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The reason robotic infant-simulators didn't reduce teen pregnancy

Conservative Review

Can you reduce teen pregnancy by convincing young girls that babies are burdens? It doesn't seem so.

Australian researchers conducting a study wherein life-like robotic “infant simulators” were used in an attempt to deter teen pregnancy were “very surprised” to find the baby simulators had the opposite effect.

Indeed, as TheBlaze reports, teenage girls who were given these robotic infants to care for actually became attached to them, rather than repulsed by the difficulties of parenthood, and became more likely to become pregnant before age 20.

The simulators — which are designed to cry like infants and require a caretaker to feed, burp and rock them — are given to teenagers to teach them about the difficulties of parenthood. But the authors of an Australian study published Thursday in The Lancet found that the robotic infants are ineffective at preventing pregnancy. Researchers said this may be because some users actually enjoy caring for them.

The study followed more than 2,800 teen girls from ages 13 to 15 at 57 schools in Australia, tracking them until they reached the age of 20. In one control group, girls had to care for the infant dolls and take supplemental lessons, including education sessions, workbooks, and a video documentary of teenage mothers. In other schools, they did not.

The study found that girls enrolled in curriculums that used the simulated infants were 36 percent more likely to have a pregnancy before age 20 than those that did not.

"We were very surprised," Sally Brinkman, lead author and associate professor at Telethon Kids Institute at University of Western Australia told ABC News. "It’s one thing to get results to say it doesn't work, it’s another to get results that does the opposite."

"A lot of the teenagers become attached to their fake babies," Brinkman added, noting that the curriculum was a positive experience for both the students and administrators.

Is this really that surprising that this program would fail? Babies (i.e. little people) are a blessing. And having and caring for children is natural to human beings as a consequence of … being human beings. It makes complete sense that simulating motherhood would fail to stop teen pregnancy, because these girls were asked to do what they are designed to do.

Of course, the progressive Left and a culture that demonizes pregnancy and parenthood wouldn’t immediately understand. Being a parent involves certain duties — i.e. responsibilities to care for another person that the Left believes restricts women's freedom.

Ask any parent. You can’t leave an infant alone to go out and have fun or do as you’d like. Children are expensive, too; they need food, clothing, education. Parents' sacrificial love for their children is alien to a culture that makes “me” most important.

You see, for the Left and modern culture, babies are a burden — even a punishment, as candidate-Obama told an audience on the campaign trail in 2008.

So, the apparent idea behind this study was that babies are awful, miserable shackles on the freedom of mothers. If these teenage girls only understood what it was like to be a parent, they would take steps to avoid becoming pregnant, because the consequences — caring for that child — are loathsome.

Even conservatives have difficulty with this. Consider this ad from The Candies Foundation, featuring Bristol Palin:

The point of the ad is to discourage teen pregnancy, and indeed, teenagers are for the most part unready and unprepared for the great responsibility of parenthood. No one should support having more unwed teen mothers — certainly not conservatives. But should parenthood be demonized to discourage that social ill?

Bleak. Hopeless. Painful. As presented by the ad, parenthood threatens to reduce opportunity and squash happiness. It makes the Left’s solution easy. Preserve your freedom by having an abortion, they say. Otherize that baby. It’s not really human. It has no rights, because it needs you to survive. You have a right to kill it. Killing your child in the womb is preferable to having to sacrifice for this little person you didn’t want to have in the first place.

Conservatives should not accept the Left’s premises and promulgate the idea that raising children is a burden in order to discourage teen pregnancy. As this study’s complete failure demonstrated, attempting to scare away teen pregnancy by assuming these girls would find motherhood hateful will not work.

It doesn’t work because motherhood is a good and blessed thing. These teenage girls had a taste of that blessing in this curriculum, and, as is natural, they found joy in it.

But, of course unwed teens aren’t equipped for motherhood. Recognizing that, and no doubt facing external pressures, 54 percent of the teenage girls who became pregnant after participating in this program terminated their pregnancies. However, 60 percent of those in the control group who were not pretend-mothers also had abortions. The girls who participated in the program were more likely to keep their pregnancies than those that did not. The live birth rate doubled for girls who took care of the robotic babies.

Perhaps those particular girls who carried their babies to term were convinced by their experience with the robo-babies that motherhood isn’t some insurmountable challenge, and something to loathe and fear. But, again, motherhood is not meant for unwed teenagers.

The way for conservatives to approach what this study found — arguing from a point that encourages a culture of life and celebrates motherhood — is to make the case that our natural desire to be parents finds its best expression in the institutions of marriage and the family. And pregnancy and childbearing should be saved for such a time, as a married mother and father are ready for it.

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