Last Friday, The Sun reported on Alfie Patten, a British "baby-faced"
13-year-old father. The baby’s mother is only 15 years old. Tabloid stories like this are loud, invasive,
and irritating, yet this story is an excellent case study on why serious family
planning and sexuality education needs to be utilized.
Patten’s justification for why the couple did not seek an abortion was that
he "thought it would be good to have a baby." It’s clear in the videos included
in the original story that he has no idea about the costs or complexities of
raising a child. When Patten was asked how he’ll afford the child, he said, "I
didn’t think about how we would afford it. I don’t really get pocket money. My
dad sometimes gives me £10."
It’s hard to be mad at Patten specifically. He’s young and naive. It’s
much easier to be mad at the larger systems that allowed this to happen, and at his parents. I’d rather not devolve this into a vitriolic Bill O’Reilly-style
"Where were the parents?" diatribe – that’s exactly the kind of reaction the
tabloids beg of us (and truth be told, the father is a total jackass)
- but this sort of reproductive irresponsibility seems easy to prevent with
sex-ed, and it’s worth wondering about what Patten’s parents taught him.
The rates for pregnancies of kids under 14-years-old in America has
fallen quite a bit in the past thirty years,
though the numbers remain high. In 1973 there were about
28,000 pregnancies in this age group, and by 2002 the number had dropped to
about 17,000. Teen pregnancy is obviously still a major problem. I’ve said it before:
we need to reconsider our national sex-ed policies.