A BIrth Control Message – courtesy of Bruce Springsteen

The following is an encore performance for a post written nine years ago. This time it was inspired by our musically inclined blogging friend Clive, whose specific post is linked to below. He has a link to the song on his post.

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.

Lines to remember

Those who follow this blog know I love good song lyrics. Here are few, leaving off the ones I tend to quote the most. Please add your favorites at the end, as any list like this will be found lacking.

You’ve been telling me you’re a genius since you were seventeen. In all this time I’ve known you, I still don’t know what you mean.” Steely Dan in “Reelin’ in the Years.”

“I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” Bob Seger in “Against the Wind.”

“Stayed in bed all mornin’ just to pass the time. There’s something wrong here there can be no denyin’. One of us is changin’ or maybe we’ve just stopped tryin’.” Carole King in “It’s too Late.”

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Rush in “Free Will.”

“I wish for just one time, you could stand in side my shoes. Then you would know what a drag it is to see you.” Bob Dylan in “Positively 4th Street” better known as “You’ve got a lotta nerve.”

“You got a fast car. I want a ticket to anywhere. Maybe we make a deal. Maybe together we can get somewhere. Any place is better.” Tracy Chapman in “Fast Car.”

“Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes. And found my cleanest dirty shirt.” Kris Kristofferson in “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

“Just when I think. I’ve taken more than would a fool. I start fallin’ back in love with you. Alicia Keys in “Fallin'”

“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.” Bruce Springsteen in “The River.”

“And every time you speak her name. Does she know how you told me. You’d hold me until you died?” Alanis Morisette in “You Ought to Know.”

“Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothin’ to kill or die for. And no religion, too. Imagine all the people livin’ life in peace.” John Lennon in “Imagine.”

“Operator, well could you help me place this call? See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded. She’s living in L. A. with my best old ex-friend Ray. A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated.” Jim Croce in “Operator.”

“Daddy loved and raised eight kids on a miner’s pay. Mommy scrubbed our clothes on a washboard every day. Why, I’ve seen her fingers bleed. To complain there was no need. She’d smile in Mommy’s understanding way.” Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

“Maybe I’m just too demanding. Maybe I’m just like my father too bold. Maybe you’re just like my mother. She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied). Why do we scream at each other. This is what it sounds like. When doves cry” Prince in “When Doves Cry.”

“Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?. Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?. I’d gladly do it because. I don’t want to fade away. Give me one more day, please. I don’t want to fade away. In your heart I want to stay.” Eric Clapton in “Bell Bottom Blues.”

Love. Loss. Pleading. Contempt. Reality. Reflection. Aspiration. There are lots of emotions wrapped up in these songs. I added the last one is it is not as well known, but to hear Clapton’s guitar and plaintive voice accent this song is worth listening to.