Tag Archives: sex education and teen pregnancy and adoption

Robot Baby

Talia, the robot baby
photo by author

Robot babies as a teen pregnancy deterrent

There’s a robot baby on the couch.

“Meet your great-granddaughter,” my daughter-in-law said, gesturing lackadaisically toward the plastic doll in the infant seat on the couch. My 15-year–old granddaughter stood nearby, grinning sheepishly. She held her arm aloft, displaying the bracelet that must be swiped across a chip in the doll’s chest to prove that its needs have been met. “Talia” cries when she’s hungry, needs to be changed, or wants comforting. My granddaughter’s mothering skills will be rated. Her high school puts its trust in this robot, touted as a deterrent to teen pregnancy.

I had my doubts from the get-go.

Doesn’t everyone already know that babies are a lot of work?

I loved my dolls when I was a girl. I even wrapped our cat’s kittens in baby blankets, and pretended my brothers were my own babies. The Besty-Wetsy doll that was my favorite still lies in a cabinet, her soft arms and legs atrophied from age. Everyone in a Catholic community prior to birth control knew that babies were work. When I got pregnant as a 16-year-old, it wasn’t because I was ignorant of the care required of a baby. I got pregnant because I was ignorant about sex. I was ignorant about standing up for myself and what I wanted or didn’t want. No one talked about sex, or desire, or birth control. Or a girl having agency in any of those things.

In the 1960s in a town of 3000 Catholics where public schools did not exist, one’s expectations for honest and open discourse about sex were non-existent. I think the bar should be higher now. A lot higher. Birth control is readily available. Tens of thousands of women my age have lost babies to adoption. Mothers these days have sought to raise our children in a more open environment. We now have decades of data and experience to inform us on the subject of teen pregnancy. Four million babies were were adopted during the Baby Scoop. The girls and young women that gave birth to those babies didn’t know what they needed to know.

Sex education is the best teen pregnancy deterrent

As it turns out, my feelings about Talia the robot and the job she’s purportedly performing have been validated by a recent study, published in the medical journal, Lancet. That research has subsequently reported just about everywhere. Newsweek, citing Lancet, reports, “Over 1,000 girls aged between 13 to 15 years old across 57 schools in Western Australia who took part in the scheme were two times more likely to get pregnant by the age of 20 than those who attended standard sex education classes, Australian scientists found.” The kicker: Teen pregnancy rates are even higher in the U.S. than in Australia.

The good news is that teen birth rates are dropping. The rate in the U.S. is at a record low. The Pew Research Center reports that the reason is “Less sex, use of more effective contraception and more information about pregnancy prevention. Furthermore, among never-married teens who have had sex, 79% of girls and 84% of boys used a contraceptive method the first time they had sex.” Holy moly is what I say to that. That never could have happened in my 1970 Catholic life. In my mind, this is the heart of the matter. Education. Contraception. Preparation. Honest talk instead of noise from a robot.

What People Say About Girls

photo credit: www.metroactive.com
What would people say about this girl?

Monday breakfast at the marina

There are many opportunities to hear what people say about girls.

On Mondays, I often take myself out to breakfast with my computer and a couple of New Yorkers. I go to an outdoor cafe in a nearby marina–a low-key kind of place. Locals mostly since the place is not pretty enough to attract many tourists. I order the same thing every time–the vegetarian omelet, no toast, just some extra salsa with the potatoes. I’m boring that way.


It’s quiet there. People reading while they eat. Or just staring out at the water. I read or get caught up on my email. Sometimes I eavesdrop. Sometimes I try to tune people out– like today. The woman in the pink polo shirt was telling a long involved story about a flat tire on a rental car. She went on and on and on, not letting the couple she was telling the story to get a word in. I tuned her out. Lost the thread. And then I heard her say this: “She was a live wire, that girl. You know, the type that will either be pregnant at 16 or will really accomplish something.”

Wait. What?

Excuse me. Do you really believe those two things are mutually exclusive?

How about….


Teen BirthRates Are Low


Birthrates not meeting demand

 Teen birthrates are at historic lows, the Los Angeles Times proclaimed earlier this week. Time Magazine ran a similar article a couple of months ago, reflecting the same trend nationwide. My heart always takes a little leap when I spot headlines like these. I interpret this to mean that there are fewer girls cowering in some secret place, dreading their child’s birth. Fewer girls dreading the moment when they’ll place their child for adoption. But while this is most likely true, the demand for babies for adoption is still high.

Less sex, more b.c.

Teen birthrates reached their peak in 1991. And they have fallen every year since. According to several sources this decline is not due to more abortions, but fewer pregnancies. As to fewer pregnancies, it seems there are two reasons for that. Less sex. And more birth control. That ‘s a winning combination.

The peak of the wave

But it was during the late Baby Scoop era, 1970, that adoptions reached their all-time zenith of 175,000. Non-relative adoptions also hit a high in 1970 when 89,200 babies, including my son, were adopted by “unrelated petitioners.” 1970 was also the year of the highest percentage of adoptions (80%) completed by private agencies. My son and I hit the crest of a triple wave.

Supply exceeds demand

Unfortunately, a reduction in the baby supply (sounds a bit like a supply chain glitch, doesn’t it?) leads to abusive adoption practices. There might be fewer pregnant teens in your neighborhood, but that just means someone else is supplying the babies. In other words the faces and the places have changed, but there are still plenty of birthmothers walking around with empty arms.

photo credit: gail’sangle.net