Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the government wants to classify pregnancy as a disease. It’s the logical consequence of the way our culture externalizes responsibility for sex.

When I was a teenager, I was not yet a Christian but I was very pro-life. Among several formative influences, I recall with particular clarity one televised head-to-head on abortion in which a spokeswoman for a pro-abortion group, in place of offering any kind of argument, simply told her life story. “I was sixteen,” she began, “and I found myself pregnant.”

That’s odd, I thought. You just woke up pregnant one morning? Just like that? No cause? Wow. Maybe the Christians are right about virgin birth; they just don’t know that it’s still happening!

Having not yet come to faith, I did not yet know that it’s a duty to maintain a charitable disposition. I would not, today, strike such a snide attitude (or at least I pray that I wouldn’t). But I think that I wasn’t wrong to react negatively to the externalization of responsibility.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think this convenient locution “found herself pregnant” (FHP) is becoming more common. I just ran a Google search for FHP and got 948,000 hits. Is that a lot? I don’t know. I’m not sure what would be a good, non-externalizing alternative phrase to use for comparison. “Got pregnant” gets six million hits, but I’m not confident “got pregnant” is all that much better than FHP as a marker of responsibility.

But isn’t it noteworthy that so many people would bend over backwards so far as to use a phrase like FHP at all?

The Atlantic ran a fantastic article recently about the U.S. manufacturing sector and the challenges facing those whose livelihoods and communities are dependent upon it. The one really glaring flaw in the article is its FHP problem. Maddie, the line worker who serves as the focus of the piece, is a person who made all the right choices: she studied hard, avoided delinquency, applied to college. She was on her way to a college education and a middle class job. But then she couldn’t go to college and ended up in unskilled labor because one day she “found out she was pregnant.”  Nobody’s fault, nothing caused it, nobody’s responsible, it’s just one of those random things that happen to people. Maddie is a person who made all the right choices! From that point on, her economic situation is attributed solely to fluctuations in the availability of unskilled jobs due to national and local economic trends. In other words, to the extent that anything is to blame for her situation, society is to blame for failing to make more unskilled jobs available.

Here’s the kicker: Only at the end of the article do we find out that Maddie herself doesn’t see it this way. She blames her own “bad choices” in getting pregnant for her life situation. But the author of the article quickly bats that away and reassures us that “teen pregnancy” is one of those big social issues for which other people are responsible.

That New York Times article on unwed pregnancy that everyone’s talking about ? FHP alert:

Amber Strader, 27, was in an on-and-off relationship with a clerk at Sears a few years ago when she found herself pregnant.

And how has her pregnancy affected her life outcomes?
A former nursing student who now tends bar . . .

All that’s missing is the argument that we need more subsidies for dropout prevention in nursing schools.

But in addition to driving ever-greater government annexation of the economy (and thus arbitrary power over all aspects of human life), this attitude also obviously plays into the treatment of pregnancy as a disease. Like disease, pregnancy is an unexpected disruption of normal bodily functioning that can derail your whole life and for which you are not responsible .

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles