am not proposing punishment,” but your recommendations look like punishment to me- you want some of the most vulnerable to not get government programs and equal opportunity to education because they did something stupid when they were adolescent or young adult. Change “pregnant when a teenager” to “convicted of grand larceny when a teenager” (Google showed it), then you might see just how punishment your ideas are. I’m not saying this to embarrass you- I did really stupid things too when I was younger- but to remind what “compassion” and “ethics” really mean. A good plan for “them,” it should be a good plan for “us,” too. Free education and health care are great idea, but it’s a really bad idea to limit them young people with a spotless record and who probably already have a lot of support and a great chance of making it in life without help.

    • Obviously you have poor reading comprehension skills. Read the article again and this time pay attention and use active reading skills. The ideas presented in the article, were not mine, as I explained. The ideas came from my students, all young adults and at that time all female, many of whom got pregnant as teens. Please don’t attack young adults for their ideas when they are trying to help younger teens understand about life choices and consequences.

  2. Thank you for reading my article and posting a comment. I am not proposing punishment. I am proposing education which focuses on responsibility of actions and an avenue where the family, church, and community step up to the plate and financially and emotionally help out the child. Punishment after the fact has been shown to be ineffective. I wrote the article trying to put down on paper some ideas for change…..as social workers we have got to start coming up with some radical changes. We are failing with our programs now.

  3. Thank you for your comments. Some supportive, some non-supportive. I like the responses however. I, of course, am not in support of punishing or stigmatizing children…EVER!!! I don’t want to punish unmarried people. I do however want to educate middle school and high schoolers that the choices they make now have far reaching and expensive consequences. Both articles are about ways to PREVENT pregnancy through education. And yes, accessing public assistance should be a last alternative…the family (both the boy’s and the girl’s should be held financially responsible and then the church and then the community and last but not least, the welfare system. I made this recommendation because what we as social workers are doing, is not working. We must come up with new solutions.

  4. Dear Dr. Swindell, Before one considers rash measures and penalization as motivation, perhaps a few alternatives?

    The most widely available and inexpensive form of contraception, condoms, should have an effective rate of 99%+, but the rate in some studies as low as 75% net effective because of improper use. That translates to 24.x% of the using population that tried to prevent but made some mistake along the way.

    Does everyone understand why condoms fail? that not all lubricants are good for them? that the package has to have air inside and shouldn’t be opened with your teeth? Real hard core facts?

    It is downright scary what women (and men!) do not know about contraception even in our overpowering internet information age. Honestly, most of what is done in sex education classes is a poor showing at best. Maybe regular teachers are not the appropriate voice of such lessons? Are these kids afterwards really capable of dressing a cuke? both boys and girls? Are they taught acceptable dialogue? do they practice it on each other as in role-playing? We need activities like this to make it truly socially acceptable.

    Are we teaching girls it is indeed very lady-like to carry condoms with them – even various sizes? Are boys being pounded that this behavior by girls is very acceptable, even admirable?

    The same goes for adults. We have taboos loose in our society – lots of them and they play big at intimate moments.

    Are we demanding that a liquor license means automatically condom machines in all bathrooms? Are we willing to accept some steamy late night ads with concrete suggestions and reminders?

    Until we go the mile as a society, and make contraception not only socially acceptable, but an individual and social responsibility, it remains unfair to even consider some of the measures you have mentioned here. In fact, would it not behoove a young father to be educated so he can better support his family? or the mom so she can effectively join the workforce as well?

    Half the women today having abortions have been there at least once before. Are the clinics truly focused on educating and arming their patients for the next time?

    Your frustration is clear and your intentions surely well meant. But would you consider that there are perhaps other steps that may prove more fruitful?

    We have a long way to go with awareness, education, and emphasis on contraception – and eliminating all the taboos.
    Contraception: It’s okay to talk about it! Please do!

    • Thank you for your comments. And yes….I agree with the ideas you are writing about. I do agree that we need to education about condom successes and failures. I completely agree that contraception should be an individual responsibility and that we need better ways to educate our students about this. I want alternatives. I want dialog. I want young children to know that having sex has repercussions” AIDS, herpes, babies. We have got to start somewhere. I want our children better educated so they can make informed decisions in every aspect of their life. Thank you for reading my article and giving me feedback.

  5. Maybe that is the intent though. To force any poor minor of color to give up any children they have to the state. Is that it? Or to increase Mississippi’s already high maternal and infant mortality rate? Also you do realize that denial of health care would constitute medical neglect, or is this article satire?

    • 1) There is no mention of forcing a poor minor of color to give up any children to the state. Hispanics, Native Americans, and Caucasian teenagers get pregnant as well.
      2) Mississippi’s DHS foster care system is already overrun with unwanted children, so why would I write an article supporting overrunning and overwhelming system. We do not have enough ethical, moral foster care parents to take care of the children in foster care now.
      3) And yes. I do realize that denial of health care constitutes medical neglect. This article made no mention of that.
      4) I am proposing education and responsibility.

  6. Stigma and punishment are your answers? No. Simply no. As social workers we need to support our clients even if they make choices we don’t agree with. Your statement that , “Having premarital sex speaks to a person’s character, not whether or not they can buy condoms or get on birth control,” gives the impression that you just want to punish unmarried people who have sex. Also if you don’t want them to access any public assistance if they do get pregnant who does that hurt? Not only the parents, but the child who is born. Also this seems to think that the only option for a pregnant person is parenting- if they are going to have an abortion or “choose”/are coerced into adoption would they still lose these “privileges” you write of- like health care, and education.

    • Thank you for reading my blog and posting a comment. I have thought a lot about stigma and punishment. As a college professor, I detest punishing students for cheating and plagiarizing on tests and papers. Many claim complete ignorance, saying “I didn’t know that was what plagiarism was” “I didn’t think that was plagiarism…this is the first time I have ever written a paper”. I incorrectly assumed that by the time a person got to college, they new that cheating was wrong. They new that plagiarism was wrong. They new there were consequences to their actions. I was wrong. So I took a step back and taught my first three classes every semester on “What Cheating Is and Academic Consequences” and “What Plagiarism Is and Academic Consequences”. I made them sign a form that they had 1) attended the class 2) understood the content and the consequences academically. If they did not understand the content, then I would go over it again, show them websites to visit to learn more about cheating and plagiarism. BOOM!!!! Cheating and plagiarism (EDUCATION for PREVENTION) decreased significantly. It is basically non existent in my classes now. I think educating our young children about sex, pregnancy, AIDS, HIV, herpes, chlamydia, self esteem, breastfeeding (for girls, self-respect for boys and girls is the key. If people will read the article closely I am advocating for education and then REWARDING good behavior….getting a free education, keeping your drivers license. Also, I wrote nothing in my article about abortion as that is a completely different blog altogether. If they have access to free and readily available contraception AFTER they have been educated about the “privileges” and they understood that education, then yes, I would propose they lose their privileges. Just like in my classes. I educate about cheating (an action completely controlled by the individual) and if they understand about cheating, and they cheat then yes, the privilege of a good grade is taken away. Many will argue that this analogy is ridiculous and that is ok. Many will argue that teenagers are young and don’t know what they are doing and shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. I think teenagers do not have the critical thinking skills or coping skills to work through the long and short term effects of having sex. They don’t think they will get HIV or AIDS or get pregnant or have a miscarriage. Of course they don’t think about it. They are teenagers. It is up to the PARENTS and sadly now the educators to teach them to think about these things. Health care is not a privilege…that is a right. Having the tax payers pay for health care is a privilege. I would much rather have taxes taken out of my paycheck for pregnancy prevention and education than to pay for foster care. Better to build schools for children than prisons for grown men.

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