The Politics of Pregnancy


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Adolescent Sexuality and Public Policy

Edited by Annette Lawson and Deborah L. Rhode

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Teenage pregnancy is widely viewed as a significant social problem. This path-breaking book argues that much of the problem stems from simplistic or inaccurate perceptions of what the problem is. Is it pregnancy in the teen years? Adolescent childbirth? Childbirth to teenagers outside marriage? Adolescent sexual activity? Commentators in this volume believe that the problem is not so much teenagers who want sex too soon, but a society that offers too little too late—too little birth-control information, too few job opportunities, and too little reason for many low-income teenagers to stay in school and delay childbearing. Although most individuals believe that childbirth outside of marriage for women under eighteen is a cause of poverty, these essays suggest that poverty is also a partial cause of early childbirth.

The authors of this collection are prominent American and British researchers from varied backgrounds including law, psychology, sociology, medicine, philosophy, and history. In spite of other differences, they generally agree that more teenagers are unlikely to "just say no" to early sex or childbirth unless they have more opportunities to say yes to something else. To alter the social conditions that simultaneously promote and punish early childbearing, the authors argue that we need a better range of health, welfare, educational, and vocational strategies. As these researchers conclude, we cannot alter adolescents' choices without also redirecting adult priorities.

Annette Lawson is a British sociologist working as an independent feminist scholar. Deborah L. Rhode is a professor of law and former director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University. She is also the editor of Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference.

"The collection provides an excellent sustained treatment of the adolescent pregnancy crisis while also challenging the assumption that it is a crisis. Bringing together truly talented scholars with diverse perspectives, the book provides a model of interdisciplinary dialogue."—Martha Minow, Harvard Law School

"Avoiding simplistic or ideologically driven analysis, the authors of the thoughtful essays in Lawson and Rhode's volume offer deep and rich insights into the processes that result in teenage pregnancy and its consequences. This up-to-date and comprehensive collection includes the most sophisticated reasoning from the most able researchers in the field. Must reading for scholars and policymakers alike."—Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Graduate Center, The City University of New York <!--don't edit w/o checking 212/642-2401 or 212-666-0342-->

"[A] well-intentioned book, written by [a] mature, laudable woman. . . . The [story] told in [this] book tells us something frightening about the pockets of deprivation, racism, separation from civil society that apply as much to young mothers as to tire-slashing boys on acid."—Melissa Benn, New Statesman & Society

"A fine attempt to enter the fray surrounding one of the most highly charged, politically tough "policy" debates. Editors Annette Lawson and Deborah Rhode have written an extremely useful introduction and compiled fifteen essays by a wide range of scholarly contributors in the interest of exploring the many dimensions of relationships between adolescent sexuality and public policy."—Ann Withorn, Women's Review of Books

"An important book on adolescent sexuality and pregnancy. . . . Informative and insightful."—Lisa Avalos-Bock, Contemporary Sociology

ISBN: 9780300065480
Publication Date: September 27, 1995
360 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4