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‘Babies having babies’ is a form of child abuse

A local faith-based, not-for-profit organization is advocating abstinence in an effort to reduce the rise in teenage pregnancy, which has been described by a church minister as a “great problem in American Samoa” and the organization is calling for abstinence — or abstaining from sexual relations — among teenagers, both boys and girls.


Last week Marilyn A. Pavitt-Anesi, head of LBJ hospital’s Family and Planning Program, said data on teen pregnancy between 2011 and 2013 shows an increase of only point-three of one percent, but she added, “we would like to see the numbers as low as possible or even zero when it comes to teen pregnancy.”


“The best thing of course is abstinence, but we will be burying our heads in the sand if we think that nobody is doing it. So we have to be realistic,” she told Samoa News. (See last Friday’s Samoa News edition for more details).


Responding to the Samoa News story, Molili’a Seui, executive director of local organization Intersections, Inc., says “we have been implementing an abstinence-education curriculum in the past year in some of the Tualauta schools to reduce teenage pregnancy and to avoid risky behaviors.”


“The traditional message of abstinence is having to compete with today's technological changes, media influences, and other factors,” she told Samoa News last Friday. “However, this doesn't mean we have to stop educating our adolescents about the benefits of abstaining from premarital sexual activities and avoiding risky behaviors.”


She also said there is a “national movement of young people for abstinence. Behavioral change is not one-time event. It's a process.”


(The movement commits teens and singles to maintain abstinence until marriage, by signing a commitment card, according to various websites of groups dedicated to abstinence.)


Abstinence was also mentioned by Rev. Fa’atauva’a Talamoni of the CCCAS Pago Pago, when speaking at last Wednesday’s ‘National Day of Hope Candlelight Vigil’ at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium, which was part of American Samoa’s observance of "National Child Abuse and Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month” for April (not March as reported last Friday)


After speaking on the issue of child abuse, Talamoni spoke briefly on teenage pregnancy, but his message was strong enough for the community to take seriously, especially teenagers.


“Teenage pregnancy — I won’t go into different reasons why this has become a great problem. All I can say is, ‘children having children’. I believe we must exhaust all different ways to try to prevent this,” he said.


“It's very difficult, it’s almost impossible for a child to fully nurture and raise another child, because they’re children. Having babies is a gift from God. But babies having babies, I believe is abusing that gift from God,” he stated.


Talamoni also said that teenagers haven’t given their parents a chance “to fully teach you and fully nurture you and give you a life of abundance from God.”


“So what will you teach the babies that you will be having? All I would say is — wait. You can wait. Don’t abuse God’s gift of procreation. It goes both ways, girls and boys,” he said.


“And the different reasons why teenage pregnancy is such a problem is because when teenagers abuse that gift and have babies, very, very young, teenagers usually abuse their babies by neglecting them,” he concluded.