The Pro-Life Attitude toward Unplanned Pregnancy

“My parents will kill me if I get pregnant.”

This offhand comment is uttered by young women of every socioeconomic class, race, and religion. A girl is usually taught by the time she reaches puberty that an unplanned baby is one of the worst things she can bring upon herself. That kind of pressure from parents, peers, and boyfriends leads many young women who might otherwise be open to life to instead choose abortion. These “role models” might even describe themselves as pro-life, forgetting that the struggle for life begins in one’s own home — whether it involves the burdensome great-grandmother we’d rather just put in the nursing home, or the child conceived with a troublesome ex-boyfriend.

Sadly, many don’t welcome life when it is sprung unexpectedly on them. While they might not promote abortion outright, they nevertheless communicate the message that a life could actually be unwanted. If we are pro-life, we ought to celebrate every life as a gift — even if that life comes from (and into) a less than ideal situation.

When a parent tells a child “you better not get pregnant,” he is saying that there’s something wrong with pregnancy, when he should be saying that there is something wrong with premarital sex. Parents should instill in their children an appreciation for the sacredness of sex and a desire to protect their purity at all costs — and many parents already do this. But why is it that most kids are so much more afraid of having a baby than losing their virtue? We use the risk of pregnancy as the reason to not have premarital sex, when in reality, a pregnancy is perhaps the only good that could come out of it. Unfortunately, even in the most “pro-life” households, we fear the burden of unplanned babies; we’re afraid of the stigma, the responsibility, the fact that a child might disrupt our life plans. But true happiness comes through self-giving. A culture that denies this — even through its unconscious attitudes — is a culture that will destroy the foundation of love upon which it is built.

If we want to end abortion, we’ll need to do more than simply overturn the laws that allow it; we have to change the cultural mindset that has made it an option. And to do that, we must begin at home. If we change our attitude toward unplanned pregnancy, that will transform our actions and language as well. Children pick up on their parents’ opinions. Imagine moving from “you better not get pregnant” to “sex before marriage will hurt you; sex in marriage will make you happy; and a baby is a gift from God, no matter what.”

A girl may be exaggerating when she says her parents will “kill her” if she gets pregnant — but not by much. For many young women, pregnancy would mean severe punishment: the “loss of her future,” often abandonment by family and friends, and a perpetual scarlet letter. We ought to mourn loss of purity and the tragic wound of that loss. That is the worst consequence of illicit sexual activity. Pregnancy, on the other hand, is always a gift. So why do we treat it — even when unplanned — as something less?


Elizabeth Hanna is a third year philosophy student at the University of Georgia.

  • Gian

    That would require us to jettison the word “planned” or “unplanned” as well in reference to a pregnancy

  • B. Parlos

    Your argument seems to discourage parents from channeling their anger toward the pregnancy and not the loss of virtue when in fact the daughter more than likely lost her virtue long before she even conceived—it’s just that the baby is a prime indicator of a loss of virtue so the anger is directed toward the child conceived in a less than ideal situation rather than the daughter who “lost the virtue”—because in most cases you are unaware of the sex unless there is a resulting consequence. I am sure that the same anger would be projected onto the daughter or son if they contracted an STD—but a baby is a more outward sign. Suffice it to say—it is my belief that when a parent says to their daughter “don’t get pregnant or have an unplanned pregnancy” they are not so much denying the sacredness of creating a life—more so acknowledging the societal stigma that surrounds a baby conceived through premarital sex. The danger comes when they want to terminate the life. I agree that there needs to be a focus on keeping their virtue, because great deals of girls who conceive out of wed lock don’t even acknowledge their chastity as a virtue.

  • Robyn

    Ah, you’ve hit the nail on the head, my girl.

    I myself have personal experience in this matter–when I was a young, wayward, less-than-pious, seventeen-year-old, I found myself expecting. I also reacted with something less than joy. . . at the time, pregnancy really did seem like the worst thing that could possibly happen.

    All the same, I couldn’t quite bring myself to get an abortion. Now I thank heaven I didn’t. For truly, though my beloved son was ‘unplanned’, he became the dearest blessing in my life; as well as being the catalyst that brought me back to the faith.

    In essence, it’s the pure and honest truth that life is always a blessing. I’ve accomplished a lot in my life (and plenty of time for more), and my son has never been a hindrance to accomplishment. Rather, he’s caused me to want to be something more than the irresponsible girl I used to be. And that’s something to be thankful for.

  • jay

    Excellent Article.

  • Victress Jenkins

    Although I’ve never been in the positon of becoming pregrant, I can’t condone abortion. There are adoption options these days that weren’t existing years ago. The grand-daughter of a friend went through an open adoption and was quite pleased with the way everything was handled.
    Maybe parents should be keeping an open line of communication with their children regarding lifes serious matters – dating, getting to know about “values”,etc.

  • Tracy Dowling

    Don’t hold pregnancy over the adolescent’s head. Hold responsibility. They are responsible for their own bodies, and they are responsible for their sexuality. It is a gift — but it is a gift when used irresponsibly carries great risk. An unplanned pregnancy is only one of those risks — there is the emotional damage you can cause yourself or another person. There is the risk of disease when you use this gift promiscuously. There is the risk of a loss of respect for yourself and the other person when you engage in sex strictly for the sensual satisfaction and the sense of being “used.” .

  • Diana M. Ramon

    I love your article.
    Our children should learn that intimacy should be shared
    with a very special person and the only way to fully enjoy it is in marriage.
    Woman have the right to choose to have sex or not. They do not have the right to choose to interrupt a pregnancy. Once you make the decision to have sex before marriage you have to take full responsability for the outcome.

  • Mary

    I have heard many discussions with women who had abortions about what would have led them to have the baby. Never one about what would have led them to not get pregnant in the first place. Yet there is where the issue really lies. And — it’s following the pro-abortion line, where the woman is presented as already pregnant, as if she caught it like a cold.

    • Larry_B

      Very succinctly well said, Mary!
      Good article Elizabeth! Regarding your question, “Pregnancy, on the other hand, is always a gift. So why do we treat it — even when unplanned — as something less?”… I would suggest, because it has been relegated to a “economic” issue as opposed to either a moral issue (unwed) or a “life” issue (wedded or unwedded.) Treating this issue as one of parental counsel to daughters is a half-way approach. Sons, too, need the same sound, moral, advice with an understanding and acceptance that should they spread their “cold” (thank you Mary) then it is not only their responsibility to accept the economic consequence but also to care for the “gift” as Elizabeth so well describes the child who is not only the mother’s but both the mother’s and the father’s.

  • I have felt the same way for a very long time, even through friends of mine becoming pregnant out of wed-lock, I remained worked to remain joyful for the child.
    I married “young” (22) and became pregnant shortly after my wedding. Before we shared the news I felt a sense of guilt as if I had ruined my life by becoming pregnant while I was “young”, even though I was in a very stable, happy, Christian marriage and participating in an active Catholic faith community. As I began to show more and more I felt eyes piercing me at church as though they thought that I was too young and questioned whether or not my husband and I were even married. I think there is a huge stigma on pregnancy and life in general and that we (society as a whole) are really too selfish to value a life other than our own.

  • Tina

    Thank you for this article! It is so true! I remember being a teenager and asking my mother what would happen if I got pregnant…her response was “You’d be grounded 9 months and then for the rest of your life” I still hear the sheer terror and stress in her voice in that statement. My mother is a very loving person and today I completely recognize her generosity. I know now that had I gotten pregnant out of wedlock and while I was still living on my parents dime that she would have loved that child with every ounce of her being. But I did not always see it that way – in fact I swore that had I gotten pregnant way back when I would have aborted it out of fear of my parents reactions. In fact (and most sad) when I found out my husband and I were expecting (a SLIGHLTY unexpected blessing from heaven!) my first reaction was sheer TERROR! Even today I still struggle with the emotional impact words like friends saying “My parents will kill me if I get pregnant” had on my heart.