Teen Birth Rate Spikes After 14 Years of Decline The birth rate for American teenagers has increased for the first time in over a decade; the National Center for Health Statistics recently reported a 3 percent increase in pregnancy among girls 15 to 19 years old. One teenage mother shares her story.
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Teen Birth Rate Spikes After 14 Years of Decline

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Teen Birth Rate Spikes After 14 Years of Decline

Teen Birth Rate Spikes After 14 Years of Decline

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

After 14 years of steady decline, the birthrate for American teenagers jumped last year. Earlier this month the National Center for Health Statistics reported a 3 percent increase among girls 15 to 19 years old. And while the statistics are new, the dilemma that faces pregnant teens and their parents remains as daunting as ever. The choices these girls make will change their lives forever. Their relationship with the father, their plans for the prom, for high school graduation, a dream of college - everything is suddenly changed and decisions must be made amid a whirlwind of emotion.

Today, we'll hear from a teenage mom and a nurse who helps them get through a young mother's club. Later in the hour, the delicate balance between the United States, Turkey and the Kurds of Iraq and your letters.

But first, teenage pregnancy. If you face the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood as a teenager, if you're going through those decisions now, give us a call, 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

We begin with Carly Broder. She gave birth to a boy this past spring just before she graduated high school. She joins us from member station KQED in San Francisco.

And Carly, congratulations. Welcome to the program.

Ms. CARLY BRODER (Teen Mom): Thank you, thank you.

CONAN: And tell us, how did you find out you were pregnant?

Ms. BRODER: I actually just had a gut feeling. And then I actually took a home pregnancy test.

CONAN: And what did you - what - to describe what you felt like when you found the plus sign?

Ms. BRODER: It was mixed emotions, you know. I was scared. I was happy. I was overwhelmed. I didn't really know what to think at that time.

CONAN: Did you get pregnant by mistake or by intention?

Ms. BRODER: I mean, I wouldn't - it wasn't planned. It was definitely in the back of my mind when I was having unsafe - unprotected sex but, I mean, it was definitely not planned.

CONAN: And who did you tell first?

Ms. BRODER: Well, I was with my boyfriend at the time and right after we found out I told my little sister.

CONAN: And has he been part of this process all the way through, your boyfriend?

Ms. BRODER: Yeah, he has. We're not together anymore, but he's been a help - a big help.

CONAN: Not together anymore. That doesn't make things any easier, does it?

Ms. BRODER: No. It definitely doesn't.

CONAN: And when did you get to tell your parents?

Ms. BRODER: My mom - actually, she knew. I didn't have to tell her. She asked me, actually. And that kind of broke the ice. It was a little bit easier because I didn't have to come out of nowhere and just tell her. And…

CONAN: That's a hard one. That's a hard conversation to begin. Yeah.

Ms. BRODER: Yeah. So, I mean, my dad was a lot worse. He was really mad, actually, because he didn't want that for me, you know? But my mom just kind of said, you know, I'm going to back you up whatever you want to do, I'll help you. My dad was against the idea.

CONAN: Against the idea of having the baby?

Ms. BRODER: Yeah.

CONAN: And where did you turn for help to find out about what your options were? What kind of decisions you might have to make?

Ms. BRODER: Actually my mom, I - she really helped me. I - you know, she laid out all of my options in front of me and I just kind of - I told her what I really wanted to do. And that's basically it.

CONAN: Did you stay on in school?

Ms. BRODER: Yeah. I got pregnant actually summer after junior year. And then I went to this great program, actually, here in the city for pregnant teens. It's a high school, and I actually got my high school diploma and everything.

CONAN: And did you have plans to go to college before you got pregnant and did those plans change?

Ms. BRODER: Actually, in a way, my life got so much more straightened out after I got pregnant because I was kind of like wild, you know, and I was actually attending a continuation school. So, I mean, when I got pregnant I straightened my life out. I started to getting straight A's. And, I mean, my plan before I got pregnant wasn't like to go straight to college or anything like that, you know, but as soon as I did I realized I need to support someone, I need to do something, you know? So I started taking steps towards a better future.

CONAN: Did you consider the option, as your father suggested, that maybe an abortion was in your best interest.

Ms. BRODER: Yeah, I mean, of course that thought crossed my mind so many times. And I was torn, you know, I was torn between, like, my heart and my mind. I knew it was best for me, but I just - I don't know why, but I couldn't go through with it.

CONAN: And since you've had the baby - well, babies are an awful lot of trouble sometimes. They're wonderful, too, but an awful lot of troubles sometimes.

Ms. BRODER: Yeah. They're a handful. They're definitely - as a new mom you are - I don't think really anyone, teen or not a teen, knows really what they're getting themselves into. It's a really - it's something that can't be explained or described. You really just have to - you have experience it for yourself.

CONAN: And does your mom help you take care of the boy?

Ms. BRODER: Yeah. I have so much family support. I'm really lucky, you know, because I wasn't one of those teen girls with no support behind them. I have a lot of family support.

CONAN: And are you working now?

Ms. BRODER: Yeah, I have a part-time job.

CONAN: And juggling the - what's the boy's name? I'm sorry.

Ms. BRODER: He's name is Isaiah(ph).

CONAN: Isaiah. Well, keeping - taking care of Isaiah even with your mom's help and a part-time job and - this all can't be easy?

Ms. BRODER: No. It's definitely not easy. It's not easy at all. But…

CONAN: A lot of other kids your age - well, there's still going to a lot of parties and having a lot of fun.

Ms. BRODER: Mm-hmm. A lot of my friends go out all the time. And I mean my mom watches Isaiah - I mean, she'll watch him sometimes if I want to go out but I can't go out with them. I mean it's hard, you know, but to me it's well worth it, you know?

CONAN: So no regrets?

Ms. BRODER: No regrets for me. None.

CONAN: Okay.

Let's turn now to Kathy Biddle, a registered nurse who runs a Young Mother's Club in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the first person young girls at the clinic go to when they discover they're pregnant. Kathy joins us from member station and also with us from KQED in San Francisco.

And it's good to have you on the program as well.

Ms. KATHY BIDDLE (Registered Nurse; Young Mother's Club): Thank you. Good afternoon.

CONAN: And I wonder how typical is Carly's case?

Ms. BIDDLE: Well, in our clinic, it's somewhat typical. Most of the girls do know already by the time they come to the clinic that they're pregnant. Nowadays, it's pretty easy, you go to the grocery store, you pick up a home pregnancy test. And many of them do them at home with their boyfriend or their parents, find out they're pregnant and then seek care through us. So in that instance, like as in Carly's case, she knew ahead before she came.

Some of the teens, however, the younger ones, oftentimes they'll miss a period, be afraid or worried and will come in and we will do the test and then we'll go through the process with them on telling their parents or helping them go through their options.

CONAN: And that must be - you've done it, I'm sure, a lot, but those are difficult conversations.

Ms. BIDDLE: They're very difficult. I've been doing this for about 20 years in this particular clinic. And every case is a little bit different, some are very sad. Some of the teenagers are kicked out of their homes. Some, you know, have a lot of support and others have almost none.

CONAN: And is it typical that the boys, the father's I should say, play an important part in this process?

Ms. BIDDLE: We try to make sure that the father of the babies maintain a relationship with the girl during their pregnancy. We encourage them to attend classes together, and oftentimes they do come to the pregnancy visits with the girls. However, what we usually find is probably about 40 to 50 percent of the fathers of the babies have dropped out by the time that the girl has given birth. And many times, even probably more towards 75 percent, they don't stay in the relationship afterwards.

CONAN: Those are - that's not an encouraging number. And as you look at the statistics in terms of young mothers, teenage moms who have children, this is often - the statistics say poverty is their future.

Ms. BIDDLE: Many of the girls will drop out of the school. That's one of the big pushes that we do in our teen pregnancy clinic is that we have the goal that every girl will either try to get back into school through a School Age Mothers Program, specifically like the one that Carly did, where they're pregnant and they are enrolled in special classes in high school so that they can maintain that. That's a major goal for us, is for them to finish high school. If they don't, they are headed for poverty.

From what we know - I know in 2004, it's been estimated - you're talking about $9.1 billion in public funding for just the cost of teenage childbearing, public assistance, health care, child welfare. It's a huge problem. And many times, the girls never finish high school. But in our clinic, we've got about 95 percent rate where most of the girls do.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on this conversation. We're talking about teen pregnancy today, 800-989-8255. E-mail talk@npr.org.

Jackie(ph) is on the line with us calling from Salt Lake City in Utah.

JACKIE (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi, Jackie.

JACKIE: How are you doing?

CONAN: I'm well. Thank you.

JACKIE: So are you going to ask me questions or (unintelligible)?

CONAN: Well, I thought you had a story?

JACKIE: Oh, I could tell you my story and I want to say that the point is that I'm now a 57-year-old woman who, you know, had a college education and, you know, worked her way through life. I was pregnant when I was 17, I was in high school. This is, you know, back in '67, '68. And basically, my story is at that time, we didn't have a lot of options, you know, for having kids and not having kids. And my parents were certainly not the type of parents that you could tell this to. And I kind of dealt with nine months of pregnancy on my own and how my parents found out is when I had to go into labor.

So, and I know even though that was a long time ago, a lot of girls have that same kind of situation at home. And through fear of what's going to happen, they hide their whole life. And I guess my message in all of these is there are resources to go to - go to anybody, go to a friend, go to somebody's parents or something. And life does not end just because you're pregnant in high school. I mean, I didn't get to go to my - you know, my graduation night party and stuff like that and I ended up in continuation school, but I did rapidly move on to college and move on with life.

CONAN: What happened to your child?

JACKIE: Of course, the way I raised my daughter was much, much differently that, you know, I was doing it for her. I guess…

CONAN: Yeah.

JACKIE: …there's kind of a message to parents in there as well.

CONAN: I suspect there is. And how is she doing?

JACKIE: My daughter is doing wonderful. She's 30 years old. She always came to me - maybe sometimes after the fact, but she would always come to me with whatever was going on with her. I mean, there's nothing so bad that your daughter can do that she's not still your daughter.

CONAN: And that's wise advice. Thanks very much for the call, Jackie.

JACKIE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.


CONAN: We're going to continue our conversation with Carly Broder, who's a teenage mom herself, and with Kathy Biddle, a nurse who runs the Young Mother's Club in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

We'd also like to hear from you. If you went through, like Jackie, this situation earlier in your life, if you're going through it now, 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

CONAN: I'm Neal Conan in Washington. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

It's still much too soon to call it a trend, but the news that the birthrate among teens rose last year took most people by surprise. And the National Center for Health Research, which reported the increase, calls it a significant increase. We'll talk more about the numbers and what's driving them in a moment.

If you face the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood as a teenager, if you're going through those decisions now, our number is 800-989-8255. You can also send us your story on e-mail, talk@npr.org.

Our guests are Carly Broder, herself a teenage mom, and Kathy Biddle, a nurse who runs the Young Mother's Club in the San Francisco Bay Area.

And let's get another caller on the line. This is Kris(ph). Kris calling us from Statesboro, Georgia.

KRIS (Caller): Hi, Neal. I love your forum. I listen every day.

CONAN: Well, thank you for that.

KRIS: I'd like to talk a little bit about - I had a child between my junior and senior year in high school. I moved out early in my junior year in high school. My mom had started drinking. She was only 15 when I was born and I think that that was sort of the root of what happened with me. I was on the pill, you know, trying not to get pregnant, but it happened anyway. My boyfriend then who became my husband was much older - he was 20 turned 21. I think that I felt a lot of pressure when I got pregnant. I considered an abortion. And my husband - my boyfriend then who became my husband - was adamant that we would have this child together, that we would, you know, feel that we would be all right, and we were together for 16 years. We were married for 16 years after that.

And, you know, the point is these girls should have options. These girls should know that they don't have to do what other people around them say that they should do. They should make their own choices. They should, you know, educate themselves about what options are available. I'm, of course, very happy that I have a beautiful child. We also had another son together. They're 22 and 16 now. And I wouldn't give up any part of what happened to me. But as I look back, I felt a lot of pressure from my husband and from his family to marry -which I didn't want to do - and have the child and, you know, it's just - it was difficult.

CONAN: I'm glad it all worked out for you. But your advice about the number of people who will then tell you what to do it's a stark contrast to Jackie, we just spoke with who didn't talk to anybody and had nobody to tell her what to do.

KRIS: That's very true. And as - I've taught high school for nine years, I have been in a situation where girls would come and say, look, you're the only adult who knows, my immediate response is you have got to tell your parents. You have got to let the people who love you know what's going on. You got to get the proper care. You got to make the best choices for yourself and the child. You know, adoption is a wonderful thing. We need, you know, more American children to be adopted. We need, you know - girls need to know that they have the option of abortion and feel less stigma about that. You know, it's very difficult for a teenager to have a child. It, you know, does - it's physically very difficult, emotionally very difficult. And they should know that they have options and that they've got to make these decisions based on what's best for them and for the child.

CONAN: Kris, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

KRIS: Absolutely.

CONAN: Carly, I wanted to ask you, did you feel as if you had enough advice, too much advice, was there a lot of pressure on you?

Ms. BRODER: There was a lot of pressure, you know, from everyone. From people telling you, no, do this, do this, this isn't right for you. And, I mean, there's just so much pressure - society, the way society looks down on pregnant teens, everything, you know. And - I mean, just like she said, you know, you really just have to look inside yourself, you know, and really think what do you want, you know, whether it's an abortion or a baby. What do - you have to make the decision, not your boyfriend, not your parents. You know, I mean, you can definitely take in their advice and like consider everything, but you have to make the decision.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line and this is Charles(ph). Charles with us from Modesto, California.

CHARLES (Caller): Hi, Neal. I called in with a question for Carly. And first of all, Carly, I wanted you to know that I have a lot of respect for you for making the decision to keep your baby at the age that you did. But…

Ms. BRODER: Thanks. Thank you.

CHARLES: My question for you is I was wondering as to how much sexual education did you receive in high school. And if there was - if you received more or different schooling, if you think that you had made the same decisions or if you would've made a different one?

CONAN: Decisions about the birth or about unprotected sex, is that what you're talking about, Charles?

CHARLES: Not the birth itself, but the unprotected sex.

CONAN: Okay. Carly?

Ms. BRODER: I definitely think that that could be pushed - that could have been pushed way more in my education, in a lot more in education today. Girls are - a lot of people they have the program where you take home a fake baby and stuff, and I mean you have to take care for it like a real one. But I mean we're missing the whole fact on just having unprotected sex in the first place. I mean, that could definitely be pushed more - wearing condoms, birth control, preventing STDs, anything, could definitely be pushed more in education today I think. And that may have - may or may not have changed my decision. I mean, I definitely got some education but not as much as we should.

CONAN: Interesting question, Charles. Thanks very much.

CHARLES: Thank you.

CONAN: Joining us now is Bill Albert, deputy director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. With us here in studio 3A. Nice of you to join us today.

Mr. BILL ALBERT (Deputy Director, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy): Nice to be with you.

CONAN: And I understand the numbers are up 3 percent in teen births, this is for 2006, the last year for, obviously, which there are records available. The 3 percent increase your organization describes as both a surprise and significant.

Mr. ALBERT: Yes, both are absolutely true. I think it was a really kind of a wake-up call to both this organization and the nation. The fact of the matter is, as you've mentioned earlier, we've gone through 14 years of very good news. The teen birthrate had been down by a third, we'd see declines on all 50 states and among all racial and ethnic groups. So the news was nothing but good on every single front. And all of sudden, we've come to a standstill here and have ticked up 3 percent, which is quite alarming I think.

CONAN: Do we know why?

Mr. ALBERT: Well, the short and truthful answer is no, we don't really know why. And the reason is is that we have teen birth data for 2006 but we do not yet have comparable data on sexual activity, contraceptive use, pregnancy or abortion. So we don't have the real explanation yet. I think there are some plausible explanations that are out there. I would offer three.

First, I think that complacency perhaps has become the enemy of progress and that's not surprising I think. Again, when you have 14 years of nothing but uninterrupted good news and resources are tight as they always seemed to be, it can divert people's attention. I think the second thing that's noteworthy is that the teen birthrate went up among all age groups not just teens but women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. So perhaps there's something going on that's not specifically teen-centric.

And the third thing that perhaps is plausible - and we've heard this from many people in communities who work on the frontlines of these issues - and that is that the early wins on this issue may have been won. That going forward we're going to have - we have to be more creative, more resourceful and more intense in our efforts.

CONAN: When you say the other data isn't in, so we don't know about the decisions that these girls and their parents and their boyfriends made.

Mr. ALBERT: That's right. Well, it's interesting, in a way, we have the very last piece of data and not the first four that make up this continuum. We do know that pregnancy - sexual activity had decreased, contraceptive use had increased, pregnancy had gone down. All the indicators were going in the right direction. Something has turned around - we're just not sure what it is yet.

CONAN: We do see some politicization of these numbers, I guess, maybe not surprisingly. Some organizations saying, look, abstinence-only programs, which the Bush administration has been fostering, they clearly don't work. Supporters of those programs say, hey, our target audience is much younger girls. The rate didn't go up for them. Our stuff is working. It's other factors in society and the amount of sexuality within our - are there justification for either of those positions?

Mr. ALBERT: I think the answer is probably going to be more complex than simply blaming it on abstinence-only education partly because the declines in teen births in this country started in 1991. The federal investment in the abstinence-only education began in earnest in 1997. We have seen declines in teen births from '91 through 2005. So it seems to me if you blame abstinence-only education for the uptick, you would have to credit it for the decreases between '97 and '05, and I don't think either explanation fits the bill.

CONAN: And as you look ahead, you say programs have to be more creative, maybe have to be accelerated - what are you talking about?

Mr. ALBERT: Well, you know, perhaps, there is a glass half full sort of lining here for us. I think that what helps here and what we will be doing as a national organization and the small bully pulpit that we have is really encourage those on the ground to take these numbers to the press, to policy makers, to those in their community - foundations, et cetera - and say, hey, this is - this job is not over. It's far from over. We need our - we need to continue our work.

CONAN: Kathy Biddle, let me bring you back into the conversation. She, of course, is the nurse who runs the Young Mother's Club in the San Francisco Bay Area. Do you see this on the ground; you're sort of on the frontlines?

Ms. BIDDLE: Well, when you were talking about rates of sexual activity in high schoolers, yes, we have seen a decrease from about 52 percent of the high school kids reporting sexual activity in 1995 to down to 47 percent in 2005. And rather than the abstinence-based programs taking a lot of the, you know, benefit of this, I think - and actually, it's been more of the programs that talk about prevention for teen pregnancy. They - personally, I have been out on the frontlines as far as speaking in high schools and I'd notice that there is a lot more preventative talks so that teenagers have higher access to contraception, have more now access to plan B, the morning-after pill.

So their options are out there a little bit more. And the decrease in sexual activity as well as the increased use of contraception did help us have that 14-year downward trend. So even with this increase, I think those are long-term benefits that will continue. And I'm not sure that we're going to continue to see the increase. I think you're right in that it's kind of come to a plateau for a while. But I think so much of that is because finally, the programs are out there and parents are once again finally talking to their teenagers about sex and waiting and also birth control. A lot of these girls have their mothers. Actually bringing them in for birth control when they find out they're sexually active. So in that instance…

CONAN: By are you seeing more pregnant teenagers in your clinic?

Ms. BIDDLE: No we are not. We've actually had a decrease. And this last - you know, the 2006 statistics, you're talking about going from 40.5 per 1000 births to 41.9. And the largest increase, 5 percent, is from what we see non-Hispanic black teens, whereas the 3 percent is the non-Hispanic white teens.

Our clinic is a great majority of Caucasian young women. And we do have a fair amount of Hispanic girls. But in my clinic, still, it seems to be a decrease on the pregnancy rate so far. We have not seen the increase.

CONAN: Interesting. But that tends to reflect the national figures very broadly, I guess.

Ms. BIDDLE: Exactly.

Mr. ALBERT: Yeah, I think that's right. That's right. I mean, again, the indicators have all been going in the right direction - pregnancy down, sexual activity down, contraceptive use up. You know, I think that Kathy points out something very important. And that is this battle that the advocacy groups tend to like to have pitting abstinence first as contraception as competing strategies. I think the overwhelming majority of the American public believes these as complimentary strategies. In other words, both have contributed to the declines in teen pregnancy and we need sort of more of both.

CONAN: Bill Albert, thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. ALBERT: You bet.

CONAN: Bill Albert, deputy director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. He joined us here in the Studio 3A.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get Emily(ph) on the line. Emily's with us from Portland, Oregon.

EMILY (Caller): Hi, Neal. I can't believe I'm talking to you. I'm such a fan.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Oh, thanks very much.

EMILY: Absolutely.

CONAN: Go ahead.

EMILY: Well, I was just calling because - I can't believe I'm actually calling a radio show - I had a baby when I was 15, which was now 11 years ago. And, you know, I'm a middle-class white girl from the Midwest. Sort of like that movie, do you know - the story of my life.


EMILY: But anyway, I got pregnant as a 15-year-old, and, you know, listening to these other young women talking about their - those situations, I actually opted for adoption. And I've chosen open adoption so that I could still be in contact with my daughter because it was extremely difficult, obviously, decision to make. But, you know, as a 15-year-old, I just couldn't picture raising a child in my parent's house, I guess, you know, probably indefinitely because college and those kinds of things would've been really difficult. And so, I opted to put her up for adoption and I still see her twice annually and I really think it was just like the best decision I ever made.

CONAN: And what does she think about it? How old is she now?

EMILY: She is almost 11. She'll be 11 in January. And she is very sort of philosophical about the whole thing. I've - it's impressive. She actually is in the family of four adopted children and one biological child. And she is the only adopted child that has an open adoption. And she speaks very frankly with me about it, with her parents about it. And she makes no, you know, there's no qualms about, you know, her adoptive mother is her mother mother, but I'm her birth mother and she's been totally, I don't know, with it, since she was about 4 years old. That's pretty remarkable.

CONAN: And does her father stay in touch?

EMILY: No. I actually had broken up with her father by the time I found out I was pregnant. And needless to say, it was something of a messy teen relationship and he was not supportive of me at all. Actually, his mother was not supportive and actually we went to court for about two years until he turned 18 and was able to sign over his paternal rights because his mother wouldn't allow him to. And so her adoptive parents were actually her foster parents for two years until they were able to legally adopt her. And I actually have no idea what he's been doing since. And I feel bad for her because of that. I wish that I could tell her, you know, what's going on with her father, but I haven't the foggiest clue.

CONAN: Don't wait to call - wait so long to call again, okay?

EMILY: Thank you so much, Neal. I love your show.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Emily.

EMILY: (Unintelligible).

CONAN: Carly, I just wanted to ask you. You were 17 at the time, you know, going into your senior year in high school. If you'd been 15, can you imagine making that decision at that age?

Ms. BRODER: Actually - I actually did get pregnant when I was 15.

CONAN: Really?

Ms. BRODER: Yeah, I did. And I actually opted for an abortion because it was just too much. I wasn't ready, the dad wasn't ready - just no one was ready. And my mom was actually really, really against the idea then. So, I mean, I kind of promised myself after that that I wasn't going to do that again because that was really hard, that abortion. So that kind of also was a really big part of my decision this time around.

CONAN: We're going to talk more with Carly Broder and with Kathy Biddle. And we want to hear more from you as well. Did you go through this situation earlier in your life? Are you going through it now? 800-989-8255. E-mail us, talk@npr.org.

We'll also talk about Turkey's military moves into northern Iraq and why the president of Iraqi Kurdistan today snubbed the secretary of state.

I'm Neal Conan, stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Neal Conan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

In a few minutes we're going to be talking about Turkey, the Kurds, Iraq and the United States.

But right now, we're talking about teenage moms and teenage pregnancy. Our gests are Carly Broder, who's a teenage mom, with us from KQED, our member station in San Francisco. Also in that studio, Kathy Biddle, the nurse who runs the Young Mother's Club in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Kris(ph), and Kris with us from Kansas City, Missouri.

KRIS (Caller): Hi.


KRIS: Thank you for having me.

CONAN: You're welcome.

KRIS: My story - and I know that we want to keep this within time constraints - I was not a promiscuous child. I was 17 when I graduated high school and I enlisted in the military and this was back in 1975. And I was raped on post. After I left basic training and went to my next training base, I was raped on post and got pregnant. And the screener for your calls, she said, you know, was it a decision you had to make whether or not you were going to have an abortion or you're going to give this baby up for adoption or you're going to have it, you know. And, you know, it was not a decision for me. I did not believe in abortion. It was not how I was raised. And I don't think that we should punish the children for the sins of the parent. And so it just wasn't a decision for me. And…

CONAN: And you've decided to keep the baby?

KRIS: Well, I was going to keep the baby. When I came off active duty - I had joined the Reserves. When I came off active duty, I didn't want my mother to know what had happened to me. And so I packed myself off to college and I didn't come back until I was in my third trimester. I didn't come home for breaks or anything. I just packed myself off to school and I, you know, finally, I'm down to the wire and big as a barn and I had to, you know, I finally had to, you know, cough up the information and my parents were wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

CONAN: That's great.

KRIS: And then, this baby, I was two weeks overdue and she was stillborn. So I believe every life has a purpose and I don't know what her purpose was. I do know that I lived in the dorm at school and I did not know one young woman that I went to college with who would not have had an abortion. So maybe her life touched one of them at some point because, you know, I couldn't be the only young woman out of a major college who was going to end up pregnant outside of marriage.

CONAN: A lot of girls, as you know, say they might have an abortion and when the fact happens, they may change their minds.

KRIS: Well - and I think that for me, it's that no matter what the decision is that you make and everybody has to make their own decision, I happened to be pro-life, but I can't cram that on somebody else's throat.

CONAN: Sure.

KRIS: And so I say to young women, you need to make the decision that's right for you. But know this, that no matter what decision you make - if you have an abortion, if you keep this baby, if you give it for adoption - it is all going to alter you forever. They are all life-altering events. And for me, I chose to carry this baby from a rape and deal with those issues versus deal with the internal issues that - of having taken a life. And so…

CONAN: So sorry for the rape in the first instance and for how it turned out, I mean, that must have been devastating.

KRIS: Oh, it was devastating.

CONAN: Yeah.

KRIS: But, you know what, I wouldn't choose that to happen to me, but I turned into somebody pretty remarkable. And I don't think I would alter anything that made me who I am.

CONAN: Kris, thank you for that. I appreciate it.

KRIS: All righty. Thank you.

CONAN: Before we leave, Carly Broder, I want to ask you, I know you speak to kids in high school now, you're a graduate. What do you tell them?

Ms. BRODER: Well, I actually - I can't - I'm not pro-teen pregnancy. I'm not against it. I'm just kind of a product of it. And not everything - I just tell them, you know, not everything works out my way. You know, not every - not every time you'll have a supportive family and help and a high school that will take you in and anything. You know, and - I mean, you really just have to know what you're getting yourself into. Look at your surroundings. See if it's something that you really want to do. It's a lifelong commitment, you know. So, I mean, just follow your heart, you know, that's what all I can say. Just really - just go with your gut instincts, you know.

CONAN: Carly, the best of luck to you and to young Isaiah.

Ms. BRODER: Thank you.

CONAN: Carly Broder with us from KQED in San Francisco. Kathy Biddle, thank you for your time today.

Ms. BIDDLE: You're welcome.

CONAN: Kathy Biddle of the Young Mother's Club in the San Francisco Bay Area.

And coming up, we'll be talking about the crisis in northern Iraq.

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