A Birth Control Message – Courtesy of the Boss

With due respect and credit for inspiration to one of my favorite bloggers, Jenni at www.newsforthetimes.wordpress.com, who publishes a Tune Tuesday weekly post on the personal or societal impact of a favorite song or singer, I want to use one of Bruce Springsteen’s songs to embellish a point I have been making the past few months. I think I have cited the Boss on a couple of occasions, but I want to lift some lyrics from one of my favorite songs of his “The River” which is pertinent to my point of readily available birth control and education. This song is about a man remembering nostalgically how he used to go “down to the river” with his girlfriend and how life was much simpler before she got pregnant with his child.

The lyrics I want to quote are as follows:

“Then, I got Mary pregnant and man, that was all she wrote.

And, for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat.

We went down to the courthouse and the judge put it all to rest.

No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle.

No flowers, no wedding dress.”

In my post “If Churches Really Want to Make a Difference” a few weeks ago, I suggest that the church should be more involved with legitimate sex education with their young teenagers, including the use of contraception. Kids don’t know enough about this subject and it is the thing they talk most about. The peer pressure is intense. It is more than OK to discuss abstinence, but if you remember your teenage years, that is not going to happen very often. I won’t repeat all of the points made therein, but informed teens should be aware of the need for protected sex as well as ways to say no, if they feel pressured (if a girl) and ways to treat a girl who is saying no (if a boy).

The LA Times reported just this week that data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed the birthrate among American teens between  15 and 19, while decreased since 1991 is still at 34.3 births per 1,000 women. That rate is 5 times the teen birthrate in France and 2 1/2 times the teen birthrate in Canada. It is also higher than the rates in China and Russia. THe CDC reports that 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended meaning after unprotected sex or under protected sex. We have a higher incidence of sexual assault among teens as well.

Using Springsteen’s song, Mary did not need to end up pregnant. With birth control access and better sex education, Mary and the boy could have been more adroit at handling the issue before the heat of the moment caused a fate accompli. The rest of the song talks about how Mary and the boy go through the motions of life after being forced to do the right thing and marry. Their dreams were stifled. Yet, if she could say no, or have protected intercourse, then their lives need not be over.

My main point is so many issues could be better addressed through a better protected and more informed group of teenagers. There is high correlation to poverty and family size, especially if the family starts early. There is a high percentage of single parents in teen mothers, so in more cases than not, Mary’s beau would have left the building. With fewer unwanted pregnancies, then there would be fewer abortions. And, our teens would have a chance to grow up more before they start having babies. Finally, per Dr, Cora Breuner of Seattle Children’s Hospital, babies born to teens tend to fare more poorly than babies delivered to older age group parents.

I also believe the education part is just as vital. If the young girls and boys hear from respected sources about these very important life issues, they will be better positioned to handle them. More and more kids are not seeing churches in the same light as their parents. Some churches are actually driving people away with their evangelicalism. I firmly believe if you provide more venues to talk in an intelligent way with the teens about their problems, they will attend and listen. They don’t need to be preached to on the subject, but abstinence is an acceptable discussion point. I think it is important to note that you do not have to have sex if you are being pressured into doing so.

Per Dr. Breuner as reported by the LA Times, “We really can do better. By providing more education and improving access to contraception and more education about family planning, we can do better.” Note, Breuner helped write the new policy statement as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence.

Springsteen, as usual, vividly depicts a real world problem. I think his song could be played during the sex education classes. These kids loved each other (or at least thought they did), gave into passion and after unprotected sex, their dreams were over. This is reality. Why should we not finds ways to educate and help before the “point of reckoning” rather than to let the kids figure it out after it is too late. In today’s time, it can be even worse when a STD enters the equation.

Thanks Bruce for your terrific song. “The River” can permit the dream to continue with protected sex. And, for parents and church leaders who want to throw the bible at me, let me quote a truism that I said in my previous post. Teenagers are going to have sex. If you do not believe me, there is an evangelical university within a three-hour drive of where I live. These young church raised kids “go crazy” when they get away from mom and dad. I actually cleaned that up a little from the quote from someone who attended there. So, we should help them on their journey by giving them the tools and education they need.


17 thoughts on “A Birth Control Message – Courtesy of the Boss

  1. Education and access to contraception is important. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists just recently recommended that birth control should be available over the counter. Apparently in some other countries birth control can be purchased without a prescription.

    • Many thanks. THe LA Times released an article I saw this morning citing the CDC data. I am going to add a paragraph to reflect that which supports your claim. Thanks for reading and writing. BTG

  2. BT,
    I’m in the midst of writing about my wise grandpa. One of his favorite quotes is, “God gave you a brain. Use it.” It seems like really good advice, and also seems to gel with what you are saying here. Rules Rules Rules. I understand we need some. Others don’t come off as rules, but challenges…especially to young people. There’s a line to walk there.
    Great post.
    Love, Lis

  3. I’m not sure it is possible to resurrect a culture this far gone BTG. In Richmond, Va last year 80% of kids were born to single mothers. That isn’t a function of unavailable birth control or ignorance of how babies are made. It’s either considered no longer shameful to give birth without being married, or, the entire concept of shame has been removed from the dictionary making the whole argument moot. I suspect the later.

    Culture supplies us with rules and regulations. They come with consequences and punishments. Multiculturalism means never having to stay within the boundaries of a single culture. That means all rules are “optional”. Welcome to bedlam.

      • Shame was killed off. It was murdered when the “High Self-Esteem” movement took over control of what we used to call “Our Culture”. Happiness became a right (artificial, or, otherwise) and everyone was entitled to a trophy. It appears that no one in authority ever considered that child abuse, laziness and gluttony (in ALL its permutations) were the meat & potatoes of what some people defined as happiness.

        I seem to remember my teachers going out of their way to make me feel like something the cat dragged in. Occasionally… my work was “acceptable”. I can remember those times felt like Christmas morning… and it made me want more. For that I am more grateful than I can express because it is what made all the difference.

      • Interesting comments and based on a lot of anecdotal evidence. Yet, let’s walk in the shoes of others for a minute. I see young ladies who feel threatened by young beaus that tell them they better put out or they will lose their beau. They have been made to be a sex object by every piece of marketing there is. They do not know the chances of pregnancy are not inconseqential without protection. I see young ladies who feel this is how they can feel important or get out of school.They do not know the consequences of their choices. I see young men who glorify in the fathering of kids and leaving them behind who don’t know what being a man is as there are few role models.

        You are right, we have gone to hell in a handbasket, but we need adults to step up and be role models. There are not enough Big Brothers and Big Sisters to go around. There are not enough organizations like 100 Black Men whose aim is to be male role models. We need all of the above, plus churches, civic leaders and schools to make a difference. Malcolm Gladwell has a great point in how subway crime was reduced in New York. They started painting over the graffitti on the trains and buses. When the graffitti showed up again, they painted over it again and again. The point was made to criminals if they care this much about graffitti, then I better not do crimes here. This is a long answer to your very good lament – we still have to try. By God we have to try as the alternative is not something pretty for them or us. Many thanks, BTG

      • This IS culture BTG! There simply isn’t anything else.

        100 Black Men… 1000 Black Men… it doesn’t matter. “Churches” are not going to change “marketing”, or the culture that foolishly relies upon it for guidance in all things important.

        Blame capitalism… blame multiculturalism… blame the high self-esteem movement and the “right” to be happy… It doesn’t matter. The days of getting people to be ashamed of what we used to call bad behavior are OVER! That is precisely why “role models” are meaningless in a culture without consequences.

        Free abortions on demand and two years free tuition at a Junior College of your choice if you choose voluntary sterilization.

        You sound like a sweet and very caring man BTG… but, I think you are mistaken when you write… “They do not know the consequences of their choices.”

      • Thanks for your comments and I fully understand your points and anguish, but on the role models comment I will need to disagree. We need more role models to make a difference. Absent people trying to steer the ships better, we all will suffer. A major issue is the absence of people who can show what being a man or woman is all about, not this BS we have now. There are many young men (too many), who believe aggressive behavior and owning a weapon make you a man. That is what we have to stop. They same holds true for young ladies who are convinced slutty behavior makes them a woman. It does not. I feel your pain, truly. Thanks for sharing your point of view. It is always welcome. BTG

  4. Mornin BTG. Let me start by saying I agree with you completely. All the things and changes you ask for are necessary and, if we are to make any positive changes, MUST happen, or, take place. We have no disagreement on that.

    My point is that none of them will. Like it or not that IS our culture.

    You say… “There are many young men (too many), who believe aggressive behavior and owning a weapon make you a man.”… That’s culturally sanctioned behavior BTG. Our entire military and military industrial complex would grind to a halt without it. Young men are not encouraged to join the Marines because it will make a “real florist” out of them you know. The NRA doesn’t have the power it does because guns DON’T mean power. That IS our culture.

    You say… “The same holds true for young ladies who are convinced slutty behavior makes them a woman.”… BTG… when was the last time you heard a Patty Page record played on the radio… or, MTV? I suggest you go down to the Mall and look at the clothing being sold to little girls. “Slutty” female performers sell out arenas and make the big entertainment dollars. The Andrews Sisters are no more. That IS our culture.

    Who do you sound like BTG?

    Can you remember what our parents generation said about Elvis and all that Devil’s Jungle Music called “Rock-N-Roll”? How stupid did all their talk sound to us at the time? Did it make even the slightest bit of difference?

    This is what a dysfunctional culture looks like before it fails and collapses in upon itself. Until it does there is no power on earth besides a totalitarian, or, theocratic dictatorship that can change it. Since nobody wants that, because it would be WORSE, we die a slow death. Young women aren’t going to stop giving birth to children they can’t afford until they see their babies starving to death and feel the wrath and scorn of married mothers.. Young men are not going to stop impregnating them until they are rounded up and either forced to marry and support them… or castrated by the adult male population.

    History teaches us that the smart money in Rome bought cheap land in Gaul and got the hell out of Dodge before all the raping and pillaging began. History also teaches us that it’s all a circle, no matter how much we pretend it isn’t. You roll with it somehow, or, get rolled over by it.

    I applaud your efforts, but, good intentions can’t turn back clocks. We are told that the best we can hope for is to live in interesting times…. So, we have that in spades!

    All the best
    Mrs. N.

    • There is another, better, way of understanding this. In America money is our God. The more money you can accumulate the more God Power you have. You can build things, acquire things and pass money along to the next generation. You can put your name, or, likeness on buildings. It is symbolic of your “immortality”.

      The only immortality poor people can have is in their children. Since EVERYBODY seeks some kind of immortality poor people will ALWAYS have more children than they probably should. It’s the only shot they have.

      If you want to solve this problem you work to end economic inequality. Birth control has nothing to do with it. Look at the difference in birth rates in socialist countries, compared to capitalist countries, and this will become clear. Poor, powerless people ALWAYS reproduce like rabbits. It’s their only shot at immortality.

      • Mrs. N, many thanks for your well thought out responses. I think you paint very clearly how hard a task we face to remedy many of the related problems. I agree there are cultural biases toward violence and sex in the US. I also think the market segmentation to make money off impressionable teens and adolesecents is a damn shame. Yet, there are too many absolutes in your comments and I do think there are examples we need to follow more. This is the anniversary of the Brady Bill being signed in 1993 and it was let to expire in 2003. We have too many children gun deaths here. There is a high correlation in family size to poverty. So, fewer children will help. I agree 100% with the need to get people out of poverty. We need to improve skills, improve wages and make people responsible. There are pockets of good things going on, we just need them done more often in more places. The model the homeless family agency I work with follows is an empowerment model. We will help you climb the ladder, but you have to climb it. Many thanks for writing in. I enjoy hearing your points of view. Best regards, BTG

      • Thanks for being so kind BTG. I agree, I am a person of absolutes when it comes to problem solving. I fully understand that there are exceptions to every rule and case and that they must be taken into consideration. What I refuse to do is live by them! We have a name for people who live their lives based upon the exception to rules. We usually attempt to keep them medicated, too.

        You write: ..”There is a high correlation in family size to poverty.”..

        Of course there is. Children are the only shot at immortality poor people have. (any anthropologist will tell you this) That is why the only way to solve this problem is with better income equality.

        You are a great sport.
        All the Best
        Mrs. N.

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