The Problem of Unwed Mothers
FOR a married couple, the birth of a wanted baby represents a happy time in their lives. How joyful and proud they are to have the offspring they desire!
But for increasing numbers of persons, particularly women, the birth of a baby is a deep tragedy. Typical of such women is the following, whose true-to-life story is not unusual anymore:
“My boyfriend and I went to school together and my grandmother, who raised me, liked him very much. She allowed him to visit me, and we managed to be alone quite a bit. I was about 20 years of age when we became intimate.
“At first I was afraid and reluctant, but my boyfriend urged me, assuring me that he wouldn’t let anything happen. And nothing did for a time. But then one day I realized that I was pregnant, and fear and misery became my constant companions after that.
“When I was sure I was pregnant I had to tell my grandmother. Her reaction to my news has never left me. She gave me a piercing look and cried out as if her heart would break. From then on I became increasingly aware of how much I had hurt her and how my actions would now affect her life as well as my own.
“Since we lived in a small town, what I had done soon became open gossip. My grandmother continued to care for me but she was cold and hardly a kind word passed between us after that. Every time I looked into her eyes I saw that hurt look.
“As soon as my pregnancy became obvious to others, I was to know what real misery and shame were. Whenever I went outside I saw fingers pointing at me and there was snickering behind my back. After a while I only went out when it was absolutely necessary.
“By this time all my friends, with no exceptions, stopped speaking to me. To add to that, my boyfriend and I stopped seeing each other after I got pregnant, since we were in no financial position to marry and we were also both confused as to how we now felt about each other. So I became increasingly alone.
“But it was when I started my labor pains to give birth that the full import of what I had done suddenly enveloped me. I had no one to rely on for sympathy, no one to hold my hand and comfort me. I had no husband to assure me of his love at this crucial time. I had nothing but my pain for company. I could not remember a more miserable time in my life.
“How I regretted what I had done! But there was no going back. It was something I had to live with now for the rest of my life. I also realized now that although it takes two to have a baby, it is the woman who does most of the suffering. I became wiser, but it was too late.”
Those expressions mirror the anxiety and shame that many women feel who find themselves pregnant outside of marriage.
How Big a Problem?
Illegitimacy is one of the most serious and pressing social problems of our time. In New York state alone illegitimate births have quadrupled since 1946. In one recent year 20 percent of all births were illegitimate, and 34 percent of those were by teen-agers. Many other areas throughout the United States follow close behind.
Some government experts predict that by 1980 the number of unwanted babies born in the United States will reach 400,000 every year. And that, of course, does not include the babies killed by abortions!
In England, the number of births to girls under the age of sixteen has increased some 200 percent in the last decade. In Sweden about one fifth of all babies are now born outside of marriage. Various other countries report similar increases.
The Reasons Why
One of the reasons given for the rise in illegitimate births is the moral breakdown in society. This has ushered in a ‘sexual revolution,’ especially for women. While many men have long felt that they could “sow their wild oats” before marriage, women were expected to preserve their virginity until then.
But now all that is changed! More and more women, particularly younger ones, are engaging in fornication. This has resulted in a phenomenal, epidemic [some call it “pandemic,” that is, universal] rise in venereal disease. In country after country it is admittedly “out of control.” A by-product of this is the huge crop of unwanted babies.
Another reason for such a tidal wave of disease and unwanted pregnancies is the early age at which many parents allow their children to date. In previous generations, dating was permitted only when the young people were ready for the responsibilities of marriage. And in many lands that dating was closely supervised and chaperoned.
Today, however, many youngsters are allowed to date unchaperoned in their early teen years. When alone they often engage in activities that stimulate an urge for mating. Trouble is the end result. Typical here are the comments of one girl:
“I didn’t mean to go all the way, honest I didn’t. I thought I could control myself, but once we got to necking and petting, I didn’t want to stop. Then before I knew it, we had . . . Now I’m pregnant. Oh, what am I to do?”
Similarly, another teen-age girl tells this story about becoming pregnant:
“It all started innocently enough. At first we saw each other when others were present. But soon we found reasons and opportunities to be alone. At times I would cut classes to be with him and at other times I lied to my mother about where I was going.
“It was not long before we started to toy with immorality. So about four months after we began dating, we became intimate. I felt bad afterward and decided this must stop. But I cared for him and he for me and we were soon back together again.
“In a week or two I expect to give birth. If my story can help even one confused and frightened girl like myself, it will be worth the telling. I know that there are many young people who feel that although they are dating and are not ready for marriage, they will not do anything wrong. They think they can kiss and pet and not become intimate. I thought so too. But now I know it doesn’t work that way. One thing leads to another.”
Thus, being alone and unchaperoned, and not fully appreciating how their bodies work, ever so many young people get into trouble. In fact, sociologists say that many young people are totally ignorant of the inevitable result that toying with sexual immorality leads to. Some are not even aware that a girl can become pregnant the first time she engages in sexual intercourse.
What Solutions Are Offered?
What can be done to prevent the agony that comes from being an unwed mother? How can pregnancy be avoided? What is the answer?
Some young people declare that if they had been given more sex education, unwanted pregnancy would not have happened. But now sex education is part of the curriculum in the schools of many lands. Yet, this has not stemmed the tide of venereal disease or unwanted pregnancies.
Contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancy are also a part of sex education. Various devices are used to try to accomplish this purpose. There are contraceptive devices designed for use by the man; and women have diaphragms, intrauterine devices and birth-control pills. Male and female sterilization is also used, but not generally on younger people.
Yet, despite all this supposed education and birth-control information, unmarried women continue to get pregnant in ever greater numbers. Many of these are now getting abortions. Various countries have liberalized their abortion laws and growing numbers of women now regard it as the only way to dispose of an unwanted baby. It is estimated that abortions now terminate at least one million pregnancies each year in the United States alone.
Abortions represent innocent lives lost, not through accident, but through deliberate and premeditated action. And that, incidentally, is the definition of “murder.” But is this solving the problem of illegitimacy? Does it eliminate the root cause? Hardly. Just the opposite occurs. The easier access women now have to abortion allows them more freedom to engage in sexual intercourse with the idea that ‘if anything happens, there’s always abortion.’ It is even noted at abortion clinics that there are ‘repeat patients’ who have more than one abortion.
The Roman Catholic Church has long opposed abortions. The Archdiocese of New York has even set up a special program known as Birthright to provide a “positive alternative” to abortions. It supplies counseling to pregnant women to help them to keep their babies or give them up for adoption. But this is nothing new. It is doing what Catholic and other charities have done for decades.
Secondly, it treats abortion as the great evil, and not fornication and adultery which create the problem. There would be no illegitimate births nor any need for most abortions if sexual intercourse was not practiced outside of marriage. So if the problem is to be solved, the root cause must be attacked, and abortion is not the cause. It is merely one unsatisfactory method of treating the problem.
Dealing with Unwed Mothers
Despite sex education, sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortions, large numbers of babies are born to unwed mothers. In most countries, there are local or federal programs designed to assist them.
The unwed mother who has her family to rely on is fortunate. But others do not. For these there may be maternity homes and other agencies set up to help during and after pregnancy. In such locally or federally funded places the mother is assisted physically, and counseled in order to help her over this tragic episode in her life. Often she is also helped to learn a skill that can be used as a future means of support for herself and her child. But if she has no means of support, then “welfare” money is made available, which money ultimately comes out of the taxpayer’s pocket.
Despite such help, if proper care is not given to rehabilitate the mother, pregnancy may reoccur. As one mother stated: “When you’re pregnant, you really believe you won’t ever let a man touch you again. But once your baby is born, you go back to being a woman again, with the same fears, frustrations and need to be loved. And before you know it, you may be right back where you started.”
Another way that governments are now dealing with unwed mothers and their offspring is to try to remove the stigma attached to illegitimacy. Previously, the unwed mother had an almost impossible task of continuing her life as before. She became the target of abuse, her baby’s birth certificate was labeled “illegitimate” and both were condemned and ostracized. But recent legislation and social reforms in many lands have greatly improved her status and that of her child.
In Austria a new law removes any discrimination against illegitimacy. These children now have more rights than ever before. In Norway the unwed mother now receives care without cost under a health insurance program. In Denmark they are taken care of in Mother’s Aid centers. In many European countries illegitimate children have the same legal and inheritance rights as legitimate children. And in the U.S.S.R. there is no legal or social distinction made between the two. In Sweden a child born out of wedlock is assigned a child welfare guardian who protects the child’s rights, in addition to those of the mother. And an unmarried mother in Sweden has the right to call herself “Mrs.”
However, none of the above really gets at the root of the problem. And venereal disease, illegitimacy and anguish continue to mount as more and more single women become pregnant.
But there is a solution. And it is not just a theoretical one. It is one that works. What solution is that?
It involves living according to God’s standards of morality as set out in His Word, the Holy Bible. Those standards show that the complete solution to the problem of unwed mothers is not to commit fornication. Sexual intercourse should be reserved for the only place where it is proper in God’s sight—within the bounds of marriage.
“That is impossible to live by,” many will say. But that is not so. Large numbers of people, hundreds of thousands in fact, are already abiding by this standard. In over 200 lands, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are living proof that persons can bring their lives into harmony with God’s laws.
The truths from the Bible can and do transform the lives of even those persons who were promiscuous in the past. Note the following experience of a woman:
“My childhood was basically unhappy and devoid of any real love and affection. My parents both worked and my three brothers and I were left entirely to ourselves after school and all day during the summer months. Needless to say, we often got into trouble.
“I was eight years old when I started kissing and petting with boys and by the time I was ten, I was engaging in sexual play. I was about 18 years old when I first had sexual intercourse. It seems strange now as I look back on it, but I often cried after intimacies because I somehow knew that I was doing wrong.
“I had my first baby at 19 and my second less than two years later, by two different men. I kept my babies with me as I felt it was my fault they were alive and it was up to me to keep and rear them myself. I didn’t want my children to have the same life I had, yet I saw no way of breaking the pattern.
“I often prayed to God for help. One day it came. I saw a middle-aged man on the street with a Bible in his hand. Although I didn’t know he was one of Jehovah’s witnesses, I approached him and asked him some questions. They concerned marriage and what the Bible had to say about it, since I was now engaged. He spent over an hour answering my questions, and arrangements were made for him to bring a female Witness to my house for a Bible study.
“The knowledge from the Bible let me know that there was something better than the life I knew. And I also wanted the happiness that the Witness radiated while talking about the Bible. I called my fiancé and informed him that I was going to live by the Bible’s standards. Thereafter, each time I was tempted to be intimate with my fiancé, the Bible’s teachings came to my mind and I refused. Needless to say, he was not happy with my newfound morality and soon terminated our relationship, much to my relief! I was now free and ready to pursue my new course in life!
“I poured myself into learning more about Jehovah God’s standards and it made a great change in me. I began associating with those who were living by these high moral standards, and what a joy they were to be around! Here were people leading clean, moral lives, people whose daily existence was not centered around sex. And surprisingly to me, even single men and women were happy and content.
“They all showed genuine interest in me and my children. They contributed food and clothing when necessary as well as financial aid. When I began to tell others the things I had learned by engaging in the ministry with Jehovah’s witnesses, they baby-sat. They did all they could to help me develop real love for Jehovah.
“It was also wonderful to find that Jehovah had forgiven me for my past and was providing many aids to help me stay clean: His Word the Bible which outlined the course to follow; his clean organization; and the association of Christian brothers who were oriented to encourage one another on the road to life.
“In time I met a man who was to become my husband. He was a newly baptized witness of Jehovah. How happy I was! Now I had found a man who was not only striving to develop godly love, but who also cared for me and my children. We were married two years after I was baptized.
“Now after four years of serving Jehovah and living by his righteous standards, and over two years of marriage, I can honestly say that my life really began when I met that Witness on the street.
“Living by godly principles has also improved my relationship with the children. Although I loved them before, I used to beat them severely, taking out my guilt and shame on them. Now we do things together as a family. We eat, play, attend meetings and study the Bible together. How grateful I am to Jehovah that I found a way of life that produces love, peace and security within the marital arrangements, where love is the foundation for children to grow on and mature.
“How true the words of Jesus when he said: ‘The truth will set you free.’”
This experience highlights the force and power of God’s Word in people’s lives. And what a joy it will be in the future when the entire “earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.”—Isa. 11:9.
In God’s new order, after he brings this present wicked system to its end shortly, there will be no venereal disease, neither illegitimate births, nor unwanted pregnancies nor abortions to erase them. There will be no need for various services to care for unwed mothers and their babies. Why, no more girls will become unwed mothers, nor will any more unwanted babies be born. Then illegitimacy and its horrible consequences will forever be a thing of the past!