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Teen pregnancy as a moral judgement


Alter, J. (1994, December 12). The name of the game is shame. Newsweek.


The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), a moderate Democratic organization, issued a report arguing that former President Clinton’s teen anti-pregnancy campaign must state it is ‘morally wrong’ for unmarried teens to bear children, ‘must cast single motherhood as a selfish act,’ and ‘must resurrect the notion that it is dishonorable for a man to father a child he does not support.’

In response, the New Reactionaries claim, ‘You’re making them (teen parents) feel guilty. You’re blaming the victim. Who are you to judge someone else’s choices?’

Every threat to the fabric of this country—from poverty to crime to homelessness—is connected to out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy. This scourge was caused by American cultural changes in the last two decades and aided by an irresponsible entertainment industry. The PPI report indicates that when the moral judgment of society is restored, the teen pregnancy statistics can be reduced over time. While this will be worse for the "self-esteem" of the young mothers and fathers, it will be better for younger siblings who might learn from their shame.

Then again, here is something to consider. "It’s easy to feel guilty about making others feel guilty, especially when so many single mothers heroically raise fine kids," the author notes.

Mayor-elect Marion Barry favors offering teenage mothers this choice: If they want welfare benefits, they must have the contraceptive Norplant inserted so they can not have another baby for the next five years. White House aide Bruce Reed wants to try shame first. To the teen parent, it would mean being forced to live with their parents instead of using welfare to get their own apartment. Instead of young mothers getting to leave school after getting pregnant, they would have to go to more school. It would require every birth certificate to contain the Social Security number of the father.

"The challenge is to combine shame and empathy, to shape the parents without rendering the babies ‘illegitimate,’ to draw a line between right and wrong so bright it can be seen forever," says the author.


  1. What is your opinion on this matter?
  2. How might this issue be discussed among teenagers?
  3. How, in your opinion, should this discussion be carried on politically?
  4. Do you think it is generally better for a 15-year-old mother to live with her family?


  1. Our society struggles—and is deeply divided—in finding a common good and a common morality in a post-modern age.
  2. Whatever our reaction to this article, the positive must be emphasized over the negative.

Sheila Walsh cCYS