Fact: Pregnant teens didn’t exist before the 1990s.

Naturally, with such a salacious topic as sex education being the scandal du jour, everyone has a very important and very, very correct opinion on the issue. It is about sex, after all. And to all those people who have taken this oppourtunity to shout about how modern sex ed is causing more teen pregnancies than it prevents, and how back in the day teens weren’t just getting knocked up willy-nilly,  so obviously modern sex ed is responsible for teen pregnancy, I’ve got two words for you: Magdalene Laundries. Or how about Bethany Homes, for that NZ flavour? Yeah, that’s right, we did actually have “fallen women” and “unwed mothers”; but maybe the reason you don’t think we did (aside from the fact you were probably not alive then…) is that we packed the dirty hussies off so respectable people didn’t have to see them or know about them.

So continue on with this revisionist history bullshit (BTW, did you know that we’ve always treated indigenous people in this coutntry really super well, for reals?), and go back to your sad little fantasies of the good old days with black and white TV and pies cooling on windowsills, back before the country was awash with young sluts. Really, please tell me more about how things were in a time back before you were born and where the reality of the situation was hidden from many people. I’m sure you are 100% correct and know all the facts about how things were back then.


The idea that comprehensive sex education is responsible for a rise in teen pregnancies is laughable, and the claim that ‘back in the day’ young girls didn’t get knocked up and now they’re doing it like it’s going out of fashion is just ignorant: statistics show that back in the day, teen girls did get knocked up at a pretty decent rate , and that now the rate of teen pregnancies is much lower than it was back in those glory days when teenage girls apparently didn’t get pregnant .

In the early 1970s, 70 out of every 1,000 teenagers had a child in any year. By the mid-1980s the figure had fallen to 30 per 1,000. Subsequently, it varied between 30 and 35 per 1,000 until 1997. There has been a general downward trend in the last five years, and in 2002 the fertility rate for teenagers was at a historical low of 25.6 per 1,000.

So that’s two strikes against the theory that the way people did it back then meant fewer pregnancies than the way we do things now (comprehensive sex ed). The fact that our teenage pregnancy rate is high when compared to other OECD countries isn’t the point: we aren’t making cross-country comparisons, but comparisons across time. And a comparison across time leaves the ways of the glory days of yore not really looking so shiny and fabulous. People trying to claim that we should revert back to how things were back then (don’t talk about it, and if you do get up the duff we might pack you off to “stay with an aunt” for a few months) because that was much more effective than the way we do things now are dreaming. Well, I guess part of the appeal is the shaming of young women for being sexually active, and in that case the good old days a probably a great model for that kind of attitude, and in that case maybe we should mimic how things used to be. Going back to the old ways isn’t going to make anything better because the new ways aren’t a problem. People may argue that having parent units in schools and not ostracising young mums is just promoting and encouraging girls to get pregnant at young age, but look at how things used to be compared to now: back then we hid and shamed, and the rate of teen pregnancy was higher than now when we are generally more open, and at least grudgingly accept things. That seems like basically the exact opposite to what is being claimed, really. I think the word ‘encouraging’ means that you’re getting people to do it more, and the idea that these days we promote teen pregnancy isn’t borne out in statistics showing a falling rate. But anywho, logic and statistics are for heathens anyway, so whatever.


Oh, and if you want a nice picture of how young girls in New Zealand never ever used to get pregnant back in the days before modern sex ed, maybe check out Piece of My Heart. Nope, no pregnant teenage girls being hidden away and used as slave labour before their babies were snatched away from them or anything like that. Ah, the good old days.


  1. Magpie says:

    Thank you for the interesting article, and the link to the statistics. It’s quite a dramatic change, isn’t it. I wonder if there are any statistics on who the fathers are or were, are they teenagers too, and has that changed over time as well.

    The people who think teenagers becoming pregnant is scandalous reckon it’s a bad thing for each and every young woman. And one of the bad things about it is the scandal – which is caused by people choosing to be scandalised!

    (Sorry if this is all badly expressed)

  2. Amanda says:

    I love (as in hate) how the fathers who talk about their parenting in terms of “shotguns on porches” (joking, of course) and denying their kids access to information were themselves denied sex ed and/or horny little teenagers. The disconnect in their memories and morality is astounding. The generations of men (some I know) who rail against slutty young ladies and the morality of teenage sex YET THEY THEMSELVES WERE INVOLVED IN A TEENAGE OR YOUNG ADULT PREGNANCY blows my mind. It’s a cycle of punishment – a backlash against the shame they were forced through, and now they have adult privilege they’re dishing it back, but on the wrong people. Their anger should be focused on the people that shamed them, not kids who have no ability to fight back.

    • steph says:

      You are exactly right! I also hate how many guys say “oh, I don’t want my daughter having sex until she’s married”, having selectively ‘forgotten’ that they had sex when they were a teenager with their teenage girlfriend. I know it can be difficult to imagine your pure little princess doing the nasty, but if we (society) start dealing with our hangups and fear about sex maybe they could start hoping that their daughter will have sex when she’s ready and understand how to get pleasure out of it.

    • Katherine says:

      They act like sex is degrading to women, as though they somehow forgot how they got kids in the first place.

      • steph says:

        Well, sex for the purpose of procreation is different, yeah? I’m sure if they have, say, two kids, they only ever had sex twice. Or maybe more times- as many as it took to conceive- but no fun was had by anyone during any of those extra acts of coitus.