Quoting Quiverfull: Teen Pregnancy?

by Vaughn Ohlman from True Love Doesn’t Wait - Teen Pregnancy

We had great news from one of our friends the other day: one of their teenagers was pregnant!

(Yeah, read that again. I actually said it. No, I wasn’t kidding. Good news: teen… pregnant.)

It used to be that a pregnant teen was a cause for congratulations. The whole church would gather around her and congratulate her. Oh, wait, I left something out. They would gather around her… and her husband.

We used to get all upset about… unwed mothers. And really, it wasn’t the fact that she was an unwed mother that would cause the real grief, it was how she became an unwed mother. You know, not a virgin birth, but an irresponsible young man who failed to do what we used to call ‘the honorable thing’ and marry the young woman he had impregnated.

But nowadays you can hardly even hear anyone talk about ‘unwed mothers’. The concept of ‘unwed mother’ is so politically unpopular nowadays that the Wikipedia page ‘unwed mother’ redirects to ‘single parent’. The difference, of course, is that ‘unwed mother’ historically means a girl who got pregnant before she married, more or less accidentally; while ‘single parent’ refers to, “a parent not living with a spouse or partner that has most of the day to day responsibilities in raising the child or children” and includes widows, divorced, men or women, and women who have made this a deliberate choice rather than an ‘accident’.

This change in wording signals a change in morality. Before a pregnancy was a wonderful thing at any time, as long as the couple were successfully married (and, quite frankly, could be made wonderful as long as they married quickly after). Nowadays a pregnancy in the ‘teen’ years, however sanctified, is considered bad, or at least ‘unfortunate’.

The world is OK with her and her boyfriend, ummm, ‘doing it’… that is, as long as they both consider themselves ‘ready’. The church, at least the conservative church, is appalled by the whole thing. ‘Young people’ are not ready for such things! Truly Christian young people ‘wait’ (View the recent slogan ‘True Love Waits’: combining the Greco-Roman romance myth and the idea of delayed marriage.)

The modern church, that is. Our grandparents would have scoffed at the idea of mourning ‘teen pregnancies’, and the reformers would have been appalled. And the Scriptures present the opposite. The fruitful wife of one’s ‘youth’ is a frequent theme: the very concept of the blessed young man.

So, as for me and my house, and my church, we are rejoicing with the pregnant, married, teen. Rejoicing that she is married, pregnant, and a teenager.

Addendum: Last we heard, mother and baby were doing well, thank you.

Comments open below

QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • KarenJo12

    That por girl. Ohlman’s ideal woman is a cowardly, dimwitted, weakling, and he will do everything possible to force all women to become his ideal.

  • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

    It’s OK to say that people have sex. Saying “doing it” reminds me of third grade.

  • itsdanilove

    Ohlman has gone from making zero sense to making negative sense.

    And FOR THE LAST TIME, “True Love Waits” is NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT about delayed marriage.

  • Stephanie

    What I gathered from this is that premarital sex is totally cool as long as you get married if you get knocked up. Oh brother.

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

    “(View the recent slogan ‘True Love Waits’: combining the Greco-Roman romance myth and the idea of delayed marriage.)”-Vaughn
    This is the first time I’ve heard Vaughn use the words Greco-Roman. I’d advise him to look deeper into their significance to culture and to how some things in the Bible were worded to be understandable to Greco-Romans in their era. Look up “Greco-Roman household codes”.

  • derickrae

    Ignorant. Teens today are not the same physically as teens 200 years ago. Medically, adolescence is lasting longer. The average teenage brain has not even fully developed the ability to think ahead to the long-term consequences. That is why teenagers need responsible adults guiding them as they prepare for adulthood. They don’t need to be forced into it early.

  • gimpi1

    I’m glad this teen mom and her child are “doing well, thank you,” but that’s not the norm. Many health problems for both mother and child are related to becoming pregnant and giving birth when too young. There’s no reason for a woman to take such chances with her and her child’s health. It’s no more biblical to marry in your teens or refuse to use birth-control than it is to refuse antibiotics or surgery. After all, Amoxicilin and blood-transfusions aren’t mentioned in the Bible.

    Also, frankly, I don’t think we can really take Mr. Ohlman’s word about their health. Considering how repressed most conservative churches are, would they really be discussing postpartum depression, obstetric fistula, vaginal tearing, mastitis, cervical damage, or any of the other problems that are more likely with a too-young mother. And many of the potential problems the child might experience won’t show up for years. I very much doubt that Mr. Ohlman is in a position to know the short-and-long-term consequences to this teen and her child.

  • Kristen Rosser

    The fact that teenage girls used to be given to men (usually older men) as wives and baby-makers, with no choices or chances to do anything else, is a tragedy. To look back on it with rose-colored glasses and desire to treat them that way again, is a cruelty.

  • Nightshade

    Does he even care about health consequences? After all she’s just a woman/baby machine, any problem she may suffer is more like a battle scar, earned in performance of her one and only duty in life.

  • gimpi1

    Sadly, Nightshade, I think he may not. At least not enough to consider weather or not his “marry young, pump out babies, forget about consent, love, happiness or any of that other heathen stuff” philosophy is worth the cost.

  • AlisonCummins

    My mother gave birth to me when she was a married teenager. She stayed married to the same man all her life and she made it work, but she regretted having chosen that road that young. She made sure that I had access to all her own material about reproductive health from the time I could read.

    When I asked Vaughn Ohlman in another thread if he could think of any reason a girl should not marry and start having babies as soon as she was physically capable, his answer was “around sixteen, or as soon as it’s legal.” Which didn’t answer my question. It’s possible he didn’t understand it.

  • AlisonCummins

    Teens today actually mature physically *younger* than they used to. The average age at the first period has dropped by perhaps two to four years over the past two centuries. (Note that in the mid eighteenth-century there was an increase — age at first period might be 16-17 years — due to the poor nutrition during the industrial revolution.)

    I think that when we say that adolescence is lasting longer, we’re referring to the social and psychological aspects. We don’t mean that girls used to start menstruating at eight years old but now not until age 11 or 12.

  • tulips

    Forget battle scars…who says you have to survive the battle anyway? The Bible is just chalk full of dead mothers after all. Then he can get a new teen bride every so often without having to own up to that controversial polygamy stuff. Nope…nope, nope. Amateur home births, baby. You can suffer and die for free…er..I mean for your faith.

  • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

    Considering that he says “ummm, doing it” instead of “having sex,” I think we can pretty safely assume he won’t be discussing the rest.

  • Jewel

    Why does his entire post just make me feel like I need a shower? Gross, just….gross.

  • Saraquill

    “Before a pregnancy was a wonderful thing at any time, as long as the
    couple were successfully married (and, quite frankly, could be made
    wonderful as long as they married quickly after)…*

    I seriously doubt Lina Medina agrees with you.

  • brbr2424

    There is also some good old days mythology. I read that the average age of bride in puritan times was 23.

  • brbr2424

    Getting ahead in Christian leadership seems to be an endless game of who can say the most outrageous thing. There is no such thing as bad publicity.

  • Hannah

    Last week I met a 90-ish lady with a Russian (at least, I think it was Russian) accent in a fast-food joint. We got to talking about kids, and it came out that she was married and had her first at 19. Okay that was normal then. But in speaking with her, even she sounded amazed at how young she had been and how unprepared she was at the time. She ended up encouraging me to take my time before starting that aspect of life, not to rush it. If a woman who followed the norms of her day/her culture can’t believe how not-ready she was, how much LESS ready are teens of today going to be, no matter what their upbringing is? Especially given the way conservative marry-young churches tend to give a glossy sheen to everything: “marry young and have lots of kids and you’ll be happy and fulfilled” and all that jazz. It’s going to be a shocker when these girls find out just how hard it can be.

  • Hannah

    My mother-in-law had her oldest at 17 and, being from a conservative Maltese Catholic family, was married off to the first guy who would take her. End result was, that guy was a jerk who refused to work and she ended up supporting him, and their two kids while the oldest was raised by her grandmother. She eventually divorced him and married father-in-law. Her family still looks down on her for the baby and divorce. She doesn’t regret it, because otherwise she wouldn’t have her oldest three, but it has definitely made her life harder than it needed to be. If it weren’t for her kids, she would for sure regret those 10-ish years.

    And given that this all happened because she didn’t know that pregnancy could result from sex, she made darned sure to be open with her kids about birth control, sex, and sexuality. Probably a little too open, there’s a few things I wish I didn’t know about her and FIL…. but at least my husband knows where babies come from, how to prevent it, and how to handle his own sexuality.

  • Madame

    I can’t argue for or against this, but I think Alison Cummins may be right.

    I don’t think teenagers were any more physically mature 200 years ago than they are now. 200 years ago, life expentancy was shorter and many babies never made it out of the womb or past their first birthday. Child death rates were a lot higher, perhaps partially because so many young (and uneducated) were attempting parenthood, and definitely, for lack of proper health care and poor nutrition.
    Teens have always needed responsible adults guiding them. Very often, a teen girl was given to an adult man for the sake of some economic arrangement between the families. That teen had to bear a child ASAP to prove her fertility, and she lived under the authority of her in-laws and husband with the added pressure of her parents. She was a pawn, not a person.

    Von seems to think that this is a great arrangement (minus the economic part, in most cases, I hope).

  • Madame

    I agree. It makes sense that menstruation would start at a younger age now, when we have access to more food, better health care, and a more comfortable life.

    It also makes sense to allow teens to mature mentally and psychologically before they have to take on the burden (responsibility) of parenthood. Most teens I’ve met are not ready to make the sacrifices it takes to be a parent, and it’s unfair to expect them to. They still need those years to learn how to be responsible for themselves, fall on their nose if they need to, and learn how to climb out of their own holes.

  • Trollface McGee

    Yes, it made sense to have a kid at 15 because back then, you’d likely live until 40 if you were really lucky, so having a kid in your teens meant you had enough lifespan left to raise it to adulthood (and have a few tries at it because half or more of your kids wouldn’t live to see the age of 5).
    We live in a very different world. One where having a high school diploma is pretty much essential to not living in poverty. Also one where you’re likely to live until your 70s or 80s and your kids are more likely than not to survive their childhoods – which is why fundies need to invent “Biblical” reasons why people should, against their best interests, subject themselves to a live of poverty and hardship.

  • Madame

    This post is just awful.
    First, was it really necessary to have a go at “unwed mothers”? Does Von really think every teenage couple that sleep together should marry if she gets pregnant? I can’t imagine what ia disaster that would be for most of these couples!

    Secondly, while I can believe this girl is “doing just well, thank you”, the fact that she’s probably living under her in-law’s roof, is married to a man she barely knows and didn’t choose herself, (if the marriage was a proper von-style one) and relies very heavily on her in-laws’ and parents’ support, means she will probably not be doing all that well soon.

    I don’t think people should be getting married and having children until they are ready to provide for themselves and live on their own, and every mother needs her own space. Actually, every family needs their own space!

    I don’t think teen marriage and teen parenting is a good idea. Those years serve a different purpose. Let the young have their youth, and let them learn to be responsible for themselves, find a career, study, have fun, learn what can happen if you only have fun, etc… all that stuff that needs to be learned before one becomes responsible for someone else. And educate them on sexuality and why they have to deal responsibly with it.

    I know this may make me unpopular here, but I also think teenagers should hold off sex until they are in a commited relationship with another person they trust, they could imagine parenting children with, and living the rest of their life with. Accidents can happen, mistakes can be made, couples that held together for years to raise a child may find they aren’t compatible after all and separate or divorce. One reason why I think holding off on marriage until you find out what you want in life is important.

    I’ve seen teen single motherhood up-close, as a means to get their own place and get away from their families. The second daughter of a single mother to 5 had a baby when she was 16, much to her mother’s disappointment. Her mother wanted something better for her. She had tried to make it work with her drunken, abusive husband. She had quit drinking, cold turkey, and attempted to quit smoking, all because she wanted her children to grow up in a healthy home. She took them to church because she wanted them to be around different people than the ones they saw every day at school. She wanted to get them off the council housing estate (UK) so they would get away from the dead-end culture and be around people who want a better education. She wanted them to go to college, get good jobs, and settle when they were ready. She supported her daughter and embraced the role of doting grandma, but the last time I spoke with her, she was worried about her daughter.

    This is all to say… I think that pursuing motherhood as a means to change your circumstances or “obey God” is the wrong reason. First find out what you want in life, then find the person you want to be with, then have children. That seems like the right order to me. Most teens are no way near phase 2, forget 3!

  • Sarah-Sophia

    Conservatives seem to think that getting married is a sign that you are mature enough to take care of children.

  • Madame

    What an awful story. Poor girl! To think some cowardly man had been raping a 4 year old. Sick.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    “Yes, it made sense to have a kid at 15 because back then, you’d likely
    live until 40 if you were really lucky, so having a kid in your teens
    meant you had enough lifespan left to raise it to adulthood…”

    Yes, and in a lot of cases you could look forward to being pregnant or nursing from the minute you were married until you died in childbirth with the last one. No, thank you.

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

    I would probably have had at least some sympathy for Von if he at least was an even handed callous guy.

    If he talked of things that may impact his health, things which he may not be ready for, as: “Well, my father has the right to force me into it,” the same way he talks of pregnancy. If he talked as much about “giving our sons to the imperfect” and accepting an imperfect wife for himself as about giving daughters to the imperfect.

    If he talked equally much about how the Bible allegedly care more about male
    actions than male tender sensibilities. But everything is how male needs should be met, and how women should fall in with it, whatever the cost to her.

    He never seems to lay any burdens on males.

    “Luke 11:46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”

  • Madame

    I think many couples took time off. Also, many of the poorer men were gone for long times chasing work wherever it took them, and not all of them were happy for their family to keep growing. These are my thoughts, of course, but I don’t think all families were huge, or that all women were permanently pregnant until they died in childbirth.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    Well, no, it didn’t happen in every case. But I don’t think it was an aberration, either.

  • Madame

    I agree that Von lays some really heavy burdens on the women, and I also think those burdens are more and heavier than the ones he lays on the men.

    He does expect very young men to marry the woman chosen for them by their fathers, and he expects them not to “get into debt” and work any job they can get to support their growing families.

    It seems like he expects men to remain close to their parents and (together with their wives) be responsible for them in their older age.

    Von certainly seems to believe children exist to be used by their parents.

  • Sara Lin Wilde

    I married at about 26, and it was a dumb mistake we’re currently in the process of rectifying. But I shudder to think how much dumber it would have been if I’d married at 17 or 18. Especially if we were just doing it because of an accidental pregnancy, not because we wanted to commit to one another.

  • perigrinuseram

    Older than that, actually: most people needed to save money for marriage in the 17th century, so that couples tended to be in their mid to late 20s. Aristocrats were engaged early and married young (in their mid-to-late teens) but the ordinary workers/peasants/citizens married quite late.

  • Leigha7

    “Before a pregnancy was a wonderful thing at any time, as long as the couple were successfully married (and, quite frankly, could be made wonderful as long as they married quickly after).”

    Nevermind that marrying someone just because you got pregnant frequently results in a miserable marriage where one or both partners resent their spouse. It’s still wonderful, because whoever said marriage was supposed to be happy?